2023 Mazda CX-60 new car review

Mazda is attempting to push into the premium playground with the feature-packed but pricey CX-60 medium-sized SUV. Here are five things you should know about the petrol-powered Azami SP variant.

The drive doesn’t match its smooth good looks

Mazda bosses say the CX-60 extends its premium focus to new heights, becoming a viable alternative to those considering prestige-brand SUVs. But will buyers agree?

Slightly larger than Mazda’s enduringly successful CX-5, the CX-60s exterior styling is sleek, sporty and aggressive, courtesy of its slab-sided front-end and 20-inch wheels.

If you option the signature “soul red” metallic paint it’s unquestionably glossy, snazzy family transport.

But the premium sheen fades on your first drive.

Instead of prestige polish, the ride’s too firm – there’s no adaptive damping to be found – and the gearbox is too clunky to trouble premium rivals.

It’s far pricier than its CX-5 stablemate

An entry-level CX-60 Evolve starts from $65,000 drive-away.

Mid-spec GTs are priced from $73,700 and our test Azami started from $79,000.

Engine options are a straight-six turbo petrol or diesel, or a plug-in hybrid.

Pic the top-spec plug-in and you’re only a few grand shy of $100,000 on the road. Ouch.

Mazda’s other five-seat mid-size SUV – the CX-5 – starts from less than $40,000 on the road, and even its poshest version is a sub-$60,000 car.

Mazda justifies the CX-60 price by claiming a host of engineering and technology firsts, efficient and eager new engines, a comprehensive safety package and generous list of standard inclusions.

The cabin in SP guise is lavish and stunning

There’s no question the CX-60 cabin deserves comparison with prestige brands.

Our Azami grade test car with $2000 option SP pack felt truly palatial, thanks to tan Nappa leather seats with heating, ventilation and memory settings.

These are complemented with tan suede for the dash and door inners, making it feel like you’re cocooned in designer furniture. Just don’t go touching anything with grubby fingers.

There’s a pair of 12.3-inch widescreens, a 360-degree monitor, Bose surround sound, heated power steering wheel and light-bathing panoramic roof.

The family won’t be disappointed either.

Rear doors open to almost 90 degrees, back seats are heated and superbly comfy (but mystifyingly don’t recline) and there’s even a domestic socket here thanks to the car’s mild hybrid system.

The engine is a meeting of old and new schools

While many car companies have given up on combustion engine development, Mazda has launched brand-new 3.3-litre six-cylinder diesel and petrols. Traditionalists rejoice!

These bigger engines eclipse current turbo 2.5-litre petrols and 2.2-litre diesels on performance and efficiency fronts.

Mazda quotes fuel use of 7.4L/100km – we managed 7.8L/100km on test – and there’s a buttery smoothness typical and appreciated of in-line six-cylinders.

With 209kW and 450Nm there’s muscular power delivery on the move and a decent exhaust note.

But the otherwise well-behaved eight-speed gearbox gets flustered at low speed. Occasional jerkiness and then two instances of harsh clunkiness didn’t reflect well on this transmission.

It needs some finetuning to become a great Mazda

Mazda is a company renowned for solid engineering and an engaging dynamics, which amplifies the CX-60s shortcomings.

The gearbox’s hesitancy in stop-start traffic and at roundabouts frustrates, while the suspension is too firm and jarring for an SUV with premium designs.

This rear-drive-biased SUV actually handles very well in faster corners if you avoid larger bumps, but this feels like a car that should prioritise comfort over cornering.

Mazda’s own CX-5 has successfully nailed the comfort/handling balance for years.

Other niggles include a slow-acting gear shifter and Mazda’s insistence on not allowing touchscreen functionality on the move.

Originally published as 2023 Mazda CX-60 new car review