Mazda CX-60 review: Plug-in SUV with price, spec and performance to challenge premium players

Mazda sets sights on BMW, Audi and Mercedes with its biggest, most powerful model ever

The Mazda CX-60 marks a new direction for the brand. Not only is it the biggest, most powerful Mazda yet but it’s also the brand’s first plug-in hybrid and the first to deliberately distance itself from its traditional mainstream rivals.

For years reviewers have praised Mazda for having a premium quality far above most mainstream marques and now the Japanese manufacturer is cashing in on that, explicitly positioning the CX-60 against models from BMW, Audi and Mercedes, as well as other premium players from the Far East, such as Lexus and Genesis.

It’s a bold move but on first impressions, the CX-60 has the quality to back up its ambitions.

Design

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Visually, the biggest Mazda ever sticks with the brand’s Kodo design language, which is all about simple flowing lines without unnecessary embellishments. At first glance that gives it the appearance of a scaled-up CX-5 (the CX-60 is 17cm longer and 4.5cm wider). But closer inspection reveals design touches that are unique to the CX-60 - from the deeper, bolder grille to the way the running lights are incorporated into the metallic “signature wing” that runs around the grille. At the rear, the thin horizontal tail lights, deep bumper and quad exhaust also add a more striking look, better in keeping with its premium rivals.

They say you should play to your strengths and Mazda has done that with the clean elegant exterior design and likewise its usual focus on high-grade materials and a user-friendly design inside.

Interior

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The cabin is not as much a temple to technology as the BMW X3 or Audi Q5 but is more akin to the Volvo XC60’s simple and calm approach. A few select materials exhibit Mazda’s focus on quality and the layout is clear and logical. Like the exterior, there’s a familiarity to it but many of the touchpoints and switchgear are new for the CX-60. Top-end Takumi models feature Nappa leather, maple wood trim and a beautiful “hanging stitch” detail on the dashboard that’s unlike anything in any rival. But even lower grade cars come with leather upholstery and a look and feel that sets it above mainstream rivals.

The CX-60’s extra size over the CX-5 is apparent from the amount of space for passengers. There is impressive leg and shoulder room in the rear seats to match the space for those up front. Even with the optional panoramic roof there’s also plenty of headroom, emphasising the airy feel of the cabin. Pop the hands-free powered tailgate and there’s 570 litres of boot space, which is pretty good compared with its German, Swedish, Japanese and Korean rivals.

Engine and driving

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As well as being the first Mazda to go toe-to-toe with the German big three, the CX-60 is also the first Mazda to feature a plug-in hybrid powertrain. Six-cylinder petrol and diesel units are on their way, both with mild hybrid tech but, for now, buyers can only opt for a 2.5-litre petrol paired with an 129kW electric motor. Providing up to 39 miles of EV-only range is a 17.8kWh battery and once that’s depleted the CX-60 will do the usual PHEV thing of recharging on regen and chipping in with electric power when possible.

The system offers a combined 323bhp and 369lb ft, making it the most powerful roadgoing Mazda, with a 0-60mph time of 5.8 seconds. Despite such performance, official tests put the CX-60’s economy at 188mpg and CO2 emissions at 33g/km - both of which should be taken with a healthy dose of real-world scepticism. All versions of the CX-60 are four-wheel-drive and feature an eight-speed automatic transmission.

It certainly feels peppy and quick, with the electric motor providing instant acceleration before the petrol winds up. Overall the system works well, slipping between EV and petrol modes as required and delivering the power in the most efficient way possible while the AWD distributes it where it’s most effective. The transition between EV and petrol modes isn’t as seamless as in some other PHEVs and the engine is noisier under acceleration than the best in class, perhaps highlighting Mazda’s relative lack of experience in the hybrid sector.

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The overall driving experience also has all the hallmarks of the Mazda brand. The ride is firm and controlled but comfortable and the steering has a pleasing weight and feedback. It can hustle along an A road quite happily and better than many of its competitors but this is still a big, tall SUV and it feels wide and heavy.

Price and specification

Although Mazda is gunning for the premium end of the market, the CX-60’s pricing neatly undercuts the established brands’, perhaps reflecting that it is not quite ready to face them head-on. Prices for the entry-spec Exclusive Line start at £43,950 while every rival costs at least £50,000.

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Every version of the CX-60 comes with the sort of spec you’d expect from a high-end SUV, from 18-inch alloys, auto-dipping LED headlights and a powered tailgate to cruise control, leather upholstery, heated front seats and dual-zone climate control. A 12.3-inch media/nav screen incorporates wireless phone mirroring and driver information is packaged in another 12.3-inch digital instrument screen and a head-up display, while the i-Activsense driver assistance system is standard.

Homura cars (from £46,700) add 20-inch wheels, heated rear seats and steering wheel, vented front seats and a camera-based driver personalisation function. Top-spec Takumi models bring higher grade upholstery and trim along, including the woven dash, plus unique wheels and exterior detailing for £48,050.

Verdict

There’s no doubt the CX-60 is a step change for Mazda. The brand’s ambition to move from mainstream standout to premium competitor is a bold one but the CX-60 is a convincing first attempt thanks to its space, performance and design. For drivers interested in value and quality ahead of badge cachet, there’s a lot to like.

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Mazda CX-60 Takumi

Price: £48,050 (£51,900 as tested); Engine: 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, petrol with 129kW electric motor; Power: 323bhp; Torque: 369lb ft; Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive; Top speed: 134mph; 0-60mph: 5.8 seconds; Economy: 188mpg; CO2 emissions: 33g/km; EV range: 39 miles