/ 7 October 2023

Mazda drives in a new direction

Commanding: The Mazda CX-60 boasts sleek LED headlights, an oversized front grille and 20-inch alloy wheels.

It’s only fair for a marque such as Mazda to aspire to compete in the same premier league in which big European manufacturers play.

However, the truth of the matter is that there are many to choose from when looking to buy a premium mid-size SUV and the Mazda CX-60, which joined the segment this year, is yet another option. 

The flagship CX-60 is the brand from Japan’s venture into the premium segment — the first model under the Mazda banner to use the rear-wheel and all-wheel-drive platform with a longitudinal engine configuration. 

Positioned above the capable CX-5, the CX-60 shapes up well and follows the same Kodo design philosophy as other Mazdas, such as the funky 3 hatchback and CX-30.

In the range-topping Individual guise, Mazda has gone to extra lengths to kit the CX-60 with hearty levels of standard equipment.

That said, it isn’t merely a beefed-up CX-5; it has a commanding presence, with an aggressive front end featuring sleek LED headlights, an oversized front grille; 20-inch alloy wheels and neatly integrated flanks. 

The rear features slim LED taillights and “fake” exhaust tips on each side of the car. 

Just about everything about it exudes uniqueness — something we have not seen before under the Mazda banner. 

Maza’s plan is to transition to becoming a luxury marque, a goal that’s evident when stepping inside the new CX-60. 

It dazzles with its well-put-together interior that has Nappa leather and soft materials on various touch points and feels broad and spacious. 

Mazda’s approach to digitisation has enabled it to give the CX-60 an extensive, non-touch 12.3-inch infotainment system and a digital instrument cluster with crisply clear graphics. 

I laud Mazda for consistency with the infotainment commander control knobs, switches for HVAC, and the non-touch infotainment system, which make for an easier and safer driving experience. 

It’s worth mentioning that the buttons and switches on the centre console have been ergonomically designed and have tactile feedback that makes them easy to use.

As the flagship model, Mazda has furnished this version with luxuries such as a Bose sound system, wireless Apple CarPlay, four USB ports, a wireless charging pad and a heads-up display — all of which flawlessly execute their respective tasks. 

What stands out though is that the CX-60 makes use of a facial recognition system to store profiles, including optimum driving position and head-up display, based on the driver’s height and eyeline. 

With a 477 litre boot space — or 1 726 litres when you leave the kids at home and fold the second row of seats flat — there’s plenty of room for luggage and other sizeable items for a weekend excursion.

It’s hard to admit, but the 2.5-litre, 4-cylinder, naturally aspirated engine with 141kW and 261Nm is the CX-60’s biggest drawback. 

However, Mazda’s efforts to invigorate it are noticeable. 

Still, the acceleration from a stop is sluggish and overtaking manoeuvres aren’t as swift as desired. 

Another irk is that it holds onto lower gears for an extended period, which has a negative impact on fuel economy.

In its defence, the CX-60 makes for a compliant cruiser, thanks to the refined 8-speed automatic transmission, plush ride quality and optimised comfort for occupants. 

The great insulation from the powertrain, road and wind noise, as well as the exceptional grip levels, thanks to the rear-biased all-wheel-drive system, are also plus points.

With its 58-litre tank, the C-60 has an appetite for fuel, even when conservatively driven. 

It guzzled around 9l/100km, which is much higher than its rivals in the same segment, such as the BMW X3 20d (6.5l/100km) and Audi Q5 40 TDI (8.1l/100km). 

The diesel engine version will surely remedy this, and the sluggish acceleration, when it joins the range in February. 

Speaking of the turbodiesel engine, it has one comparable to the German giants, courtesy of a 3.3-litre in-line 6-cylinder turbocharged diesel mild-hybrid unit that pushes out 187kW and 550Nm of torque. 

Pair the new unit with the aforementioned attributes and the eco-friendliness of the hybrid system and you should have a segment winner.

While its elevated fuel consumption might be a drawback for some consumers, the CX-60 is a triumph for Mazda. 

It challenges the dominant European car manufacturers with its distinctive style, great build quality and excellent safety features. 

At R844 500, it’s a convincing, well-refined and gorgeous premium SUV which can confidently vie in this demanding market.

The Mazda CX-60 isn’t a perfect premium SUV, but it’s a good one, and warrants a look, should fuel economy not be a major concern.