Our new Mazda may be following the PHEV trend but still can’t resist being a bit quirky
Why we’re running it: Mazda’s largest and priciest car is also its first PHEV. Does it make any sense?
Life with a Mazda CX-60: Month 1
Welcoming the CX-60 to the fleet – 26 October 2022
This family SUV, powered by a hybridised four-cylinder petrol engine, weighing 1980kg and devised as a rival to such suburban stalwarts as the Volvo XC60 and BMW X3, happens to be the most powerful car yet put on the road by a firm inextricably linked to one of the most simplistic yet effective marketing slogans ever: Zoom Zoom.
Until fairly recently, hope was lingering that dynamically adept and weight-averse Mazda still planned to bring the drop-dead RX Vision coupé concept to production – and then there were some fairly strong signs that it was even planning to bring rotary power back to its ranks for a tail-happy sports car in the vein of the legendary RX-7.
Neither of those wondrous prospects has yet come to pass, but in the meantime, here’s the CX-60: a big, premium-flavoured SUV that provides Mazda (at long last) with an electrified entry into one of the most important market segments in Europe. It’s a CX-5 with a battery, a bigger boot and a bit more power.
Oh, and as tested here (in top-flight Takumi trim with a few option boxes ticked), it’s close to £55,000, which lends weight to what Mazda UK boss Jeremy Thomson told me a while ago about the Japanese brand’s long-term positioning goals: “Our aspirations are to become a credible alternative to the traditional mainstream premium, and that means non-German.”
Money well spent? You would struggle to argue otherwise after a few minutes poking and prodding your way around inside. This is a delightfully well-appointed cockpit with carefully chosen materials, subtle but attractive f lourishes throughout and – praise be – an infotainment interface that’s controlled by a dial and supported by a raft of actual buttons and switches.
It’s a welcome respite from the cold, tech-heavy and unimaginative cabins of the Germans it aims to worry – and one that has yet to leave me longing for absolutely anything, courtesy of the impressively expansive kit list.
The CX-60 is big and made visually bulkier by the questionable execution of Mazda’s generally acclaimed Kodo design language. Here, it’s manifested in a disproportionately long bonnet (presumably to allow space for the traditional straight sixes coming in 2023), an expansive, featureless side profile and a bulky rear – although I’m happy that it hasn’t fallen into the trap of sacrificing interior space for a more ‘style-focused’ sloping roofline.
Its generous stature is proving good news for all-round utility (or bad, if you consider every car-free friend I have has seemingly just decided to move house…); and with quick-witted steering and agreeable visibility among its attributes, it’s yet to grate when edging along London’s clogged veins and parking in multi-storey spaces marked in the 1960s.
When I first saw the CX-60, it wasn’t its size or look that surprised me most but that Mazda hadn’t called on strategic partner Toyota to provide the means of propulsion for its first PHEV. Especially as the CX-60 is such a similar mechanical proposition to the RAV4 PHEV, pairing a 2.5-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder petrol engine with a circa-18kWh battery and with a driven axle at each end. The drivetrain is all Mazda’s work, the ICE side based on that used in the CX-5 and the electric side is developed using learnings from the MX-30 EV.
Interesting point, that, because the drivetrain in each of those SUVs is far from a stand-out strength: the CX-5 falls short in perk and efficiency compared with turbocharged rivals and the MX-30 fails to quite make up for its lacklustre range with any real sense of urgency when you floor it.
Even so, the CX-60 looks more in step with what’s broadly expected in a car of its ilk, and it certainly can surprise on kick down, leaping forth with an electrically aided urgency that belies its size, weight and forced induction – although the harsh, monotonous soundtrack makes it clear the shove is a by-product, nota priority, of the electrified innards.
The real calling card of this drivetrain (or at least what it should be) is efficiency. Officially, our car will get 188mpg – but I won’t bang on about that, because that’s a figure measured on the notoriously flawed WLTP cycle. What’s more important is the claimed 39 miles that it can do on electricity alone, because that’s the sort of number that would give an owner the confidence to use this PHEV as they are meant to: commute on the battery, then switch on the ICE for longer weekend trips.
And indeed that is my plan. My commute is roughly a 12-mile round trip, and I do it three times per week, so everything seems to have come together very nicely. I got particularly excited when my first full charge of the battery offered up 51 miles of EV power – but it quickly became clear that the reality is closer to half that figure, and I’m expecting it to drop further as we shiver into winter.
Being able to charge at work means I can stick to the plan, by and large, but already I’m trying hard to keep the combined efficiency readout at around the 40mpg mark, plugging in whenever possible and constantly driving like a saint to avoid waking the thirsty ICE.
Whether I tire of being abstemious over the coming months remains to be seen (petrol prices would have to come down a lot more…). But aside from frugality, the CX-60 must prove its worth as a bona fide contender in the premium SUV field, so there are a number of areas in which it needs to shine. Let’s hope it does.
When I went on the launch of this car, it was clear that Mazda was pinning a lot on the CX-60. If the CX-5 is the firm’s current sales success, the CX-60 is the future – and part of its “multi- solution approach”, all riding on its scalable platform architecture. Given all that forward success hinges on this car as the first step, here’s hoping Felix likes it. No pressure
Mazda CX-60 specification
Specs: Price New £49,520 Price as tested £53,370 Options Rhodium White paint £750, Convenience and Driver Assistance Pack £2100, panoramic sunroof £1000
Test Data: Engine 4 cyls in line, 2488cc, petrol, plus electric motor Power 322bhp at rpm Torque 369lb ft Kerb weight 2,146kg Top speed 124mph 0-62mph 5.8sec Fuel economy 188mpg (WLTP) CO2 33g/km Faults None Expenses None