Two out of three European drivers want to be able to drive even if self-driving cars become commonplace, according to research from Mazda.

The Ipsos research – commissioned as part of the automaker's Drive Together campaign designed to celebrate the joy of driving – polled 11,008 people across key European markets and revealed that an average of 66% of drivers wanted to remain behind the wheel even if self driving cars become widely available; the figure was as high as 71% in the UK, Germany, Austria and Poland and only in Italy did it dip below 60% (59%).

Coupled with this, the study also found that only 33% of drivers "welcome the advent of self-driving cars" with the number dropping as low as 25% in France and the Netherlands and reaching only 29% in the UK. Interestingly, there is virtually no evidence of greater support for self-driving cars in younger age groups across Europe – in fact, 18-24 year olds (33%) were no more likely to welcome self-driving cars than 25-34 year olds (36%) and 35-44 year olds (34%).

The research also revealed a significant emotional connection between car and driver as demonstrated by the following statistics: An average of 69% of drivers "hope that future generations will continue to have the option to drive cars" – the figure was as high as 74% in Poland and 70% or higher in the UK, Germany, France and Sweden. In addition, 36% of those who enjoy driving saw their car and the act of driving as an "extension of my personality" with the number rising to 56% in Poland and 46% in Italy. And 34% agreed driving is in danger of becoming a "forgotten pleasure" – in France, Italy and Poland the figure is 40% or higher.

Mazda Motor Europe's president and CEO Jeff Guyton said: "If you look at the car industry in general, we believe that many manufacturers are taking a lot of the pure driving pleasure away from drivers. We are fighting against this and it's clear from the research that there is still a huge percentage of drivers who just want to be behind the wheel. In a world that questions the act of driving and devalues the role of the car and the role of the driver through technological changes, we will continue to challenge convention for the love of driving."

Further findings from the research show that 54% of Europeans have been for a drive "just for fun" – in Sweden it's as high as 73% and the UK, Netherlands, Poland and Austria all top 60%; an average of 53% say "driving is about more than simply getting from A to B", climbing to 66% in Poland, whilst 55% think driving with family and/or friends can be a "special experience" with the figure higher than 60% in Spain, Italy, Sweden and Poland.