We get behind the wheel of an intriguing new version of Mazda’s big SUV…
I can’t remember the last time I tested a new diesel. There’s an avalanche of new hybrids and EVs, but diesels are a bit niche these days.
Diesel once accounted for more than half of UK car sales, but the market has now collapsed closer to 10%.
However, diesels are still the car of choice for commercial drivers, towing, farmers and rescue services, plus many high-mileage motorists yet to make the switch to hybrids and electric vehicles.
The latest addition to the Mazda CX-60 range (there’s already a petrol plug-in hybrid version) is powered by a big, clean and efficient all-new e-Skyactiv D diesel engine.
Apparently, the 3.3-litre in-line six-cylinder features Distribution-Controlled Partially Premixed Compression Ignition (DCPCI) Technology. Mazda claims this advanced combustion technology makes it one of the cleanest diesel engines in the world, achieving a thermal efficiency of over 40%.
The Mazda CX-60 turbo diesel is mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox and is offered with a choice of two power outputs. The more powerful version has 251bhp and 550Nm (406lb ft) delivered through all four wheels, while the lower spec engine has 197bhp and 450Nm (332lb ft) fed through the rear axle only.
With the help of a 48-volt mild-hybrid boost set-up, the 197bhp engine has an official fuel economy of 56.5mpg with CO2 emissions as low as 129g/km, while the all-wheel drive comes in at 54.3mpg with a CO2 output of 137g/km.
Performance from the two is similar with the smaller output engine managing a 0-62mph acceleration time of 8.4 seconds (top speed 132mph), while the 251bhp unit tops out at 136mph and sprints to 62mph in 7.4 seconds.
Apart from the new engine, Mazda’s flagship SUV is much the same as its petrol and PHEV siblings, which is no bad thing, because its blend of equipment, tech, classy materials and build quality closes the gap on premium rivals from Europe, such as Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Range Rover and Volvo.
Externally, the CX-60 is very similar to the slightly smaller CX-5, but can be distinguished by its more athletic stance and bluff nose, which polarises opinion. Let’s just say that it’s not the most attractive Mazda head-on.
There’s nothing revolutionary inside the cabin. It’s still very much a Mazda, which means there’s a large centrally-located 12.3-inch infotainment screen on top of the dashboard and a rotary controller near the gear selector. So, rather than dabbing and swiping a touchscreen, much of the car’s functionality is accessed by a twist and click of the controller or via voice recognition.
If you’re not used to a touchscreen, it works well from the off (though using a ‘daisy wheel’ to input a place name in the sat nav is tiresome).
Thankfully, Mazda has also kept some buttons and dials, so the climate control can be accessed separately and there’s still an audio volume knob. Additionally, there’s extra functionality, such as cruise control via the steering wheel, while the clear head-up display is one of the best.
The cabin itself is spacious, though little different to the CX-5 in the back, so while adults can sit comfortably in the rear, there’s not class-leading legroom.
That said, the boot is a substantial 570 litres, expanding to 1,726 litres with the rear seats folded down.
The driving position is great, with plenty of adjustment available (unusually for an SUV, it is possible to sit lower if you prefer). Whichever you choose, there’s a commanding view of the road.
Mazda isn’t pretending it’s a hardcore 4×4, but the extra traction and raised ride height should help you out at festivals and on those rare extreme weather events.
I tested the all-wheel drive version of the Mazda CX-60 diesel in mid-range Homura trim.
It seemed incongruous to be driving a big new diesel like this, but once I got some serious miles under my belt, it was easy to appreciate the advantages of a diesel again.
There’s stacks of torque and I achieved more than 50mpg on a long journey, mostly consisting of A roads and motorways.
It may be cleaner and more efficient, but there’s no mistaking the fact that it’s a diesel. For the most part it’s smooth, but it clatters a bit until it’s up to temperature and under heavy acceleration.
The smooth and responsive automatic gearbox works nicely, and is only hesitant when you put your foot down after the mild-hybrid system has shut off the engine for brief periods when coasting.
For instance, when using adaptive cruise control set at 70mph on the motorway, it’s usually possible to indicate and move out to the fast lane to overtake, but the CX-60 diesel seemed reluctant to kick down.
Initially, the CX-60 feels big and heavy, but you soon settle in, and it feels surprisingly agile and controlled in more challenging corners.
There’s plenty of grip and traction, while the steering is light and precise, and the brakes are reassuringly effective.
The ride is on the firm side though, and it’s at its most relaxed and refined best cruising along. My test car came with big 20-inch wheels, which probably didn’t help in the comfort stakes, so it might be worth trying an entry-level Exclusive-Line which sits on 18-inch rubber.
It’s also worth noting that the CX-60 has a decent towing capacity of 2,500kg.
The Mazda CX-60 e-Skyactiv D range is priced from £43,010 (the 251bhp costs £45,655) and its rivals (in terms of size) include the Volvo XC60, Lexus NX, Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Genesis GV70.
Verdict: The mild-hybrid diesel version of the classy, boldly-styled Mazda CX-60 is a powerful, frugal and surprisingly engaging big SUV. A car that proves there’s still mileage in diesels, but it is a shrinking market.