New car test drive: Mazda CX-60 PHEV : high expectations

The new Mazda CX-60 is exactly what Belgian fleet managers are looking for. A plug in SUV ticking all the right boxes and inducing low tax levels , what more could you ask for? Surely enough to make sure Mazda managers get a broad smile on their face…

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Even though the car is not yet  available and in dealers’ showrooms, no less than 874 CX-60 had been sold in Belgium by the end of August.  Will the future owners be disappointed ? We will try to answer this question in the following lines. On the outside, Mazda’s first plug-in hybrid SUV is sleek enough. Sure, it lost some of its predecessors’ elegant lines ,however it is less clumsy in the metal than what the first pictures led us to think. The long bonnet is impressive, not even mentioning its broad grille. The cabin is not too much forward located, enhancing even more the dynamic feeling induced by its body shape. It’s a different story at the back as it’s less distinctive, even though it retains a typical Mazda flavor. The color-coded wheel arches may make the overall body shape be a tad heavier on the eye.

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A cosy and neat cabin

Once inside, the Mazda CX-60 does not disappoint. Fit and finish as well as material quality quality are right at the top, as it’s always the case with Mazda. However, there is a sharp contrast between the nice and sweet cabin of the Takumi version (natural wood grain and high quality woven textiles akin to the latest Volvos), and the cheaper ones that make do with black plastics. The driving position is spot on, as usual. Even better, there’s an automatic guide suggesting a « perfect » seat adjustment- nice if you hate fiddling to adjust your seat.

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The digital screen instrument cluster delivers all the information that are needed and it can be enhanced by a large head-up display. The central console 12.3-inch screen is ideally located but is not tactile. Navigating between menus is done through the big knob located on the large center console. Fortunately, Mazda still uses old-school buttons for the aircon, the audio system or the heated seats. Interior space is quite generous at the front seats, a bit less so in the back. The 570-liter trunk is obviously not class-leading. Hands-free tailgate opening is available as an extra and works pretty well.

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Dynamic behavior

Very often, the Mazda driving experience has been seen as a Japanese equivalent to Alfa Romeo’s. We were a bit worried by the new CX-60 sheer size but were pleasantly surprised by its on-road manners. Anyway, don’t be mistaken. it’s not sporty-ish, even though it’s quite clean and dynamic on the road, growing on you as the miles go by. The 2.5 4-cylinder E-Skyactiv G engine is mated to a 129 kW electric motor oozes character and we enjoyed it. There’s a high-capacity lithium-ion battery of 355 V and 17.8 kWh.  Total power is a healthy 327 hp and 500 Nm of torque, making it the most powerful Mazda ever produced!

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In a way we’re still looking for all that power, true… However, moving about 1980 kg means the 4-cylinder  lump has got to work hard. That being said, the Mazda CX-60 takes curves with some alacrity and its 4-wheel drive system is a real asset. The MI Drive offers 5 driving modes: Normal, Sport, Off Road, Trailer or 100% electric. The 8-speed transmission is a brand new one that perfectly blends in with the electrified powerplant. Gear changes are utterly smooth, ensuring a completely relaxed driving experience. The regenerative braking system is in a different league, unfortunately… it lacks a natural feel when you push on the brake pedal but in the end it’s possible to get used to it.

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Increased safety

Mazda’s new PHEV SUV should get a 5 star Euro-NCAP rating thanks to its i-Activsense advanced safety system. The 360-degree vision system uses four cameras to monitor its urban braking assistance device. It even works at night and will identify vehicles and pedestrians that might appear in its range. There is also an active lane keeping system, blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, DSC, TCS and hill start assist.

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The new CX-60 is rather lively for its size. The electric range might be a modest 63 km, true, but this SUV is just what the market needs and wants now. Even though Mazda is a bit late to the PHEV party with it, there are high sales expectations resting on its wings as the Belgian market is attractive for such PHEV SUVs at the moment. Nevertheless, it’s let down by its sheer weight, its gearbox laziness and, for its size, small trunk space. It is priced from €50,890 onward (Prime-Line trim), up to a paltry €65,000 if you tick all the boxes and choose the top spec trim. Mazda plans to offer it soon with a 3.3 Diesel engine and either 200 or 254 hp… (Translation: Dimitri Urbain)

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