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2020 Mazda CX-5 Diesel Review: Good Idea, Bad Timing

Auto123 reviews the 2020 Mazda CX-5 Diesel.

This is the story of how what was meant to be a mountain turned into a molehill. And it starts back in 2012. Right after that year’s Paris Auto Show, Mazda invited a group of journalists to test drive a Mazda 6 Diesel with the promise that the model was on its way to North America. In the end, the project never saw the light of day.

Far from giving up, Mazda continued to promise this engine in another vehicle, without identifying which one. Delay followed delay, to the point where the whole thing was very nearly forgotten about altogether. And then came Volkswagen's "Dieselgate" in September 2015, which sent almost all diesel-engine projects into purgatory.

But lo and behold, when the very idea had seemingly vanished from the collective memory, Mazda presented, for the 2019 model-year, in the bowels of its CX-5 compact SUV, a diesel engine! The automaker had, finally, kept its promise – and delivered it right at a time when interest in the format is at a historic low.

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2020 Mazda CX-5 SkyActiv-D (Diesel), logo
Photo: Mazda
2020 Mazda CX-5 SkyActiv-D (Diesel), logo

Not relevant enough
There are a few standard arguments that are generally made in favour of diesel engines. Unfortunately, none of them really apply here. First of all, the buyer has to be willing to pay more than $47,000 for a CX-5, which is $5,000 more than the fully-equipped turbocharged, gasoline-powered Signature version.

And that's not all. You also have to keep in mind that the prowess of this diesel engine is nothing exceptional. Normally, power in this format falls short of that of the gas engine, but makes up for it in the torque department. In the case of this diesel engine, you get 168 hp compared to 250 for the 2.5L turbocharged gasoline engine. But in terms of torque, the turbocharged gas engine comes in at 310 and the diesel at 290 - so no advantage here.

It's true that fuel consumption is slightly better with an average of 8.4L/100 km versus 10.6 for the gas model. However, keep in mind that the price of diesel fuel is much higher than gasoline right now and that you have to pay an average of $12 to $15 per 1,000 km driven on urea solution, not to mention higher maintenance costs. However you try to figure it, the savings aren’t really there.

See also our Top 10 2020 Diesel-Engine Vehicles Available in Canada.

2020 Mazda CX-5 SkyActiv-D (Diesel), profile
Photo: Mazda
2020 Mazda CX-5 SkyActiv-D (Diesel), profile

Well-equipped
The cabin contains a 7-inch multifunction touchscreen, AM/FM/HD entertainment system compatible with CarPlay and Android Auto, and featuring Bluetooth, Aha Internet Radio, Stitcher and text messaging capabilities.

In addition, heated front seats, 40/20/40 reclining bench seat, reclining rear seats and air conditioning are standard equipment.

Our Diesel version is based on the Signature model and offers 19-inch alloy wheels, SiriusXM radio, premium Bose audio system, leather seats, 360-degree monitor, front and rear parking sonars and abachi wood interior finish. Admittedly, the finish is superb, the soundproofing is flawless - and at over $47,000, that's to be expected as well.

2020 Mazda CX-5 SkyActiv-D (Diesel), interior
Photo: Mazda
2020 Mazda CX-5 SkyActiv-D (Diesel), interior

Safety features include four disc brakes with ABS and EBD, plus Intelligent City Brake Assist. Handling is enhanced by independent front and rear suspension, while the front shocks are MacPherson-style. In addition to the Traction Control System, the driver can count on rear cross-traffic alert and an advanced blind spot monitoring system.

On the road
Even though the diesel engine is not known for its verve, this CX-5 actually feels pretty nervy on the road. It's very pleasant to drive, the steering is quick and precise, the diesel engine isn't noisy, any roll is well-controlled and the size of this compact SUV is as ideal for the small family as the regular edition.

Mazda CX-5 SkyActiv-D (Diesel), three-quarters front
Photo: Mazda
Mazda CX-5 SkyActiv-D (Diesel), three-quarters front

The cabin is spacious up front and the leather seats are also beautifully crafted with real wood trim and a large list of standard features. You even get a head-up display. You really feel like you're in a top-of-the-line model, because the truth is that it's almost as expensive as some German competitors.

See also our Review of the 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature

Conclusion
This Mazda is too expensive to really be a compelling choice. Mazda might want to consider putting its stock of diesel engines in more affordable versions so that the price doesn't sit in the stratosphere at $47,000 and diesel-lovers can get it for $35,000. That's probably the only way the automaker is going to sell these engines that have lost most of their luster in the market.

We like

Convenient format
Fun to drive
Quiet diesel engine

We like less

Too expensive
Maintenance costs too high
Insufficient gains in fuel economy

Photo: Mazda
Photo: Mazda
Photo: Mazda
Photo: Mazda
Photo: Mazda