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Can Mazda’s new plug-in hybrid SUV compete with the German brands?

Mazda’s most important car for years is now out and both of us got a chance to test it

Mazda’s new SUV is the largest model in the marque’s line-up and pitches itself against the likes of BMW’s X3 and Audi’s Q5

Mazda CX-60

Mazda CX-60 interior

Mazda CX-60

Daragh Keany and Robbie FarrellSunday World

Mazda CX-60

​The Mazda CX-60 is a very important car for the Japanese manufacturer, as it is the biggest in their range and is aimed directly at the premium level market that’s normally inhabited by the German badges.

It is also the first plug-in hybrid for the company after last year’s successful launch of the fully-electric MX-30.

Embracing the company’s new ‘Kodo’ mantra, this is undeniably Mazda even if it is one of the biggest cars on Irish roads right now.

It is considerably bigger than the CX-5 – which is Mazda’s top seller and accounts for around 30pc of all Mazdas sold in Ireland, and won’t be going anywhere and will remain in place with diesel and petrol powertrains.

For now, this new beast will only be available in the PHEV and will lead the way for four more PHEVs in the coming years.

Mazda CX-60

So, what about this? Both of us got separate test weeks in the car and unusually both of us are in complete agreement.

Let’s start at the outside. It is hard to get past the gigantic front grille that is flanked by a smaller headlight design that includes a split daytime running light signature.

The bonnet is longer than you would expect, but it is so well designed that it really suits this unique front-heavy take on the traditional SUV. Maybe this is in place to futureproof for different powertrains coming down the line, but it is also delving into the premium style of SUV by taking on that design too.

Weirdly, its size means that the sexy curves associated with recent Mazdas are lost a little because there is less ground clearance than its younger brother to accommodate the 17.8kWh battery housed within the floor.

Mazda CX-60 interior

Jump inside and you will truly see why Mazda hope to take on the big guns. High-quality materials and well-laid-out controls without a lot of fuss makes this a warm welcome compared to some car companies who attempt to dazzle you with complicated gadgetry.

The centre console still has the chunky drive selector for the all-new eight-speed automatic transmission. Climate control is altered using physical controls and Mazda has decided to add a 12-inch touchscreen.

Unfortunately, this is where we both discovered our first problem. Nothing was deft or slick about it. OK, so it was pretty well laid out and some of the graphics were modern and easy to read, but to get to the various pages required far too much effort.

It synced nicely with our phones and was fully compatible with Apple CarPlay but there is still some work to do here.

Something we did like was the fact that the optimum driving position can be picked based on height. Once you get into the car, it adjusts. It sounds basic enough but Mazda have done this really well.

There is also a very cool feature that alerts the driver to keep their eyes on the road if they look away for too long.

Space in any of the five seats in this tank is, as expected, plentiful. The kids commented on how much they could see from their rear seats, and when we had a third in the back there were no complaints at all about space. And the boot can take on 570 litres.

The plug-in hybrid system makes the CX-60 the most powerful production Mazda to date, with a maximum output of 327bhp and 500Nm of torque.

The second and biggest problem we both had with this car was the noise from the 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine.

It is a surprisingly loud car and the SkyActiv engine seems to strain with each transition of gears. We are among the privileged few who get to test new cars every week, so we get to see what everyone else is doing and it just seems to us that this automatic transmission isn’t on the same par as some other car companies.

That said though, the PHEV element of this car was really good. There is a claimed WLTP range of 63km and it isn’t too far off the real range.

In fact, because of the noise of the combustion engine, we found ourselves plugging in more often than was actually necessary as the EV mode of this was a dream to drive.

Mazda CX-60

It corners and drives very well. Even though it is a heavy beast, having that battery in the floor keeps it rooted to the road.

Where Mazda will win against the big boys is on price.

Even as the manufacturer’s most expensive car, you can still buy one for less than €50k (Prime-Line) although realistically you will need another few thousand to have one of these sitting in your driveway as the starting price of the next trim line is €51,500.

This car has a lot going for it but, as it is pitched against some powerhouses in the industry like the BMW X3 and the Audi Q5, it needs to up its game a bit.

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