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The all-new Mazda CX-60 is Mazda's first PHEV and is aimed squarely at the plug-in Toyota RAV4

Don’t you just hate getting in a car and going through all the rigmarole of pressing actual buttons and having electricity move your seat for you. Well, fear not! In the Mazda CX-60, facial-recognition technology will do the job for you - all you have to do is sit, think about what’s for lunch and the car will shift everything around automatically.

In fact, Mazda goes one step further because it even recommends what your seating position should be, based on various factors that the engineers have worked out. It wasn’t 100% correct for me so it does feel like a bit of a gimmick, but maybe some customers will like it. It’s certainly a talking point when you initially jump in the car.

The plug-in hybrid CX-60 is a big investment for Mazda, and is pitched against such hybrid stalwarts as the Toyota RAV4 and similar Suzuki Across. It’s the first time the Japanese firm has offered a plug-in hybrid and comes on an all-new platform that will eventually underpin cars like the wide-body, US-only CX-70 and the seven-seat, this-side-of-the-pond-friendly CX-80.

It’s also the most powerful road car Mazda has ever built, offering up 323bhp and 369lb ft, thanks to its longitudinally mounted 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol and a 134bhp synchronous motor that sits between the ICE and all-new transmission. An electronically controlled multi-plate clutch does the job of the torque converter in the eight-speed automatic gearbox, giving benefits such as less slip and reducing energy losses by 22%.

The 17.8kWh battery (chargeable in 2hr 20min on a 7kW plug) sits, skateboard-style, in the middle of the snappily titled Skyactiv Multi-Solution Scalable Architecture platform. It means the car is good for an electric-only range of 39 miles - okay but marginally down on the Toyota’s 46.5 miles.

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Inside, it doesn’t stray too far from the Mazda template. Touchscreens are mercifully absent, with physical controls for both the climate control and 12.3in infotainment - the latter controlled via a rotary dial/buttons set-up. It’s so sensible that it does make you question the logic of German rivals from VW et al. The CX-60 is effortlessly easy to use.

Rear leg room is marginally up on the Mazda CX-5 sibling, as you’d expect in a car that is 172mm longer between the wheels. And the CX-60 keeps the junior’s easy-fold rear seats, so practicality is still decent, with a boot volume of 570 litres.

Where the new car does improve markedly is engine note. The CX-5 can drone on and I feared the CX-60 would be the same as both run the 2.5-litre petrol. But thanks to the electric assistance and all the extra punch it offers, you don’t need to delve into the upper reaches of the rev range as much.

When you do, it sounds a bit gruff but not to the level of the 5. Isolation is better here and the eight-speed gearbox more sophisticated. Thanks to the electric motor boost, rapid family hacks like this aren’t exactly fresh news, but it’s still a bit of a shock as to how fast the CX-60 piles on the mph. It would be an easy pedal for any sort of journey.

Electric-only running is smooth and with more than enough oomph for accelerating up to 60mph. Obviously 188mpg is completely unrealistic, but we managed near 80mpg over a couple of hours of running.

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The ride generally feels quite polished. It’s got a double-wishbone front/multi-link rear set-up so there’s decent hardware in place and it’s well controlled. As with a lot of Mazdas, it’s at the firmer end of the spectrum within the wider family SUV class, but not uncomfortably so. It’s certainly not crashy.

And the flip side is good body control. Coupled with precise, if inert, steering, the CX-60 does a decent job of at least offering the prospect of an interesting drive. It’s no BMW X3, but it’s better than most direct rivals.

This is Mazda’s next step on the road to its multi-solution future, covering e-fuels and EVs, that crucially hasn’t lost sight of what defined the brand in the first place. It all bodes well.