So what really can the two-model Premacy offer over the five-seater Scenic? They both have plenty of permutations of seat movement but the Premacy beats it on nook and cranny storage, including a box under the passenger seat. Compared to Renault's RN entry Scenic, the lead-in GXi has driver and passenger airbags and air conditioning as standard equipment. It also has ABS, alarm plus remote central locking, stereo steering wheel controls and electric front windows. The GSi adds traction control, 15-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler, electric rear windows, full-size spare wheel, and rear power socket.
Premacy's downside is its front-end price compared with the Scenic. An entry-level Scenic RN 1.6, albeit less well specified, costs £12,995 on the road and includes ABS, driver's airbag, immobiliser, electric front windows, steering wheel stereo control, remote central locking and a similar folding and removable seating system. At almost £2,000 more, the Premacy seems pricey despite the extra equipment. It's a similar story throughout the range and, even when Mazda launches a direct injection turbo-diesel in GXi trim in January, it is scheduled to cost £15,700. The Scenic RT 1.9dTi is £15,205 on the road and £15,380 with an electric sunroof.
But list prices alone often tell half the story. Mazda boasts reliability and low wholelife costs for fleets, led by a three-year/60,000-mile manufacturer warranty. So what else do you get with a Premacy? For a start, the interior styling is great, with an open airy feel to it, and a very stylish and 'non-Japanese' look to the dashboard and console, complete with integral stereo system. Perhaps the most startling thing is the resemblance many of the parts have to Volkswagen interiors. The door grips, gear knob, and handbrake, in fact a multitude of items, could have come directly out of a new Golf or Passat.
Mazda says the five-seater vehicle can be transformed for a variety of uses, citing more than 100 different seating configurations, including the passenger seat folding flat to be used as a table, the centre rear seat folding flat to provide a table complete with cup-holders and all three rear seats having the option of being removable or folding flat. One thing that does seem a little odd, however, is the decision to not introduce a seven-seater model to the UK. Seven-seaters can be purchased in Japan but the manufacturer says the British market does not want the two extra seats in a smaller MPV. Evidence of the seven-seater can still be found in the UK models - there are two cup-holders in the boot.
The exterior is stylish, and with a strong resemblance to the Focus at the front end. Behind the wheel, the Premacy feels tailor-made to motorway driving: it is effortless and with the supple suspension giving a comfortable ride and little disturbing noise from either the road or wind. About town, however, the 100bhp 1.8-litre engine feels under-powered and, while the 115bhp version is better, it's still not nippy. The pleasurable ride also seems to have meant compromises with the steering.
With aspirations to sell just 3,500 Premacys in its first full year next year, and less than half of those into fleets, Mazda says it should easily hit its targets. User-chooser company car drivers who have to carry adults in the rear during the week and family at weekends are the key target area for Mazda in the fleet sector, and it says that its sales will be made up of drivers coming from hatchbacks (50%), estates (30%) and MPV/4x4s (20%).