Words by: Adam Allen
No, your eyes don’t deceive you- a Mazda CX-5 once again is the subject of a thorough poking and prodding courtesy of the Carpages Garage. We insist that this time it’s different, having brought you detailed once-overs of the models equipped with the gasoline powerplants available in this perennially excellent SUV in the past. After a long wait a diesel option has entered the fray, and we asked for the keys so we could tell you firsthand about what experiencing Mazda’s compression ignition version of the Skyactiv family of engines is all about.
Before we begin, we need to tell you that the common denominators we’ve all associated with all contemporary Mazda’s are present and accounted for: handsome styling, decadent interiors and a chassis that perfectly balances along the oh-so-fine line between firm and comfort. Pretty much all that has changed is under the hood, although we wish that Mazda had decided to equip the CX-5 with the same next generation infotainment systems featured in the Mazda 3 and CX-30- our tester’s version of HMI is starting to feel a little long in the tooth and we hope to see the new one on the menu in next year.
So, was the near decade long wait worth it? We believe so, and we’ll explain why after spending a good amount of time getting intimately acquainted with the oil burner. So then- why the long delay? First, Mazda wanted to make sure the diesel engine came from the same gene pool as the rest of their engine lineup. That’s quite a challenge on its own, but they also were working towards that goal without the use of an exhaust treatment system, the very same way that Volkswagen went about their diesel strategy. As we now know how that worked out for those guys, Mazda wisely thought to regroup before potentially following the German juggernaut down such a disastrous path.
Fast forward to today in the parking lot of Mazda’s headquarters, where we start by thumbing the start button. After a fractional delay while the glow plugs come up to temperature, the 2.2 inline-four fires up with an unmistakably diesel soundtrack and settles into a pleasant idle. This aural signature, the Skyactiv D badge and the single exhaust outlet are the only clues to your fellow motorists that your CX-5 is not like the others. Once underway, it sounds lively and possess a cadence not commonly found in diesels. There are other behavioral characteristics that you won’t find anywhere else where spark plugs are not welcome, but they are of the agreeable variety. Like its gasoline fed counterparts, the Skyactiv-D engine loves to rev, and its redline of 5,500 rpm qualifies it as a screamer amongst diesels. It’s just as effective at the top end as is off idle, something you don’t normally find in with this engine architecture. Here’s another unique attribute- it has unexpectedly strong engine braking, as good or better than the gas powerplants it shares the options sheet with, again not something commonly found with compression ignition. Once you get the hang of the diesel’s unrushed power delivery that sees gobs of low end torque motivate you easily about, you learn how to exploit the most out of the engine. Ease into the throttle when merging onto the highway, and the effortless surge that follows never gets old.
Mazda’s gram strategy- wherein each nut, bolt and bracket is made to be as light as possible while remaining sturdy enough is on full display here just as it is in the gasoline models. The chassis still exhibits a degree of athleticism you pretty much don’t get in an SUV, the steering is scalpel sharp and while the ride is on the firmer side, it doesn’t shake your flabby bits on the tarmac that passes for roads in our neck of the woods. But where the gram strategy giveth, the gram strategy taketh away: there’s more wind and road noise that we’d like although it must be said that Mazda has made great strides in refinement over the years without resorting to simply throwing a bunch of sound deadening material at the problem which would ultimately render the scrupulous weight savings moot.
We often conclude our Road Tests with the question ‘Should I buy’ whatever car is under scrutiny while in the possession of we of Carpages Garage faithful and if we pose that question in this case, the answer is would still be a Yes; but with a few provisos. So far, Mazda has sensibly made the diesel part of the top-rung Signature trim, because the market for premium diesels is quite small which means the CX-5 finds itself rubbing shoulders with say, the Jaguar F-Pace. There’s a $5,000 premium to make the diesel part of your CX-5 experience, and some will bristle at dropping that kind of scratch for an engine that, on paper at least, makes less power and doesn’t offer the massive fuel economy advantage over its gasoline fed counterparts. Despite these slight misgivings, we’re rooting for this engine to succeed. Enthusiasts love Mazda’s scrappy, unrelenting grasp of what makes their cars so rewarding to drive, and we cannot imagine the resources both financial and human that were dispatched to make this engine a reality. We have a suggestion that will help Mazda justify the diesel’s coming to market from an economies of scale perspective that also happens to add some intrigue to enthusiasts who’d like to see this engine available throughout the lineup- perhaps make the diesel a fixture on the Mazda3’s option sheet? With less mass to tug around, it’d likely be properly quick while returning stellar fuel mileage. If you’re thinking the CX-5 will be a good fit for your motoring needs, you really ought to try the diesel.
2020 Mazda CX-5 Signature Skyactiv-D- Specifications
- Price as tested: $48,145
- Body Type: 5-door, 5 passenger SUV
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/All-wheel drive
- Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
- Engine: 2.2-litre turbocharged inline-four diesel, DOHC, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 168 @ 4,000 rpm
- Torque (lbs-ft.): 290 @ 2,000-5,500 rpm
- Curb weight: 1,788 kg (3,942 lbs)
- Observed Fuel Consumption: 10L/100km (24 mpg)