WHEN it comes to looks Mazda6 is up there with the best.

The company’s flagship has always been a looker right back to 2002 when the new model set Mazda on the road to recovery. Before that it relied on the likeable MX-5 roadster for its tiny share of the market.

But looks alone don’t sell cars and selling this one isn’t going to be easy. Mazda is not on its own here, bigger selling rivals like Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia are also feeling the draught from the switch to SUVs and the dislike for diesel.

Good thing for Mazda then that it has two excellent SUVs in its line up.

The last few years have been a topsy turvy ride, a constant battle with a strong Yen making competitive pricing a nightmare. UK boss Jeremy Thomson is forecasting a three per cent dip in sales against a market that is heading for a six per cent drop so he is not too downhearted.

Critically retail is strong for Mazda6, it even outsells Mondeo in the private sector, so that is where a lot of the business will be done.

I often wonder if car makers make cosmetic changes to the body for the sake of it and the new model has had a few nips and tucks front and back. Are they noticeable? To a car anorak probably. Were they needed? Probably not. The car was already perfectly formed but it gives the PR team something to talk about.

Inside is a different story where the designers and trimmers have gone to town with clean cut styling, and fabrics and materials that push the Maz6 towards the premium sector.

I’ve said it before and will no doubt say it again that the infotainment system is the best on the market. Why can’t all systems be this logical? Sort things out either by tapping the 8in touch screen, or better still with the rotary controller behind the gear lever, or is it in front? Bit of memory block. Nevertheless the system is easy to fathom and responds quickly.

Equipment and safety features are on a par rather than exceptional but Mazda gets Brownie points for making the windscreen head up display for speed and navigation standard, the height even adjusts with the power seat memory.

The same par score can be given for interior space although the 485 litres of boot space is a little down on the class leaders. Does anyone ever fill a car boot to capacity? Don’t think I have ever used up every litre of space in my car but I suppose it is good to have bragging rights.

Have to say the Tourer, another handsome beast, looks good for space with the seats flat, but it won’t match Skoda Superb if we are fighting over which car has the biggest boot.

Mazda still believe in diesel but with its sales down 25 per cent it has brought in a petrol engine to shore up the top end of the market. The direct injection 2.5 litre can muster 190bhp and switches off two of the four cylinders between 25 and 50mph to save fuel but the driver will barely notice a difference.

All cylinders kick in when power is needed and the engine sounds sweet as the revs build but this is no flyer and will struggle on economy against the impressive 2.2 diesel which also gets a hike in power from172bhp to 181bhp. That is available from September while the two litre petrol engine is carried over.

The diesel engine was not around for the launch drive but based on past experience it will still be my engine of choice given its performance, economy and lowish emissions.

In a previous world (the days of the Ford Cortina) a car the size of the Mazda6 would have done really well, but now what we called repmobiles are the forgotten favourites as tastes change.

It may be the prettiest in its class but it is up against it on price which, incidentally, start at £23,195 for the SE-L+ topping out at £33,585 for the all singing and dancing GT Sport Nav+.

Fast facts

Mazda6 saloon GT Sport Nav+

2.5 litre petrol; 191bhp

0-62mph 8.1secs; 138mph

42.2mpg combined

153g/km. First year road tax £500

Insurance group 29