The arrival of my new car – a very fine Mazda 6 – has brought home the smorgasbord nature of modern car equipment.
It’s not long since almost every car would come with the same equipment as its price point rivals – if a Cavalier GL got a rev counter and electric front windows you could bet that the equivalent Mondeo GLX would boast the same (and no more).
But the toyshop mentality with which modern manufacturers go about kitting their products means this is no longer the case. The Mazda replaces my erstwhile Citroen C5 Tourer. Both are in range-topping spec, are fitted with 2.2-litre diesel engines and – once the supplement for the C5’s estate bodyshell and optional sat-nav is removed from the equation – are priced within a grand of each other.
Naturally, both boast the standard-for-the-segment spec that any buyer would expect: air-con, stability control, multiple airbags and a decent sound system.
But I very nearly reversed the Mazda into a low wall within five minutes of getting into it: it does without the Citroen’s standard parking radar. Nor does the 6 have the C5’s ‘leccy seat adjustment – although it does come with the seat heaters that the Citroen lacks.
The Mazda counters with a high-tech keyless go system, complete with a big starter button, but gets a standard handbrake in place of the C5’s electric one. The 6’s audio sounds better thanks to some BOSE-branded speakers and an in-dash multichanger, but it’s missing the C5’s comprehensive trip computer.
When it comes to safety gizmos, Citroen and Mazda have clearly backed different horses. The C5’s ‘lane departure’ warning tendency for false positives meant that it was turned off early in my stewardship, never to be re-energized. Instead the Mazda gets a rear view monitor to keep an electronic eye on anything lurking in the blind spot.
Hundreds of thousands of car buyers go through the same transition every year in the UK: waving goodbye to once assortment of mostly unused functions – while missing a couple – and then trying to get used to a car fitted with a whole new set of gizmos.
My suspicion remains that, barring the essentials of air-con, ABS and a decent sound system, basic is better.