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Road tests

New Mazda CX-60 diesel 2023 review

We drive the higher-powered, all-wheel drive version of Mazda’s trend-bucking 3.3-litre diesel CX-60

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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Verdict

The extra power and all-wheel drive capability of the diesel CX-60 in this form is welcome, while the wonderfully anachronistic inline-six under the bonnet is as likeable as ever, and should prove frugal. Pairing this with top-of-the-line Takumi trim results in an expensive proposition, however, and the at-times choppy ride remains a bone of contention.

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It seems downright odd to be driving a car with an all-new inline-six diesel engine in 2023, but Mazda is known for approaching the needs of today’s motorist rather differently. The Japanese company has talked of ‘right-sizing’ for years, so here we are with a completely fresh design of a type of engine rivals have been busy abandoning in recent years. 

The 3.3-litre turbodiesel engine - which will later be joined by a 3.0-litre straight-six petrol unit - is fitted longitudinally under the bonnet of the new CX-60, a mid-size SUV sitting on an also new, predominantly rear-wheel drive architecture. This car is at the forefront of Mazda’s aims to punch further upmarket, and when getting behind the wheel of our top-of-the-range Takumi-trimmed test car, this is certainly apparent.

White Nappa leather seats, white maple wood trim and a fabric dashboard covering help lift the cabin ambience. Unfortunately, the mid-spec Homura we’ve also tried is much gloomier by comparison, with more of a focus on darker materials. 

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The engine just in front of that attractive dashboard produces 251bhp and 550Nm of torque - some way up on its less pokey sibling, which manages 197bhp and 450Nm, but these still lag behind the straight-six diesel of the BMW X3 30d. Still, the CX-60 should prove plenty brisk enough for most. 

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It doesn’t feel shockingly fast when you put your foot down, but the speed builds at an agreeable pace, with the mostly smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox (it does occasionally give an annoying jolt through the cabin at lower speeds) making the most of the 3.3-litre unit’s powerband. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the noise made by the engine is reminiscent of a BMW straight-six diesel’s, and that’s to say it’s a rather nice din, as far as DERVs go. 

It’s a smooth unit, in contrast with the 2.5-litre inline-four-based plug-in hybrid we’re currently running as a long-term test car, which can sound course when worked hard. That powertrain option can also feel a little jerky when the battery level gets low, but there are no such issues here, as this is a mild-hybrid, featuring a 48-volt sub-system which provides a small amount of electrical assistance to aid efficiency. 

Speaking of which, in this state of tune, the CX-60 is capable of up to 53.3mpg, while the CO2 emissions are rated at 138g/km. That’s 3.3mpg and 9g/km worse than the lower-powered, rear-wheel drive derivatives, but they are decent figures considering the capacity. The numbers are down to a clever piston design which divides the air-fuel mixture into two parts of the cylinders, giving a leaner burn, thus making the engine theoretically more frugal than a smaller inline-four which has to be worked harder to get up to speed. 

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As for how this works in practice, we can’t say definitively just yet. Our test routes focused on twisty, undulating country roads which aren’t suited for good economy returns, but regardless, 30mpg after a few hours of quite hard driving seems promising. Based on a short and more gentle stint with one of the trip meters reset, we reckon over 50mpg will be possible with a little care. 

As for how the CX-60 handles itself on twisty roads, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, Mazda’s aim to set this car up in a sporting manner shows itself abundantly. The manufacturer has long sought to make each car in its line-up - whether a sports car like the MX-5 or an SUV like this - great to drive, and sure enough, the CX-60 has direct, natural-feeling steering that lets you know what the front end of the car is up to. It no doubt helps that the front suspension set-up features double wishbones, in theory the ideal arrangement as it allows for a better, more consistent tyre contact patch on the road. 

Since the all-wheel drive system has a rear bias, there’s that nice sensation of the car being pushed from the rear in some corners, although even with the traction control turned off, this is far from a wayward car. It is, however, one that encourages you to press on a little more than you might in some rival machines, because it’s that little bit more engaging. 

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The problem is the damping - the ride/handling balance just isn’t quite there. The CX-60 struggles to settle, particularly in the firmer Sport mode, which isn’t great for comfort during more sedate, day-to-day driving, while on some bumpy B-roads, the body of the SUV can feel like its getting away from you as it’s jostled around. And despite the CX-60’s more focused attitude, there is a fair amount of body roll. This car is 110kg lighter than the PHEV, but it struggles to hide its weight quite as well as some premium SUVs, especially the aforementioned BMW X3

The 20-inch wheels fitted to the Homura and Takumi-grade cars don’t help in terms of comfort - they can thump over imperfections in the asphalt, while also giving off a little too much in the way of road noise for our liking. 

Thankfully, the comfortable and supportive seats do go some way in making up for the CX-60’s compromised ride. Elsewhere inside, you’ll find a healthy amount of rear legroom, an abundance of headroom, and a sizeable boot offering 570 litres of space - an identical figure to the PHEV. 

The premium charged for the 251bhp, all-wheel drive diesel engine for Exclusive-Line cars seems reasonable enough at £2,630. For those wanting a higher spec, the only option is the beefier engine - Homura and Takumi can’t be paired with the lower-powered diesel. 

While we’d be tempted to go for the Takumi for its brighter cabin alone, you are paying £2,350 more for the privilege, and gaining mostly aesthetic upgrades in the process. The Homura largely matches Takumi in terms of its tech offering, with highlights including electrically adjustable seats, a powered tailgate and an excellent Bose surround system. It’s still pricey, coming in at £48,380 vs £50,730 for the Takumi.

Model:Mazda CX-60 E-SkyActiv-D 254PS Takumi
Price:£50,730
Engine:3.3-litre 6cyl diesel
Power/torque:251bhp/550Nm
Transmission:Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
0-62mph:7.4 seconds
Top speed:136mph
Fuel economy:53.3mpg
CO2:138g/km
On sale:Now

Now read our long-term test of the Mazda CX-60 PHEV...

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