Alcohol-free beer, internet chatrooms and chocolate teapots. A disparate group but I think they all share one thing in common – they’re utterly pointless.
If I was feeling particularly uncharitable I would add the Mazda CX-7 to this list. It’s an SUV, although Mazda will insists it is referred to as a sports crossover, powered by a petrol engine.
And it’s no ordinary petrol engine, either. The CX-7 borrows the 260bhp turbocharged 2.3-litre engine from the 6 MPS which means it pretty much breaks the bank in fuel economy and emissions terms.
In a sector where diesel is the fuel of choice, a performance-oriented petrol model is as welcome as a visit to the dentist.
But there is method in Mazda’s madness. The “sports” part of its sports crossover branding is what Mazda is hanging its corporate hat on, hoping that user-choosers will be turned on by the sleek styling (there’s an RX-8 in the lines) and forget about their tax bills.
So, the theory goes, when the diesel model arrives next year the CX-7 brand will be synonymous with performance, thanks to the halo effect of the petrol version.
But for the time being it’s just the petrol unit offered, delivering its power through a six-speed manual gearbox. CO2 emissions are 243g/km, placing it firmly in the maximum 35% benefit-in-kind tax bracket, while average fuel economy is claimed at 27.7mpg.
There’s just one version, costing £23,960, with metallic paint the only option.
There’s plenty of standard equipment, including leather seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, Xenon headlights, climate and cruise control and a Bose stereo system.
Mazda is realistic enough to have limited expectations for the CX-7, estimating that between 1,000 and 1,500 will find buyers in the UK in a full year. Of those, around 40% will be fleet sales, with the manufacturer’s corporate sales team particularly focusing on small business sales through its dealer network and team of specialist fleet dealers.
And with CAP estimating the CX-7 will retain 40% of its cost new after three years and 60,000 miles, the dealers will have some good news to share with potential buyers.
That potential buyer will typically be a man aged in his 30s, and probably the owner of a small business which buys its cars direct from a local dealer.
And with its focus on driving dynamics rather than any pretensions to off-roading, the CX-7 fits well.
The styling certainly makes it stand out, with the heavy-hipped look and steeply raked windscreen borrowed from the RX-8.
The rakish theme continues inside with a dashboard and centre console which are heavily angled into the driver to create a more sporty feel.
Mark Cameron, marketing director at Mazda UK, said: “There’s a huge range of SUVs to choose from so we need to offer something different and the CX-7 fits the bill.
“Our car is different because it is more heavily oriented towards a sports car in its styling and driving dynamics, while retaining the commanding driving position and presence of an off-road vehicle.”
Behind the wheel
The CX-7 is a car designed primarily for the American market, but Mazda has re-engineered it to better suit European driving tastes.
With a revised suspension set- up, the Euro-spec model offers a firmer ride and better handling than its Stateside cousin.
As a result the Mazda matches its “RX-8 on steroids” look with a driving experience which is far sharper than any other SUV.
It remains flat and composed even during hard cornering, despite the higher centre of gravity, and handles fast direction changes in its stride.
The engine is lively unit with a turbocharged fizz about it which revels in being revved and worked hard, while the six-speed manual gearbox adds to the enjoyment.
In fact you could almost forget you’re driving an SUV if it wasn’t for the raised seating position. The CX-7 feels comfortable and composed in all conditions.
The success story continues inside with a well designed and built cabin which, again, has touches of RX-8 about it, such as the steeply raked centre console.
The area where it falls down is in only offering five seats while key rivals offer an extra two seats which fold down into the floor of the boot.
In pure fleet terms the CX-7 is a very niche product and cars such as the Honda CR-V beat it hands down in terms of running costs and driver taxation levels.
But as a sports crossover it excels, offering an excellent driving experience coupled with imposing road presence.
Max power (bhp/rpm): 260/5,500
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 280/3,000
Max speed (mph): 130
0-62mph (secs): 8.0
Fuel consumption (mpg): 27.7
CO2 emissions (g/km): 243
On sale: September
Prices (OTR): £23,960