Test Drive: Mazda CX-60 PHEV: A forced march

Mazda is not offering an electric- powered range yet, even if the electric MX-30 was launched a while ago. Mazda had to have one such vehicle in its range, obviously, but its reluctancy to embark on a fully electric range is quite real. A large plug-in hybrid SUV is now available in the Mazda range but it’s clearly more suited to the American market than the European one. We previewed the CX-60 last year and recenlty had one for a week’s test. It doesn’t quite enjoy being driven on our potholed and damaged roads.

It is always striking to see how much driving experience can change between Spain or Germany and Belgium : damaged roads and old cobbled sections on which very few modern cars shine in our eyes. There’s a cobbled part just down our street and we have to drive over it every single day. The new Mazda CX-60 moved about on it like a big cargo entangled in stormy weather at sea. Something we weren’t expecting from such a large SUV… 

I like it

This new Japanese SUV feels really comfortable. All the better for it as it’s quite big, especially in town. The top of the range Takumi version features a bright interior even if the blending of various beige colours is not always the most appropriate. The airy seamed fabric covering the dashborad in part didn’t seem that durable to us but the whole thing is original and makes for a refreshing change from common black-clad interiors. The aircon and heated seats use good old fashioned knobs located under the central screen and that’s another great feature of the CX-60’s interior. The centre console rotary knob is still there too. Using it is easy to navigate on-board menus without having to take the eyes off the road. Eventually, the three-spoke steering wheel is particularly well designed and the knobs located on the upper spokes need to be pushed firmly to work.

Quite clever

Fuel consumption will always depend on how often you charge the car. Companies monitor it as they know it can get very high when some PHEV users don’t play the game. Even if we don’t have a charging point at home, we always try to do our best. Over a week and 710 km, we managed a 6.6 l/100 km average. Quite an achievement knowing the CX-60 weighs 2,100 kg. The batteries can be charged while it is driven but doing so upped the average to 7.3 l/100 km.

I don’t like it

We know beauty is in the eye of the beholder… however, we were a bit disappointed when we discovered the CX-60’s shape and lines. Mazda produced many cars with dynamic and graceful lines but this first PHEV cannot hide some heaviness that is more a large American market vehicles fixture. Being that big can’t disguise the fact that rear seat space is not particularly generous.

Why I buy it

Under that long bonnet, there’s a 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine mated to an electric motor. Their combined output is 327bhp and a 500Nm torque. These figures look impressive on paper but you hardly feel there’s so much power available once you are sitting behind the wheel.  The 8-speed automatic gearbox totally erases any power feelings and you really have to work hard to achieved the claimed 5″8 secs to get from 0 to 100 km/h. Forget about selecting the Sport driving mode as that won’t make much difference. To make a long story short, the Normal driving mode remains the most efficient and guarantees the car makes the best out of all its technologies. Mazda interiors are always great looking and spending time in them is a real pleasure ; these really ooze serenity. Obviously, the light coloured elements used in this top of the range car will require extra care but everything is perfectly designed to be ergonomically sound and the central screen is not too big either.

Why I don’t buy it

The CX-60 is bulky and sales won’t be very high in Belgium… especially from next June as company cars taxes will be changed again. However, our national car market is pretty small compared to others and Mazda will soon launch the even larger CX-70 and CX-90  SUVs. However, these may not be on sale here. Nevertheless, we won’t shed a tear if they don’t come here, considering what the PHEV CX-60 offers. On top of its portly weight, the powertrain lacks refinement (sometimes, it feels like it doesn’t know what to do and the electric side of it can get pretty noisy when working). Not to mention suspension settings that are totally unsuitable for Belgian roads.  Mazda recently launched a diesel CX-60. We tested it recently and you can find out about it elswhere ! (Translation: Dimitri Urbain)

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