For what feels like decades, Mazda has been saying that the diesel engine will come to North America. In late 2019, it finally came in the 2019 Mazda CX-5 SUV. So was the wait worth it or too little too late as everyone is shifting to hybrid & electric vehicles?
Engine – The diesel engine is a 2.2L turbocharged 4-cylinder that produces 168 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpms. For a diesel engine, this one has a high rpm range of 5,000 rpms but the peak horsepower is reached at 4,000 rpms. After that, it is quite noticeable that the Mazda CX-5 doesn’t accelerate as hard. In a straight line acceleration to 100 km/h, the new Toyota Rav4 Hybrid is just a bit quicker even though it doesn’t produce as much torque. But it’s the Rav4’s 219 hp that makes the difference. However the tradeoff is that the Rav4 Hybrid cannot tow as much as the CX-5 diesel can. The Mazda CX-5 Skyactiv-D gets a bump in towing capability from 2,000 lbs for the gasoline versions to 3,500 lbs.
At lower rpms, you do feel the peak torque everytime the needle hits that 2,000 rpms sweetspot. The engine is quite happy being at that spot as it is most fuel efficient on a highway going approximately 100 km/h. Mazda rates this engine at 7.9 L/100km (29.7 mpg) on a highway and 8.9 L/100km (26.4 mpg) in a city. However, on purely highway driving, I saw the numbers dip to as low as 6.0 L/100km and during my week with the CX-5 diesel, I averaged 7.8 L/100km. So depending on how much highway travel you do and how gentle you are on the throttle, you can get a lot of mileage for your fuel.
Transmission – The same 6-speed automatic that is in the gasoline powered CX-5 is used to transfer power to the wheels in this Skyactiv-D version. The difference being is that this diesel version does not get a Sport mode but shifts are still relatively quick and smooth for daily commuting or overtaking on a highway.
Braking – The brakes on the CX-5 are very good. Brake modulation is easy and a firm pedal provides good feedback. Smart City Brake Support (emergency automatic braking) is standard on the Mazda CX-5 across all trim levels.
Handling – The way the Mazda CX-5 goes around corners is what gives it its sporty credentials. Sharp and communicative steering provides feedback that you’d find a proper sports car let alone a midsize SUV. Because of this, the SUV gives you the confidence to drive it around corners at higher speeds than other SUVs. However the heavier steering does not go light enough at parking lot speeds which may make it a bit tiring maneuvering the CX-5 in a tight spot. It’s not awful but more steering assist could be useful.
Ride Comfort – Although it is aimed at being a sporty SUV, the ride comfort is not sacrificed too much. It does have a firmer ride than other SUVs like the Honda CR-V but it is comfortable enough to live with on a day to day basis.
Interior Space – Although the Mazda CX-5 is considered a midsize SUV, it is smaller than the competition. Front occupants have plenty of room but rear occupants could do with more leg room. The trunk is equally small when compared to something like the Honda CR-V or Toyota Rav4 and the trunk floor is a bit higher than the two as well. The Mazda does have 40/20/40 flat folding rear seats so the cargo volume can increase to almost 1,700L.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – Despite advancements in technology, diesel engines still produce more noise than their gasoline counterparts. Diesel engines have become quieter over the last few decades but even so, you do notice the engine as soon as it starts up.
When the engine is cold, it sounds like the typical diesel engine that everyone is used to hearing. But once it warms up to operating temperatures, it is much quieter. The only time you really notice the engine noise is when accelerating from a stop. Granted you do this often in a city but it’s not as bad as you may think it is.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – Like most new crossovers the Mazda is available with a wide range of interior and safety features. The list is fairly long with adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitor, lane departure warning and keep assist, and so on. But there are some features that are missing but are found on the competition such as a heated steering wheel with full 360 heating instead of just at the 9 and 3 positions and a panoramic sunroof to name a few. Happily though, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now available on the CX-5 and across the Mazda model range.
Exterior Design – This current iteration of the Mazda CX-5 saw a complete design overhaul for the 2017 model year. Now two years on, it still looks fresh. It in corporates styling cues of other Mazda models such as the CX-9 in the headlights and some MX-5 around back. It may not be for everyone’s taste but in a very crowded SUV market, it stands out.
Interior Design – This being the top Signature trim, it is festooned with soft Napa leather and good quality materials throughout the cabin. Mazda has shifted a bit to blur the lines between a mainstream manufacturer and a premium luxury manufacturer. And it shows in the quality of the cabin. However unlike the exterior, the interior could do with a small update namely with the infotainment and the screen. Seven-inches does not exude luxury for an infotainment screen and this infotaiment is part of the older generation that has been around for years. Hopefully they’ll be able to integrate the new Mazda 3’s infotainment system in the next model year.
In all the 2019 Mazda CX-5 Diesel is a good SUV. It still retains the quality and sporty driving credentials that all Mazda vehicles are known for. However the value for your money is an issue. While the CX-5 Skyactiv-D is very efficient on a highway, you’d have to be travelling only on highways for a couple hundred thousand (or more) kilometers to get your money back in fuel savings over the gasoline versions. This Skyactiv-D engine is only available on the top Signature trim and it is a $5,000 CAD premium over the 2.5T engine. Mazda is trying to entice buyers by offering a 2 year or 32,000 km complimentary service plan plus a $300 CAD accessory credit but on a vehicle that costs $47,976 CAD (before fees & taxes), it doesn’t make that much of a dent in the price. This engine may be worth the premium price if it were offered on the lower trims but for now, I cannot recommend this engine. The 2.5L turbocharged engine is a better value for your money and the one I’d still recommend in this class of SUVs.