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2023 Mazda CX-60 Skyactiv-G 2.5 review: Go RWD, go big

2023 Mazda CX-60 Skyactiv-G 2.5 review: Go RWD, go big
PHOTO: CarBuyer

The idea of a Mazda built for the luxury market is not a new one. A few car lifetimes ago, their sensible-yet-luxurious Executive-sized 929, duked it out against period BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz W124 (E-Class predecessor) sedans.

Today, their new CX-60 is aimed squarely at industry stalwarts — Junior Executive SUVs like the BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC (this one is the PHEV version), Audi Q5 and Lexus NX Treefiddy.

As the CX-60 is Mazda's first attempt in a long while to play ball against luxury market big guns, it will undoubtedly go through plenty of scrutiny. But what we can tell you, before you continue reading more, is that their SUV shows promise.

So, when Mazda initially announced its new Large Product Group architecture (designed for longitudinally-mounted engine placement), the motoring press was abuzz with talks about a new RWD Mazda 6, to take on driver-focused creme de la creme, these were the 3 Series BMW and Lexus IS.

Unfortunately, with sedans now raking in less profit, Mazda was quick to quell any rumours of a long-overdue model change. Instead, they have focused their efforts on fielding two luxury SUVs, the CX-60, and its longer three-row sibling, the CX-90. As for the current Mazda 6, for now, it still plods on.

Mazda's new Junior Executive SUV, is about the same length as the BMW X3, and has almost identical space between the front and rear wheels. Both SUVs have almost the same width, and height. Where the BMW differs though, is that it has better ground clearance.

But here is an interesting nugget of information — while the Mazda is built to solely be a road-going SUV, the BMW is still designed to handle some off-roading… in-fact, the X3 has a fording depth, rated at 500mm.

The CX-60 carries on it, the latest interpretation of their signature KODO design philosophy. This design philosophy is visually closer to newer offerings in their stable, like the Mazda 3 and CX-5. And like them, the CX-60's side sheet metal boasts negative space, which allows light more play on its surfaces.

This effect is probably best seen if the car were to be painted in their vivid Soul Red Crystal Metallic. Its KODO design language continues with slim head and tail lights, and a large grille with a chromed surround. In-all, If you have a keen eye, you'd notice that their attention to detail can even be seen in how consistent and close their shutlines are. However, the doors still do not close with the sort of 'thud' you'd find in a German luxury car.

Once in the cabin, you'd be greeted by familiar materials and switchgear, which you will find on their other cars. What is impressive (and it is actually a small-big thing), is its "button feel" regardless of placement. Much-like, but different from how Audis have theirs with that familiar "click-click", the CX-60's buttons function with a bit of travel, and feel pleasantly dampened.

Nothing here feels out of place, including the 12.3-inch infotainment screen; which Mazda chose to have in a slimmer, less-intrusive wide format. But while the screen's interface is neat, it is extensively lacking in features.

Even the Audi Q5, with what is regarded as a dated and simple infotainment system, provides users with more. Also while you can connect via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the latter is offered only as a wired connection. There is a quirk worth mentioning though. The screen becomes touch control-friendly, only when either Apple or Android apps take over the system. 

Aside from the infotainment, the SUV is still decently-equipped. It boasts electric seats up-front, complemented by an electric height and reach-adjustable steering. A twelve-speaker premium BOSE audio system is standard, and so is a panoramic sunroof. Like most current-day luxury cars, it also has a wireless mobile phone charging pad, windshield-projected Active Driving Display, and a fully-digitised instrument panel.

The front seats could use more lateral support, but I am not complaining here, as they are comfortable enough for long journeys. If you notice some button blanks along the air-conditioning controls, well this is because the car we get does not come with ventilated front seats.

It also does not have the cool facial recognition feature, which automatically adjusts the driver's seat and steering wheel, based on user presets. As for rear passenger accommodation, leg and headroom are acceptable, although wiggle space is moderately less than the BMW X3.

As for cargo-carrying capabilities, the flat-bottomed boot at 477 litres, is somewhat decent, but it is the smallest in-class. To give you an idea of what I mean, the competition, beginning with the BMW X3's has 550 litres, the Audi Q5, 520 litres, the Lexus NX, 520 litres, the Alfa Romeo's Stelvio, 525 litres, the Volvo XC60, 483 litres, and the Mercedes-Benz GLC, 620 litres.

Power is supplied by the smallest engine available globally — a natural-breathing 2.5-litre Skyactiv-G family engine, which is good for 189hp and 250Nm. This is the same one which was found in the higher-spec Mazda 6, sold a while back.

Gear changes are taken care of by their new in-house developed 8-speed Skyactiv-Drive automatic transmission, which drives only the rear wheels. For the gearbox, Mazda bucked the trend of using a torque converter, and have instead opted for a multi-plate clutch pack to transfer torque into the transmission proper.

The upside is that the gear changes are more responsive, and almost manual gearbox-like. I actually do like how smoothly the CX-60 performs during acceleration.

But lift-off the throttle during a traffic crawl, and the car begins to bob around… well, because no torque converter in-between to mitigate the difference between crank and transmission speeds.

The CX-60 is one of just two Junior Executive SUVs available in Singapore with a naturally-aspirated engine (the other being the Lexus NX). So it is quite refreshing to drive a vehicle with an engine which is responsive off the bat. However, this push tapers-off post mid-range, which would mean that you will have to plan overtakes a little more carefully. Fuel efficiency, rated at a combined 7.5l/100km is expected. I managed about 7.8l/100km/.

The quick steering also takes time to get used to, since it seems eager to interpret your minor inputs into a little more than you'd initially expect. It is light, slightly lacking in feel, but decently accurate; but for the last quality, it is still far from the BMW's seemingly razor-sharp ability to let you thread their car through a loop of a needle, while slung around a corner.

The highway is where Mazda's rear-wheel drive Large Product Group architecture is best able to exhibit how well-sorted it is. While I did mention above that it is less accurate as the X3, it still rides through corners with similar confidence. The front double wishbone and rear multilink setup are tuned to sit within that sweet spot delivering on both comfort and handling fronts.

Add more accelerator pedal, as you exit a bend, and the rear-end bogs down, communicating that the rear wheels are putting more effort for more go. Base SUV to base SUV, without a doubt, the CX-60 definitely picks through a corner much neater than the Audi Q5.

But from the point that this is THE base CX-60, it does come equipped with quite an impressive suite of safety and driver assistance features.

Perhaps the most important here, would be the Smart Brake Support, which is especially useful for avoiding rear crossing pedestrians. Other features include radar cruise control, a 360 degree view monitor, driver HUD and blind spot monitoring system.

Based on September 2023's first COE bidding round, with the B-CAT going at $134,889, the CX-60 is the only SUV in its class to retail under $300k (at $295,888). The next closest price competitor would be the Audi Q5 (for around $5,000 more). The CX-60 makes up for what it loses in grunt by being decently well-equipped.

However, if you were to ask me, they could really use a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine.

2023 Mazda CX-60 Skyactiv-G 2.5

Engine 2488cc, In-line 4
Power 189hp at 6000rpm
Torque 261Nm at 3000rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h 9.6 seconds
Top Speed 203km/h
VES Banding C1 / +S$15,000
Fuel Efficiency 7.5L/100km
Agent Eurokars Mazda
Price S$295,888 with COE
Availability Now
Verdict: Mazda’s first Junior Executive SUV shows promise, but its 1.5-litre NA engine in a time of turbos, puts it at a disadvantage

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This article was first published in CarBuyer.

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