May 10, 2023

Mazda May Have Swung And Missed On Its First Plug

I must also point out the reviews I am referring to are for the Mazda CX-60 PHEV, a vehicle we won't actually see here in the US but which shares its powertrain (a 2.5 liter 4 cylinder gas engine and its electric motor and batteries) with the larger, 3-row CX-90 PHEV that will go on sale in the US later this year (in red, in the photo above). Obviously that would affect some of the performance and efficiency statistics for the larger CX-90, compared to the CX-60, but it is safe to say it means worse efficiency all around due to the larger size and increased weight of the CX-90.

Let's start with the harshest criticisms first. The Irish Times doesn't really pull any punches in its review of the CX-60's efficiency, ride quality and handling. Their review states that the CX-60 is rated for 64km (about 40 miles) of all electric range, however they noted it was a struggle for them to get past 45 km (28 miles) of real world range. Note this is on the WLTP testing protocol, which is not what US market vehicles use to mark fuel efficiency or range figures (so in the US the range would be a bit lower, likely about 37 miles). Also note, range in any vehicle, electric or otherwise, comes down to how one drives it, what the driving conditions are, and any other extenuating circumstances (weight in the car, tire pressure, etc.). As they say, your mileage may vary, but assuming they weren't driving the CX-60 hard, in frigid temperatures, then a 30% or so lower real world EC driving range seems like it could be a big miss. If one is considering any of Mazda's PHEVs I would say, as an experienced PHEV and EV driver, either wait to see what other auto journalists get or find other real world results if you can;t drive it yourself, first. The only reason one should actually see 30% less than the rated range is if you are driving it hard, using lots of heat/the temperatures are well below freezing (because batteries lose efficiency when its cold), or otherwise pulling lots of extra weight/have increased your aerodynamic drag significantly, or some combination of these. Even in the middle of freezing winter conditions, with chunky snow tires mounted and driving mainly on the freeway/at a higher rate of speed, my Kia Sorento PHEV can deliver very close to its rated electric only range. I do drive it gently though, so remember that. Also remember that the CX-60 is smaller and lighter than the CX-90, so that suggests even worse results for its potential real world electric range. Add to this disappointing EV range concern the Irishs TImes observed fuel economy of about 28 mpg (8.5-liters per 100km) on longer trips, and the CX-60 as well as the US bound CX-90 may be setting customers up for disappointment in these regards. Again, comparing my Kia Sorento PHEV's fuel economy to these figures for the Mazda CX-60, the Kia outshines the Mazda by at least 7 mpg or so and does so while being larger and heavier.

The Irish Times bashed Mazda CX-60 a little more, saying the "worst aspect is the ride quality" and further describing its overall refinement as "poor". While that is harsh, it may also be somewhat subjective. To add a little more detail, the Irish Times was particularly disappointed with the roar from the tires on the freeway (something that could be mitigated with different tires perhaps) and the noise from the electric motor at slower speeds, describing it as "wheezing and groaning… an irritating low-fi servo noise." That said, they also praised the Mazda's engine power, build quality and reliability, so it isn't like the Irish Times hated the CX-60, they just found it sorely lacking.

Another famous European automotive site, Top Gear also called the CX-60 out for having issues with the execution of its plug-in powertrain saying it needed "some smoothing out" and critiquing its handling as "not quite on par with premium rivals like the BMW X3 and Mercedes GLC and Audi Q5" which Mazda is clearly aiming for considering the price point and attention to luxury oriented features. What about American automotive journalists’ take on the European market CX-60? Car and Driver also drove it and called the CX-60's PHEV powerplant "the least exciting" option in the lineup. Ouch! C&D further called out the transition between electric and gas power as "less elegant" and "with notable pause as the four-cylinder fires up". They also said it sounded "increasingly coarse" when the gas engine was worked hard. C&D interestingly praised the Mazda for its ride quality though, where the Irish found it lacking, noting that they found the "compliance and athleticism" satisfying.

So, with fairly consistent criticism coming in re: the efficiency, noise, and general performance of the powertrain, I would hope that Mazda might try some last minute tweaks to engine management or battery control software to possibly get some improved performance from their powertrain for the forthcoming CX-90. C&D also provided their initial impressions of the CX-90 (not having driven it either, see above) and estimate it will get around 30 miles of range on a charge and mid-upper 20's mpg on gas. Consider me apprehensive. I am sure the Mazda will be high quality in its fit and finish, comfortable and spacious, and reliable as well. But it seems like it may disappoint those who value efficiency and other aspects of the driving experience, most. Alternatives from Kia or Volvo may be better suited to those who value efficiency/lower emissions or more refinement in handling.

Please leave your questions or comments below.

Images courtesy of Mazda.

Justin Hart has owned and driven electric vehicles for over 15 years, including a first generation Nissan LEAF, second generation Chevy Volt, Tesla Model 3, an electric bicycle and most recently a Kia Sorento PHEV. He is also an avid SUP rider, poet, photographer and wine lover. He enjoys taking long EV and PHEV road trips to beautiful and serene places with the people he loves. Follow Justin on Twitter for daily KIA EV news coverage.

Visit Torque News homepage for more stories. Follow Torque News on