Mazda is embarking on a mission to move things up a level – and the CX-60 is said to herald the start of this. Never one to shy away from a fresh challenge, those working at the Japanese company feel the time is now right to take aim at premium brands in the medium-sized Sport Utility Vehicle arena.

BIG CAR, EVEN BIGGER EXPECTATIONS

Every new nameplate adds potential to a car maker’s line-up and the CX-60 – Mazda’s first to adopt plug-in hybrid technology – is no different. With supply of the five-seater “protected” by the on-going semi-conductor shortage, it is thought to have pushed total sales of electrified vehicles wearing the wing-shaped badge to 70% by the end of last year. By contrast, back in 2012, Mazda’s ‘e-sales’ weighed in at a mere 2%. The system isn’t anything new or fanciful as similar set-ups have been in service for some time now and in the CX-60 a pure electric range of 39-miles at speeds below 62mph is promised and combined fuel economy verging on 190mpg. Another statistic that is sure to make this the most compelling in a range that will expand with the introduction of a 3.3-litre e-Skyactiv D turbo diesel and a 3-litre e-Skyactiv X petrol that both incorporate 48-volt mild hybridisation is the super tax-friendly 33g/km CO2 rating.

THREE MODEL RANGE

UK buyers have just three trim choices comprising ‘Exclusive-Line’ (£43,950), ‘Homura’ (£46,645), and ‘Takumi’ (£48,050) as reviewed here. Another first for Mazda is the optional full-length panoramic sunroof, albeit on mid- and range-topping CX-60s at a cost of £1,000. Standard equipment on all examples is impressive to say the least, and includes a 12.3-inch driver display and an identical-sized multimedia system. The former has minimal tailorability and the latter relies on satellite navigation software rivals’ easily trump. These are joined by heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone climate control and a raft of safety aids from Blind Spot Monitoring to Smart Brake Support to Lane Keep Assist. By throwing the creature comforts sink at the CX-60 “elevates Mazda to new heights”, journalists who were present for the car’s UK launch in Liverpool were told. For the time being, regardless of trim, the same 188bhp Skyactiv-G 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol and 173bhp e-motor is what powers the SUV.

IT’S BOLD BUT IS IT BEAUTIFUL?

We are unsure if the CX-60 is going to win universal praise for the way that it looks, considering there are better styled SUVs on the market right now. From this writer’s perspective, the rear is more of a success story than the front where clear cues link it to the slightly smaller CX-5 are to be found. With the engine being longitudinally-mounted, this has given rise to a snooty nose – a quality particularly evident side-on – and while designers persist with the minimalist approach to surface detailing, perhaps some would not go amiss here. It isn’t all bad, though: pulsing front indicators that are neatly integrated into the front chrome grille surround, and faux exhausts that sit within the base of the back bumper, are points in case. Alloy wheels measuring between 18- and 20-inches are offered, with dark wheel arch mouldings on ‘Exclusive-Line’ models swapped for colour-coded trim pieces on ‘Homura’ and ‘Takumi’. There is a choice of eight body shade and all except ‘Arctic White’ command a premium.

A WELL-APPOINTED CABIN

Considering the advances that have been made with interior packaging and technology of late, Mazda has had to raise its already strong A-game another level when joining the premium SUV sector. And the good news is the CX-60’s cabin doesn’t disappoint. Considering the degree of convenience features on show, the asking price represents pretty decent value for money on the round. Quality is another particularly strong aspect, with flagship ‘Takumi’ blending maple wood panels, soft nappa leather, bright chrome detailing and sofa-like cloth for the middle portion of the dashboard. That adds to the sense of craftmanship for those travelling in the front or in the back where space is good for a group of four adults – but no more than that. It is a real squeeze for three adults perched across the middle bench in comparison to the Ford Kuga or Audi Q5, it has to be said. Shoulder and leg room are limited. Climbing in and out of the back is a bit of a faff, too, so this is another blot in the CX-60’s copybook.

COMFORTABLE BUT NOT ALWAYS QUIET

An area Mazda is renowned for excelling is driveability – and that long held tradition continues here. The key controls – from the steering wheel, to the pedals, to the stubby gear lever – are perfectly positioned and nicely weighted. Getting into position is a breeze, too, as the drivers’ seat offers tilt, slide and lumbar adjustment. On the move, the ride is smooth at cruising speeds but it has a tendency to become brittle – the trade-off for the extra mass introduced by the battery pack and wheels that are wrapped in low-profile Bridgestone rubber. This came to the fore over some of Liverpool’s most unforgiving streets and along tatty country roads in the very heart of north Wales’. Rattles and squeaks did not develop, however, and thumps and bangs were well suppressed. The petrol-electric set-up proved to be a bit of a mixed bag. Under revs the engine turns coarse and the whine from the electric propulsion system is all too apparent.

PROS & CONS

+ Cabin has premium feel
+ Technology is Mazda’s best
+ Smart handling for a SUV
Looks will divide opinion
Rear space is cramped
E-motor isn’t the quietest

CHARGING: Opt for the CX-60 and you get a choice of two charging cables – a regular three-pin plug and a Type 2 connector – proving Mazda has given its first PHEV some thought. When using the latter, owners can expect the battery to be replenished in two hours and 20 minutes when hooked up to a 7kW wallbox. In pure EV mode at speeds under 62mph, you can expect a range of almost 40 miles.

DRIVING: The 8-speed automatic is by far the most polished aspect of the CX-60’s transmission as it slurs gears and reacts quickly when you pull on the flappy paddles behind the steering wheel. Performance when the petrol engine and electric motor join forces for a car of this size and mass is nothing short of impressive, and the four-wheel-drive set-up puts this power onto the road with ease.

INTERIOR: Not only is the CX-60’s dash area and centre console minimalist, they are also premium in how they look and feel. The elongated multimedia screen – which is operated via Mazda’s now familiar rotary dial – is blessed with reasonably sharp graphics but the sat-nav proved less than decisive during our long drive. Physical shortcut buttons for both the car’s heating and ventilation remain.

PRACTICALITY: At 570-litres, the cargo area in the CX-60 is competitive for this class and should be able to handle most day-to-day needs, although a lack of hooks inevitably means items end up moving about. With the individual folding rear seats out of the way, this rises to a smidge over 1,700-litres. Interior storage is so-so and includes a phone tray and compartment under the centre armrest.

SPECIFICATION

Price: £52,050 (as tested) 
Engine: 2.5-litre, 4cyl petrol PHEV           
Power/torque: 323bhp/369lb ft    
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive         
0-60mph: 5.8 seconds 
Top speed: 124mph               
Economy/CO2: 188mpg/33g/Km

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