It's only fair for a marque such as Mazda to aspire to compete in the same premium league in which big European manufacturers play.
However, the truth of the matter is that there are many options to choose from when looking to buy a premium mid-size SUV, and this here, the Mazda CX-60, is just another new alternative that joined the segment earlier this year.
The brand from Japan ventures into the premium segment with the flagship CX-60, the first model under the Mazda banner, to use the rear- and all-wheel-drive platform with a longitudinal engine configuration. Positioned just above the capable CX-5, the CX-60 shapes up pretty well and follows the Kodo design philosophy that other Mazdas such as the funky 3 hatchback and CX-30 also use.
In its 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's commanding on the road, with an aggressive front end featuring sleek LED headlights, an oversized front grille, 20-inch alloy wheels and neatly integrated flanks while the rear features slim LED taillights and somehow ‘fake’ exhaust tips on each side of the car.
Nearly everything about it exudes a sense of uniqueness - something we have never seen before under the Mazda banner.
Mazda's plan is to transition towards becoming a luxury marque, a goal that's clearly evident when stepping inside the new CX-60. It dazzles with its well-put-together interior that combines Nappa leather and soft material on various touch points while feeling broad, wide, and spacious. Mazda's approach toward digitisation has enabled the Japanese marque to give the CX-60 a large non-touch 12.3-inch infotainment system and a digital instrument cluster with clear and crispy graphics.
I laud Mazda for the consistency with the infotainment commander control knobs, switches for HVAC, and non-touch infotainment system that makes for an easier and safer experience while driving. It’s worth mentioning that the buttons and switches located in 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 like a crisp-sounding 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 for us though is that the CX-60 makes use of a facial recognition system to store driver profiles including optimum driving position and head-up display, all based on the driver’s height and eyeline.
With a 477-litre boot space or 1,726 litres when you decide to leave the kids at home and fold the second row of seats flat, there's just plenty of room for luggage and other sizeable items for a weekend excursion.
While it's hard to admit, the 2.5-litre, 4-cylinder naturally aspirated engine with 141kW and 261Nm is the CX-60's biggest drawback, yet, Mazda's efforts to invigorate it with some life are noticeable.
Still, the acceleration to gain forward momentum 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 negatively impacts fuel economy. In its defence, it makes for a compliant cruiser, thanks to a refined 8-speed automatic transmission, plush ride quality, optimised comfort for occupants, and great insulation from the powertrain, road, and wind noise as well as exceptional grip levels, all thanks to the rear-biased all-wheel-drive system.
The CX-60 with its 58-litre tank 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 will surely remedy this including the sluggish acceleration prowess when it joins the range in February 2023.
Speaking of the turbodiesel engine, it’s comparable to the German giants, courtesy of a 3.3-litre in-line 6-cylinder turbocharged diesel mild-hybrid unit that gushes out 187kW and 550Nm of torque. Pair the new unit with the aforementioned attributes and its eco-friendliness that comes from the hybrid system and you ought to have a winner in the respective segment.
The CX-60 is a wonderful triumph for Mazda, as 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 that can confidently vie in this demanding segment.
While its elevated fuel consumption might be a drawback for certain consumers who are looking for a more economical option, the Mazda CX-60 isn’t a perfect premium SUV yet it’s a good one that warrants a look should that not be a major concern.