Conservative to a fault but never less than totally appealing as a car marque, Mazda has always impressed Iain Robertson with its fine eye for design and thoroughly realistic approach to technology, which works on enhancing what it knows best, without scaring its customer base with fast dating and costly novel hardware.
Various tactics have been employed by both government and the purveyors of electrified transport, very few of which consider truth to be an important element that only gets in the way of a burning eco-story. As I have stated consistently since the ‘E-Day’ switch-on was set for 1st January 2030, do not be gulled into buying into the EV/BEV scene, until you have gained a vital insight into how the technology will develop, as it is doing so inexorably. After all, what is the point of buying a new EV today, when its value will plummet like a stone, as the next generation is launched, and you will be left behind in the tech-race, long before ‘E-Day’ occurs?
Mazda has never resorted to such evils. Its first EV arrived in the form of the subtly attractive MX-30 model just over a year ago, accompanied by a teensy fanfare. It was promoted from the outset as a ‘means to an urban transport end’ and not as the be-all-and-end-all BEV, a factor highlighted by its competitively low retail price and less than 100mls realistic range. It is a better than basic urban runabout that presents a genuine proposition for the two-car family. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the company’s new range topping model, the CX-60, is an all-singing-and-dancing plug-in hybrid. Boasting 188mpg, 39mls EV range and a fast-charge facility it follows traditional SUV convention to a ‘tee’ in all other respects.
It is a large SUV, noticeably bigger than the compact CX-3, or recently revised CX-5, although Mazda intends to reveal the three-row CX-80 flagship within the next two years to complete the range. It is a handsome machine possessing a series of pleasing interior and exterior details to which it attaches the customary Japanese styling signature and nomenclature, as if to remind buyers of the car’s origins. There is invariably something different and it features in the dashboard and door card stitching that could look incomplete, until you appreciate that it is meant to look like a ‘hung-stitch’ pattern. It works most elegantly, even though, by my poor description of it, it ought not to. Yet, the natural quality of the maple wood trim strips looks as special and high-class as the cork inserts in the MX-30. The rest of the Nappa hide interior (where fitted), while smart, is as conventional in luxury car terms as it ever needs to be and there is bags of space in both front and rear of the cabin, as well as a most capacious 580-litre boot, ideal for a folding electric wheelchair, while not robbing all of the available luggage space.
On the outside, the class ‘rules’ are uncompromised. CX-60 is a big SUV possessing understated detailing and enough ‘bling’ to ensure that the car will look perfectly at home in front of the country pile, or a grand London hotel. Powering it is the beguiling combination of the company’s excellent 2.5-litre petrol e-Skyactiv engine linked to a 100kw electric motor and a 17.8kWh high-capacity battery pack. The total power output is now Mazda’s punchiest at 327bhp, enough to whisk it from 0-60mph in just 5.5s, emitting a lowly 33g/km CO2 for the lowest road tax rating. Pushed hard by the £10/gallon fuel spectre, a CX-60 starts to look like a decently viable combo.
Models destined for the UK market will arrive in three trim grades: Exclusive-Line, Homura and Takumi. However, customer choice is enhanced with a couple of option packs across all grades: Convenience (£1,000) and Driver Assistance Packs (£1,100), with a Comfort Pack available on Exclusive-Line versions, although a panoramic roof can also be specified on Homura and Takumi models. At an entry-level price of £43,950, the CX-60 Exclusive-Line can be matched to all three of the option packs. Meanwhile, the £46,700 Homura gains body coloured wheel arch mouldings and a dark plated signature wing grille surround, plus gloss black mirrors and honeycomb grille treatment, with 20.0-inch diameter black alloy wheels adding the finishing touch. Internally, Homura features seat heating for the outer rear seats and ambient lighting, plus it is equipped with Mazda’s Driver Personalisation System that can recognise the occupant of the driver’s seat via facial recognition, then adjusting the seat position, steering wheel, mirrors, head-up display, even the sound and climate control settings, to fit both physique and personal preferences of the next driver.
At the top of the shop is the £48,050 Takumi trim, which features 20.0-inch diameter black machined alloy wheels and body-coloured mirrors, combined with chrome plated signature wing grille treatment and side window surrounds, while the gloss black bar type radiator grille design is also flagship specific. The £1,400 Comfort Pack is only offered with the Exclusive-Line but factors in high-grade features like 20.0-inch diameter alloy wheels, electric front seats, front seat ventilation, rear seat heaters and the Driver Personalisation System.
As far as the driving experience goes, there is a superb range of seat adjustment by which to obtain a comfortable, supportive and safely commanding driving position. The long wheelbase of CX-60 affords the car a pleasant and well-damped ride quality but, although it does rely on electrickery to attain high levels of stability and an engagingly sporty chassis response, it is never overwhelming and only the occasional flicker of a warning lamp can be detected, should the driver be approaching the car’s moderately high limits. Grip levels are excellent, as are the brakes, eight-speed automatic transmission and throttle responses. Crisp steering supports the Mazda chassis dynamics’ remit.
Conclusion: Even though hefty fuel bills should be enough to stem the sales tide of SUVs, trying to jemmy owners from them is a difficult task. While electrification is a partial solution, the cost of an equivalent gallon may soon equate to that of diesel, negating any BEV advantage. The tangibility of the Mazda offering with the CX-60 lies in its hybrid technology, which will still have legs long after ‘E-Day’.