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First drive: Mazda CX-5 makes diesel debut

Diesel premium: The oil-burning CX-5s cost $3000 more than the equivalent petrol-engined models.

Diesel versions of Mazda’s chic new CX-5 compact SUV launched Down Under

20 Mar 2012

HOT on the heels of the release of the new CX-5 petrol range last month, Mazda Australia has launched the diesel-powered line-up, which it expects to account for 30 per cent of total sales.

Like its petrol siblings, the new diesel range features a full suite of new SkyActiv engine, chassis and body technologies aimed at improving power, economy, safety and vehicle dynamics.

The oil-burning engine – an all-new turbocharged, direct-injection 2.2-litre four-cylinder – is available only in mid-spec all-wheel-drive Maxx Sport and flagship AWD Grand Touring variants, priced from $39,040 and $46,200 respectively.

This makes the diesel $3000 more expensive than equivalent 113kW/198Nm petrol versions.

There are no front-drive diesel variants available for now.

The ‘SkyActiv-D’ engine produces 129kW of power at 4500rpm and a thumping 420Nm of torque at 2000rpm, resulting in a 0-100km/h sprint time of 9.4 seconds – the same as the quickest petrol variant.

The oil-burning powertrain is matched exclusively with the newly-designed SkyActiv-Drive six-speed automatic transmission with manual mode.

The direct-drive torque converter unit features a full-range lock-up clutch for all six gears that Mazda claims makes it more frugal than a CVT and gives it less jerky starts than a dual-clutch such as the Volkswagen DSG.

The transmission is also compatible with the car-maker’s fuel-saving idle-stop system that re-starts the engine in a claimed world-fastest time of 0.4 seconds.

Fuel economy is subsequently a strong point, with Mazda claiming figures of 5.7 litres per 100km, equating to carbon emissions of 149g/km – placing it right at the pointy end of the Australia medium SUV segment.

These figures compare favourably with its larger manual-only CX-7 diesel predecessor, which recorded figures of 127kW, 400Nm, 7.6L/100km and 202g/km.

The CX-5 stacks up well against key diesel rivals including the Nissan X-Trail six-speed auto (110kW, 320Nm and 7.2L/100km), six-speed manual-only Subaru Forester (108kW, 350Nm and 6.0L/100km) and Volkswagen Tiguan (103kW, 320Nm and 6.0L/100km).

Braked towing capacity is a claimed 1800kg (750kg unbraked).

22 center imageMazda says this engine meets Euro 4 emissions regulations without having to use an expensive nitrogen-oxide after-treatment system, courtesy of its super-low 14.0:1 compression ratio – said to be the world’s lowest in a passenger diesel – and two-stage turbocharger.

As well as helping efficiency, Mazda claims the two-stage turbo improves torque delivery throughout the rev range and speeds up responsiveness, banishing turbo-lag.

A further benefit of the ultra-low compression ratio is a saving in weight because it puts less pressure and strain on engine components, opening the door to lightweight materials such as an aluminium block and lighter pistons and crankshaft.

Despite this, diesel CX-5 variants still weigh 94kg more than equivalent-spec AWD petrol models, with kerb weights of 1637kg for the Maxx Sport and 1687kg for the Grand Touring.

Standard safety equipment includes electronic stability control, ABS brakes with brake assist and brake-force distribution, hill-start assist, an emergency stop signal, six airbags (dual front, side and curtain) and anti-whiplash front-seat head restraints.

The flagship Grand Touring also offers Mazda-first lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and high-beam control systems as part of the $1990 Tech Pack.

Standard features on both Maxx Sport and Grand Touring models include dual-zone climate-control, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB connectivity, Tom Tom satellite-navigation with 5.8-inch touchscreen, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, automatic headlights, push-button start and leather-wrapped gear knob, handbrake and steering wheel (with buttons), and metallic/mica paint.

The extra $7000 outlay on the Grand Touring additionally nets leather seats with eight-way power adjustment, keyless entry, slide and tilt electric glass sunroof, adaptive bi-Xenon headlights, a premium nine-speaker 231-watt Bose sound system, front and rear parking sensors, and auto-dimming interior mirror.

As part of the SkyActiv chassis hardware, the suspension and steering is new for the CX-5, being lighter, stiffer and more precise than in previous Mazdas.

MacPherson struts are used at the front and a multi-link design sits in the back, while electro-mechanical rack-and-pinion steering adjusts feedback according to speed and conditions. The turning circle is 11.2 metres.

The front brakes are 297mm ventilated discs while 303mm solid discs are used in the rear.

Operating the front wheels for the majority of the time, the AWD system employs variably controlled rear torque and slip detection technology to allocate up to 50 per cent of drive to the back wheels.

In an effort to bring its SUV in line with the compact SUV segment ‘sweet spot’ after the longer-than-average CX-7, Mazda’s newcomer is 153mm shorter than its predecessor – but also taller and more upright, for significantly increased cabin dimensions.

Exterior measurements are (with CX-7 in brackets): length 4540mm (4693mm) width 1840mm (1872mm) roof height 1670mm (1645mm) wheelbase 2700mm (2750mm) front track 1585mm (1627mm) rear track 1590mm (1622mm).

Despite being smaller overall than the CX-7, cargo volume rises by three litres to 403 litres while folding the rear seats (via Mazda’s remote ‘Karakuri’ system that can drop the centre piece independently in vehicles fitted with the 40/20/40 backrest) increases capacity to 1560 litres.

According to project manager and enthusiastic cyclist Hideaki Tanaka, two bicycles with their front wheels removed will easily fit inside, while the load length to the back of the front seats can accommodate his 175cm frame for sleeping.

A lightweight cargo barrier that lifts with the longer and deeper tailgate improves access.

Engineers took a fresh approach to cut cabin noise (a common complaint in Mazda models), using new sound-deadening material between the engine bay and dash panel, in the dashboard itself and around the wheelarches.

Other noise sources are claimed to have been diverted away from occupants’ ears via the side sills, within the engine compartment cross-member structures and beneath thick floor mats.

Maxx Sport models are fitted with 225/65 R17 tyres while the Grand Touring wears 225/55 R19 rubber, while the steel space-saver spare on both is a 185/80 R17 unit.

With a monthly sales target for the entire range of 1000 units (around 300 of which are projected to be diesels), Mazda is expecting the CX-5 to sit at the upper end of the booming compact-SUV segment alongside top-sellers like the X-Trail, Forester and Toyota RAV4, all of which regularly top 1000 sales a month.

The brand projects that Maxx Sport and Grand Touring variants will attract 30 per cent of Australian sales apiece, with the other 40 per cent made up of the petrol-only, entry-level Maxx specification.

All Australian-market CX-5s will be sourced from Mazda’s Hofu plant in Japan.

Mazda CX-5 pricing (plus on-road costs):
Maxx $27,800
Maxx (a) $29,800
Maxx AWD (a) $32,300
Maxx Sport (a) $33,540
Maxx Sport AWD (a) $36,040
Maxx Sport AWD Diesel (a) $39,040
Grand Touring AWD (a) $43,200
Grand Touring AWD Diesel (a) $46,200

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