By on August 9, 2018

2017 Mazda CX-5 Front Quarter

The diesel version of Mazda’s wildly popular CX-5 crossover was originally supposed to land on these shores in late 2017, but the plan hit a snag. As such, we’re still waiting. But the model’s appearance now seems imminent.

Having cleared the Environmental Protection Agency’s stringent testing regimen, we now know exactly what fuel economy to expect from the CX-5 and its compression ignition 2.2-liter Skyactiv-D inline-four. The question is: is the CX-5 diesel thrifty enough?

Fuel economy isn’t the diesel engine’s only attribute; indeed, many would-be buyers could be waiting to get their hands on a shapely crossover with up to 310 lb-ft of torque (there’s still no official U.S.-market power specs). That’s a far cry from the base 2.5-liter gas engine’s 186 lb-ft, and Mazda owners have things to tow, too.

But fuel economy remains a major factor in any diesel purchase, with the reduced cost of fuel compensating for the usual bump in sticker price. In front-drive guise, the EPA rates the CX-5 diesel at 28 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 29 mpg combined. For the all-wheel drive model, just subtract 1 mpg from each of these figures.

In comparison, the standard front-drive gas model consumes fuel at the rate of 25 mpg city/31 mpg highway/28 mpg combined. Identical highway mileage, and only a 1 mpg gain in combined driving. The difference is a little more obvious when you contrast the AWD models. There, the gas CX-5 suffers in all cycles — to the tune of 3 mpg in the city, 1 mpg on the highway, and 2 mpg combined.

2017 Mazda CX-5 Rear Quarter

Back in early 2017, Mazda North American Operations President and CEO Masahiro Moro said the diesel engine would first appear in high-end trims like the Grand Touring, then filter downward. In this case, you’re already paying a premium, and will surely pay an additional sum for diesel power.

The CX-5 diesel won’t have the compact diesel crossover market to itself. General Motors already sells the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain with a smaller-displacement oil-burner of 1.6 liters, this one making 240 lb-ft of twist. While the Mazda seems destined to beat its output, the GM twins offer significantly better fuel economy.

In AWD guise, the Equinox diesel earns an EPA rating of 28 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, and 32 mpg combined. Highway mileage grows to 39 mpg in front-drive models. It’s also worth noting that compact hybrid crossovers, while hardly built for stump pulling, return impressive MPG numbers. The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid offers all-wheel drive and 32 mpg combined.

It’s likely the Skyactiv-D, which Mazda originally wanted to bring to the States in the Mazda 6 sedan, saw new emissions controls during its delayed trip through the certification process. This might explain the slimmer-than-expected gap between gasoline and diesel economy.

[Images: © 2018 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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50 Comments on “Mazda CX-5 Diesel: Is This Fuel Economy Enough to Get Buyers In Line?...”


  • avatar
    indi500fan

    1 mpg better?

    Do these need DEF?
    Add that to the diesel fuel price premium per gallon.
    How about DPF cleanouts?

    If you really need the diesel torque for “towing” I’d consider a bigger platform anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      stingray65

      Exactly right – in the US diesel only makes consumer sense on heavy duty pickups and large SUVs that might see some serious loads or towing where the diesel excels.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “Do these need DEF?”

      yes, I don’t believe it’s possible to meet Tier 3 without using DEF/SCR. the cost of the p!sswater is pretty cheap, though, and if the manufacturer sized the DEF tank sensibly it should only need a fill @ oil change time.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      All that and more expensive low-SAPS motor oil, and more frequent fuel filter changes. Gee, Mazda, I’m sorry you worked so long to produce this failure. Better luck next time.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Ford recently announced that they were adding a diesel to the Transit Connect, I wonder if it might make it into the next-gen Escape? Seems to be a trend starting here. I like it.

    The fuel economy of the GM twins is very impressive, I had no idea they were that good (then again, I never looked them up).

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      No, now that Europe is turning it’s back on diesels I doubt Ford will add a diesel to the Escape which is already very popular in Europe as the Kuga

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        Well, my thinking is that they went to the trouble of making it viable in our market, seems kinda wasteful to limit it to nothing but a low-production vehicle like the Transit Connect.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    With those numbers it seems sort of a waste. It may be a more fuel efficient option than the 2.5t from the CX-9, but not by a great deal. I don’t think the diesel engine will appeal to many in this country. Higher entry cost, higher fuel cost, not terribly efficient. Even with all the torque, the CX-5 will have towing limitations due to its size and construction. I seriously doubt that (in the US) that very many owners would use the CX-5 for anything more than the lightest duty towing.

    I guess its nice for those who want it, but just seems like the answer to a question nobody was asking with this particular vehicle, particularly given the so-so fuel economy. A better case could be made for the CX-9.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Well, I don’t like silent and soulless, so, there’s that.

  • avatar
    theBrandler

    I’m not impressed. Mileage is barely higher and the fuel is much more expensive along with the added expense of the engine, and higher maintenance costs over the life of the vehicle, this is a lose lose lose.

    • 0 avatar
      Cactuar

      It reminds me of the XV Crosstrek Hybrid. A pointless exercise, at least in terms of fuel economy improvement. At least you get a massive torque increase, so there’s that.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      the difference is that diesels seem to consistently do better in the real world than the numbers on the sticker. that whole thing about no throttle to increase pumping losses helps.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        I’m guessing that’s the case here. They wouldn’t offer this engine if there was virtually no advantage.

      • 0 avatar
        indi500fan

        Don’t most modern (2007 and up) diesels have throttle bodies, MAFs, etc?
        I know the Duramax does.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          yes but it’s not there to govern engine output like the throttle of a spark ignition engine. it’s there to improve EGR draw into the intake under certain operating conditions.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        That was my first thought, too. But most of the data supporting that comes from those cheatin’ VW TDIs, so that theory might have to be rethought.

        Personally, I’d want at least a 50% improvement in fuel economy before I’d consider another diesel. My Beetle TDI did that routinely, and my current hybrid doubles that. So this is too little, too late for me.

    • 0 avatar
      juehoe

      Important is the torque, which is about twice as of the gasoline engine. We are driving the Diesel CX-5 since its introduction in Thailand and are very happy about the performance and tbe fuel economy.

    • 0 avatar
      mittencuh

      I agree. Pretty sad. Although the real world fuel economy may be much better.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Look at the fuel economy for the 2.5 turbo skyactive CX-9 and Mazda 6, there hardly seems to be a reason for the diesel in the CX-5, unless you are viewing this as some kind of “performance option” for the CX-5.

    Mazda – GASOLINE TURBO ALL THE THINGS! (Diesel? Eh…)

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      What Mazda needs far more than a diesel option right now is a 8 or 9 speed transmission. That would bump entire fleet not to mention probably improve overall performance for all vehicles that use it. They are doing great things with the 6 speed, Im sure they could eek out mpg and more performance from 8.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        But let’s be honest that the 6 speed is darn good as a conventional torque converter automatic. A Mazda developed 8 speed would likely be a nice addition.

        The other bonus is Mazda’s “sport” mode for the trans actually does something that a regular driver can discern for shift points and how long gears are held.

      • 0 avatar
        juehoe

        The powertrain is very good optimises and the engine is always in the right gear. We are driving CX-5 Diesel since many years. There is no hassling around like with the 8 or even 10 speed transmissions. These 8 to 10 speed transmissions look good in the brochure, but not in real live. I am very happy, that Mazda is brave enough to develop cars which performs good in real live and not only look good on the brochure.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    diesels are no longer loud nor smelly.

    do try to keep up.

    I drove a 3.0 diesel F-150 recently; from inside the cabin you *literally cannot tell it’s a diesel.* there’s a tiny bit of nattering at idle, but no clatter whatsoever underway.

    • 0 avatar
      civicjohn

      @JimZ, +1

      Not loud, not smelly, but I don’t think this is the right platform.

    • 0 avatar
      dpriven

      The cars themselves are fine. The fuel stations and nozzles still get oily and stinky… and so you either wear a glove or risk bringing unevaporated diesel onto your steering wheel.

      It’s been a while since I owned a diesel… but I won’t again until I consistently see the refuelling nozzles clean.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Reminds me manual gearbox situation. First, make MT avail only on lowest trim. Then declare that only 3% are buying it so it is gone. In this case, they bring the diesel. People will look at EPA numbers and will ask themselves, “why pay extra to get nearly nothing in return for higher fuel bill”. Then Mazda will say usual, “5% buying it”…

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    A small niche-brand manufacturer creating a very small sub-niche in its search for relevancy in the US auto market. The funds spent on certification of this engine might have been better spent on other things targeting increased market share beyond the current 25-mile radius of its dealerships.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    A mile per gallon and more towing torque for a chassis not designed to do so. Well, I can see what all the clamoring for this engine was about. If Mazda doesn’t make me pay at least $2500 for the privilege of this upgrade, I’m not interested.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      The Mazda6 got thicket9floor pan metal and gained about 300 lbs over it’s 2.5l brother.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        That’s what I like about watching “Savage Geese” on YouTube. They’ve been over and under enough iterations of various platforms to spot component sharing or see where improvements are made generation to generation.

  • avatar
    don1967

    This could be a brilliant marketing move for Mazda North America, if equipped with beefed-up running gear and a 5,000 pound towing limit.

    Now that would be a segment-buster with millions of potential buyers.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    A diesel CX-5 will be a non-starter in the US market. The value proposition just isn’t there.

    I like Mazdas. I own two. That said, there is no doubt that until Mazda gets its marketing and product planning act together, it will never get past it’s current 2% US market share.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    This should get 40mpg.

    If I can buy one with a manual, fully delete the emissions crap, and give it a decent tune, I think it could do it. The sad truth about chasing the last little smidge of emissions is that overzealous restrictions completely negate what a diesel can do.

  • avatar
    srh

    I agree that the value proposition isn’t there, but it has nothing to do with loud or smelly.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    This has to be a typo, right?

    How can diesel, which always does extremely well on Highway cruises, get the same highway mpg as gas? It really seems almost impossible to me.

    We’ll see real world. Mazda gas engines tend to far outperform their epa ratings.

    But I agree a total waste. All this time and money for basically NOTHING, other than torque and maintenance costs and higher purchase price. The turbo gas would have made more sense.

    And don’t forget Skyactiv-X is coming very soon. With these diesel numbers, that new X is almost certainly going to exceed them.

    Pointless engine being released at a pointless time, especially from the automaker with compression gas engine just around the corner.

    Don’t forget the mechanic training, parts logistics etc etc in addition to the certification process and such.

    Dumb all around.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      Might that not be the point? I’m curious to drive an -X equipped car just because, and I’ve never seriously considered a diesel.

      Isn’t the -X supposed to combine the best of both worlds? Loads of torque, great mileage as well as being able to run on gasoline, not wandering around stinking up the place

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Nah. I’d stick with the gasoline version.

  • avatar
    VW4motion

    Sad for those waiting on this diesel. Seems like a waist considering the price of diesel fuel and cost of Diesel engine. Mazda always does a half assed job of building the complete package.

  • avatar
    jh26036

    The numbers are too conservative. This is just to set expectations low.

  • avatar
    klossfam

    Diesels usually perform BETTER than EPA in the real world vs gasoline where they are nearly always worse. Still, these are not great numbers and the gas 2.5L is a silky power plant running on generally lower priced fuel (depending on where you live – Ontario still has diesel as the lowest priced fuel).

    However, having owned a RAM 1500 EcoD that got 22.4 mpg (Fuelly), it still probably wasn’t a great economic decision vs my previous RAM 1500 Hemi that got 16.5 mpg. The fun factor of the Hemi not withstanding. In the case of the diesel CX-5, you do get a ton of torque, so the diesel in this case is probably MORE fun to drive.

  • avatar
    brettc

    I expected much better numbers from a diesel CX-5. I’m sure it’ll be fun to drive, but with Diesel costing about 40-50 cents more per gallon along with the complexity of the added emissions equipment, buying a special motor oil and DEF, I can see the long awaited diesel CX-5 being a massive failure.

    • 0 avatar
      Carrera

      Yes Brettc but Diesel is a premium fuel. It should not be compared to 87 gas. In my area diesel is about 1-2c cheaper per gallon than mid grade and about 15c cheaper than premium.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    I think the real point of this is to offer what would have been the V6 option 10-20 years ago (a little more unstressed power so it “feels” faster even if the performance benefit is negligible, since most of the people buying these aren’t stoplight racers anyhow), and without a fuel economy loss. That said, I don’t think the penalty of just using the turbo 4 out of the CX-9/6 would dissuade many buyers, but Mazda’s put in so much time trying to federalize a diesel engine, they’re probably trying to recoup some cost at this point.

  • avatar
    ernest

    My wife’s Jetta tdi Sportwagon always did better than the EPA rating. In retrospect, however, we all know why, don’t we?

  • avatar
    HahnZahn

    I’ve got 14 years of TDI ownership under my belt between two VWs. I might have just about broken even on all the premiums paid for diesel ownership after factoring in the VW mea culpa monies upon selling back my ’12 wagon.

    The EPA mileage estimates here give no justification for going the diesel route. Buyers will be paying more for in up-front, maintenance and fuel costs for nearly identical efficiency. And Mazdas are relatively noisy at highway speed – the diesel version will be even more so. Added torque? Yeah, I guess. It’ll be interesting to see real-world MPGs down the line, though.

  • avatar
    syncro87

    Having owned multiple diesel vehicles in the past, no way. The MPG isn’t even close to worth it, given the assorted negatives you have to put up with owning a diesel. On paper, I should be the ideal target for the CX-5 diesel. Lots of diesel history, check. Family of three, don’t need anything bigger, check. I like Mazdas, check. But man, I find it hard to get interested in the CX-5 diesel.

    Diesels were cool up until somewhere around the early 2000’s. Our TDI VWs of that vintage needed no DEF, and it was before you had to worry about lack of sulfur leading to your fuel pump self destructing, etc.

    Once the ultra low sulfur diesel came in, common rail with HPFP, regenerative soot traps, blah blah blah, it was over. It became a PITA to own a diesel car. Around the same time, gasoline powered cars started getting really good MPG while diesel models saw MPG whittled away by emissions controls. The gap narrowed, the hassle factor went up. Value equation dwindled.

    Somewhere around 2004 or 2005 was the last time it made sense to own a diesel passenger car (not heavy truck). I can’t see that it makes much sense at all these days.

    I can’t help but think of all trouble they went through to get this car USA compliant, and for this? Not impressed. It would have been cool ten or 15 years ago. These days, I can buy a gas-powered CR-V that gets the same MPG as this thing.

    Maybe there are a few CX-5 owners who are hard core tow fiends. They’ll enjoy this. All eight of them.

    • 0 avatar
      Funky

      I was waiting for the diesel. I gave up and picked up one with the gasoline engine. And, based on the article, it sounds like the correct choice was made for my needs. For towing I use a small pickup truck. I doubted the diesel CX-5 would be rated to perform serious towing. So, I just went ahead and went with the gasoline engine. So, now there’s seven hard core tow fiends out there who’ll enjoy this.

  • avatar
    Carrera

    I would love a Mazda CX5 diesel if the engine would be offered across all trim levels and it would not add more than $1,000 over a comparable gas version. The way things are going lately with most manufacturers, the diesel engine is only available in the top trims and also add 3500-4500 dollars. I can see a Mazda CX5 Grand Touring diesel being $42,000 which of course would be insane and it would have about 3,000 sales per year.
    As for the EPA, I am sure this engine would easily achieve 44-45 mpg or more on the hwy which is very good for a non-hybrid SUV. Not really a good comparison to the Chevy diesel since that’s a much smaller engine.

  • avatar
    milehigh

    One word: Altitude.

    For some of us who live at 5000+ feet, taking a 20% hit in engine efficiency at altitude right off the lot is unacceptable. So, take the 155hp gas engine and feed it some sparse air – making it a real world 124hp – now compare that to the Diesel in performance and economy figures.

    Bringing your own atmosphere to the party is key in higher elevations, and while there are some promising trends in forced-induction gas engines of late, few have made it to AWD compact SUV platforms save the ubiquitous Subaru (who just removed the turbo motor from the Forester lineup). If they would just put an oil burner in a CrossTrek or at least bolt the WRX compressor on it, I’d be in – though still at a lower economy rating than the CX-5D. The little Lexus is cute, but the price of admission is fairly steep… and again, the fuel economy isn’t there either. Maybe that engine will trickle down into the Toyota line before long and at least make it more affordable on the front end.

    Everyone isn’t a slave to the EPA numbers, and performance generally has a cost in one factor or another. I think the CX-5 Diesel will find a home where it makes sense – that may not be in the mainstream, but some folks in the high country will welcome it.


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