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2019 Mazda CX-5 SkyActiv-D Review: The Return of Diesel?

Auto123 reviews the 2019 Mazda CX-5 SkyActiv-D (2.2D), the diesel-powered version of the popular SUV from the Japanese manufacturer

See our Review of the 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature

Mazda took a long time to introduce a turbo diesel engine in North America. The company made a first promise to produce one in the middle of last decade, prior to the Volkswagen "Dieselgate" scandal. In doing so Mazda joined other odd players planning on entering into the diesel-engine domain here. But unlike brands like Acura, Kia and Cadillac, Mazda never abandoned its plan to market a turbodiesel vehicle on this side of the Atlantic.

The long-promised diesel version finally arrived this year in the form of the 2019 Mazda CX-5 2.2D, a variant that doesn't drink from the same fountain at the gas station as any of the other versions in the CX-5 lineup.

The snag is that you have to budget extra money to access the turbodiesel powertrain, available exclusively with the Signature edition. In fact, the CX-5 2.2D sells for $5,000 more than the Mazda CX-5 Signature equipped with the 2.0L 4-cylinder turbocharged engine. That's THE question that will have to be answered by consumers who might be tempted by the only mass-market compact SUV with a turbo-diesel powertrain.

Photo: V.Aubé

And that's the lens through which I viewed the week I spent testing the 2019 CX-5 SkyActiv-D: Is the new configuration worth the dough?

First, the engine
About that 2.2L 4-cylinder turbodiesel engine: The unit comes with a compression ratio of 14.4:1, which has the effect of reducing friction but also reduces weight since there's no need to reinforce the internal components. The manufacturer makes no secret of the fact that the engine benefits from a wider rev range and can climb to 5,500 RPM, a speed usually reserved for gasoline engines.

It's important to mention that the engine can count on a pair of turbochargers. Mazda opted for this sequential setup, which includes a small turbo for low revs and a second, larger one designed for higher revs, with the sole purpose of adding an extra spark in terms of driving pleasure. In other words, engineers didn't want an engine that was slow to react at low speeds or choked at high RPM on the highway.

Photo: V.Aubé

As for the question of toxic emissions, the 2.2L block is backed up by nitrogen-storage catalytic converters, but also by selective catalytic reduction, which uses the diesel exhaust fluid to break down combustion by-products.

Less powerful than the two 4-cylinder gasoline engines (187 and 250 hp respectively) available for the CX-5, the turbodiesel engine delivers a lesser 168 hp and optimal torque of 290 lb-ft, which is solid but it still short of the turbo engine’s 310 lb-ft.

Signature version, and that's it!
For the time being, the manufacturer is limiting this diesel powertrain to the most expensive model in the lineup, which will present an obstacle for those who were hoping to access a diesel-powered utility vehicle at an affordable price. What's more, the addition of the diesel powertrain adds $5,000 to the CX-5 Signature's already hefty bill, which reads $40,950 before transport and preparation fees.

Photo: V.Aubé

The good news for consumers who can afford such an expensive Mazda CX-5 is that the quality of the Signature’s interior is superior to the other trim levels of the SUV. Is it as premium as the models of other luxury brands? It's true that the execution inside the CX-5 Signature is excellent, but when you compare this SUV with the big German guns that can be dressed up in even more noble materials, there’s still a gap.

Still, the CX-5 Signature, whether turbodiesel-powered or not, is very welcoming for drivers who care about the atmosphere inside their vehicle. I should mention that the interior is quite dark, despite the Cocoa Brown Nappa leather upholstery.

For the rest, the CX-5 Signature is true to the rest of the lineup. Interior space isn't the most generous in the class, especially in the second row and in the trunk. As for the infotainment system, it's not the easiest to live with, although the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility in 2019 is a welcome plus when using the screen that looks grafted right onto the top of the dashboard.

Photo: V.Aubé
Photo: V.Aubé

Eagle-eyed observers may also notice the absence of the Sport mode button found in the gasoline-powered versions of the CX-5.

Behind the wheel
Ultimately, consumers will have to determine whether the turbo diesel option justifies the extra $5,000 from behind the wheel. Frankly, I recommend that anyone looking to purchase the 2019 CX-5 2.2D take the time to try out the CX-5 Signature with 2.5L 4-cylinder turbocharged engine. And the reason is this: Not only is that version more affordable, but the gain in fuel economy gain with the turbodiesel powertrain isn’t huge. The the gas model averages 9.8L/100 km versus 8.4L/100 km for the CX-5 diesel according to data provided by the Canadian EnerGuide.

There are also differences that become noticeable when driving the two variants one after the other. The CX-5 2.5T is more powerful with 250 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, while the 2.2D offers only 168 hp and maximum torque of 290 lb-ft. For drivers who appreciate a vehicle with a sporty character, the CX-5 2.5T is the better choice.

Photo: V.Aubé

However, the diesel-powered CX-5 acquits itself well during highway cruising. What's more, the ride inside the CX-5 is surprisingly quiet. Indeed, the turbo-diesel engine doesn't emit a disturbing sound, the vibrations associated with this type of powertrain having been reduced to a minimum by Mazda’s engineers.

The Mazda CX-5 2.2D also stands out from the other versions with its superior towing capacity, 1,588 kg versus 907 kg for the others. As for the CX-5 diesel's handling on the road, it's extremely similar to that of the gasoline-powered CX-5.

The last word
The beauty of this Mazda CX-5 SkyActiv-D 2019 is that it doesn't change the formula of the model. It simply adopts a different powertrain technology to the model’s excellent chassis. As a result the CX-5 diesel is very similar to the other CX-5s in terms of driving dynamics and overall experience.

Photo: V.Aubé

This version more frugal than its turbo-engine counterpart and stronger in towing situations, but it's not as dynamic to drive as the other CX-5 Signature versions. In all honesty, I don't think this CX-5 SkyActiv-D will be all that common a sight on our roads, even though the choice of diesel-powered SUVs available so consumers has melted away.

Why is that? Because the asking price is very high, and because turbodiesel technology has had a bad reputation ever since the Volkswagen group's TDI engine scandal. Whether the turbo-diesel CX-5 can overcome those two hurdles is an open question.

We like

Reasonable fuel consumption
Quality of workmanship
Driving pleasure

We like less

Elitist pricing
It lacks brightness inside
Lack of raw power

The competition

Toyota RAV4
Hyundai Tucson
Kia Sportage
Honda CR-V
Jeep Compass/Cherokee
Ford Escape
Subaru Forester
Mitsubishi Outlander
Chevrolet Equinox
GMC Terrain
Nissan Rogue
Volkswagen Tiguan

Read our Comparison of the 2019 Mazda CX-5 vs the 2019 Toyota RAV4

 

Photo: V.Aubé
Photo: V.Aubé
Photo: V.Aubé
Photo: V.Aubé

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2019 Mazda CX-5
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