Mazda’s long-promised diesel engine for the US is a go. It becomes available in July on the Mazda CX-5 compact SUV. It will cost $42,205, a $3,065 premium over the comparable gas-engine CX-5 in the same top tier Signature trim line as the diesel. Mazda made the announcement at this week’s New York International Auto Show.
Mazda has talked about bringing a diesel to the US for almost a decade. What we’re finally getting is a vehicle that is emissions-compliant but with less horsepower and torque than either of the CX-5’s two gasoline engines and a 30 mpg EPA rating on the highway, meaning a long-distance-driving range of 400-450 miles.
The 2019 Mazda CX-5 Skyactiv-D will be for upscale drivers who want long-distance cruising in comfort. The $42K price tag puts it out of reach of those looking for cheap cost-per-mile driving. Instead, it represents Mazda’s “push-to-premium” campaign, taking one of Japan’s smaller selling car brands and making it be seen as upscale, along the lines of Acura. The fit and finish of the most recent Mazdas we’ve driven suggest Mazda is not blowing smoke. The CX-5 is the best mainstream compact SUV you can buy today, in part because of its class-above materials, in part because of its performance.
As for the drivetrain itself: The Skyactiv-D is a 2.2-liter, four-cylinder turbo-diesel with all-wheel-drive (only) and a six-speed automatic that uses an after-treatment of the exhaust stream — urea injection, also called AdBlue — to clean up the tailpipe output. Initially, years ago, Mazda believed it could make that happen without exhaust treatment, but then Volkswagen also claimed the same thing and wound up mired in Dieselgate. In other words, everyone has realized it can’t be done.
The Skyactiv-D produces 168 hp and 290 pound-feet of torque, torque being the oomph that gets the vehicle going. It is EPA-rated at 27 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, 28 mpg combined. In comparison, the 2.5-liter gasoline turbo in the CX-5 Signature produces 250 hp and 310 pound-feet torque, with an EPA rating for the AWD model of 22/27/24. Against the base 2.5-liter non-turbo Mazda four-cylinder, the gas engine does better than the diesel on horsepower, 187, less well on torque, 186 pound-feet, with EPA numbers of 24/30/26 for the gas/no-turbo four. All these numbers are for AWD. With a 15.3-gallon fuel tank on all-wheel-drive CX-5s, the diesel and non-turbo gas engine have an effective range (meaning a full tank less one gallon) of 429 miles, while the turbo gas engine would go 386 miles.
In 2017, Mazda told Car and Driver, “[The diesel] could be made to drive the way we wanted or it could meet U.S. emissions, but not both.”
This is a true diesel engine car in the traditional sense: The engine super-compresses the cylinder and then squirts in a trace of diesel fuel — not all that different from kerosene, home heating oil, or jet fuel — and it self-combusts, creating power. Mazda separately is working on a gasoline-powered diesel engine, or compression-ignition engine, although it also has a spark plug for some parts of each trip. Mazda calls it a homogenous charge compression ignition (HCCI) engine.
Every time you see little Mazda doing good stuff like this you wonder: Are there no adults around to stop Mazda from Quixotic charges into uncharted technology? Or is Mazda really the only company daring to color outside the lines and make unexpected discoveries?
We haven’t driven the CX-5 diesel yet, but our experience is that passenger diesels on the highway easily surpass the EPA ratings. For comparison, a thousand-mile trek in the Chevrolet Equinox diesel compact SUV last year got 42 mpg gallon combined, about 80 percent highway driving.
That’s if you find a passenger car/SUV diesel to compare. Their numbers are down to 22 by our count. BMW no longer has diesels. Those from Audi and Mercedes-Benz are long gone. What’s left is pickup trucks, commercial vans, and a host of Jaguar/Land Rover offerings. They include:
Cars and SUVs: Chevrolet Cruze, Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain, Jaguar F-Pace 20d, Jaguar XE 20d, Jaguar XF 20d, Land Rover Discovery, Land Rover Range Rover, Land Rover Range Rover Sport, and Land Rover Range Rover Velar.
Pickups: Chevrolet Colorado, Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD/3500HD, Ford F-150, Ford Super Duty, GMC Canyon, GMC Sierra 2500H/3500HD, Nissan Titan XD, and Ram 2500HD/3500HD.
Vans: Chevrolet Express, GMC Savanna, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
All this suggests Mazda is on target in making the CX-5 diesel an upscale, not cheap, vehicle. The wealthy value time because it’s something they can’t buy more of, and while it’s true your bladder is the limiting factor on long drives, stopping to refuel adds time to the trip.
If you want one, Mazda lets you sign up as of this week. Like Tesla, there’s a deposit — $500 here — and like Tesla, it’s refundable. First-in-line buyers are being promised July deliveries based on a mid-May start of USA-bound diesel production at Mazda’s Hiroshima factory, plus time on the freighter. The only option is paint color: black is free, three others cost $200 to $595. The price includes two years/30,000 miles of free maintenance.
The Mazda website also shows the Mazda6 sedan offering a diesel engine as a coming model.