By Bill McCarthy
Mazda’s continuing moves to compete in the premium sector has gathered pace with the new CX-60 flagship its first plug-in hybrid.
A stylish SUV with a range of just under 40 miles on electric power only, it is aimed firmly at the likes of BMW, Audi and Mercedes, with a classy interior and an impressive range of standard kit.
There are three models, Exclusive-Line, Homura and Takumi with a starting price of £43,950 rising to £48,050. All come with four-wheel drive and eight-speed auto transmission.
Mazda makes some of the best looking SUVs around and the CX-60 is no different with its sleek profile, prominent grille flanked by slim light clusters, roof bars and stylish alloy wheels.
The newcomer makes much of its Japanese heritage with its ‘Crafted in Japan’ theme, with the interior on the range topping Takumi featuring natural wood grain and high quality Japanese style woven fabrics.
They are clever alright, but I preferred the more normal soft-touch finish on the other two models.
All feature leather upholstery and heated front seats, while the cockpit-style dash features digital console and a central screen which controls functionality like navigation, infotainment through the high end Bose system, and smartphone connectivity, using a rotary controller next to the gear lever.
Other switches and controls are robust and logically placed and it feels as classy as anything in the premium sector.
Standard kit is impressive even with the ‘entry’ model with the usual powered and electric aids, including heated steering wheel and front seats and head-up display. Move up the grades and get you more equipment.
It packs plenty of power with Its combination of Skyactiv-G 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, 29 kW electric motor and 17.8 kWh high-capacity battery.
Mazda Intelligent Drive Select (Mi-Drive) offers a choice of five drive modes: Normal, Sport, Off-Road, Towing and EV, the latter allowing purely electric-powered driving.
As an SUV it is also highly practical, offering plenty of space for five occupants together with a large 520-litre boot which opens up into a cavernous space with the rear seats folded.
It took a large gazebo, with all the bits and pieces and with plenty of space left to spare.
Performance is impressive with a combined 327PS available and a torque figure of 500Nm, delivering strong pulling power and making the most powerful road car ever from Mazda.
It blasts to 60mph in under six seconds but still delivers excellent economy, with a theoretical maximum fuel consumption of 188mpg and emissions of 33 g/km. This means low tax and Benefit in Kind taxation at just 12 per cent.
On a mixed circuit of roads and hills, with engine and electric motor working together, the more realistic figure showed at around the mid-50s mpg. However, for shorter journeys on electric power alone, then huge mpg figures are achievable.
When EV power is exhausted also allows for the engine to kick in and charge the battery, for instance if you are approaching a congestion or low carbon area and need to switch back to electric only.
On the move, the car is quiet enough except when you floor the throttle there is a pleasant growl from the engine. Gear shifts are generally smooth, but sometimes slightly jerky when feathering the accelertor. There is a little wind noise and the large wheels, up to 20-inch, can mean significant road noise on poorer surfaces. But it also offers excellent manoeuvrability for such a big vehicle with an excellent turning circle.
On the road, the car handles well and features Mazda’s Kinetic Posture Control technology which mitigates body roll when cornering by braking the inside rear wheel to draw the car body downwards, so it does feel stable when cornering.
This became apparent on a prolonged drive around Welsh mountain routes, where the car clung limpet-like to the road through hairpins and sweeping bends.
All Mazdas are packed with safety kit with a comprehensive array of airbags, while the newcomer adds a new 360-degree monitor with extended field of view at low speeds; Hill Descent Control (HDC); Adaptive Cruise Control (i-ACC), and Traffic Sign Recognition.
Two option packs are available across all grades at £1,000 and £1,100 respectively. The Convenience Pack adds extra interior lighting and sockets, a 360-degree camera, privacy glass and wireless phone charging and Driver Assistance Pack, which adds adding adaptive headlights, adaptive cruise control (adding up to semi-autonomous driving capability) and cross-traffic alert front and rear.
But even that extra cost keeps it below its German rivals for similar spec, which is the whole point really. Like the Volvo XC-60, it is a viable and attractive alternative.
The new generation straight-six 3.0-litre e-Skyactiv X petrol and 3.3-litre e-Skyactiv D diesel engines, which feature M Hybrid Boost – Mazda’s 48V mild hybrid system, will join the CX-60 range in the future.