Will Mazda’s diesel return?
“SkyActiv-D” — that’s a badge you might see running around on some CX-5 models equipped with Mazda’s latest 2.2-liter turbodiesel engine. I say “might” because they’re an exceedingly rare sight, and the existence of the CX-5 diesel has been an enigma these past couple years. The story’s even stranger with the Mazda6 diesel, which we were supposed to see all the way back in 2013, when the automaker launched the current generation model (not to mention the first-generation CX-5, which had the diesel powertrain overseas).
If you go to Mazda’s website right now, you’ll see the 2019 Mazda CX-5 SkyActiv-D model listed. Under future vehicles, you’ll also see the Mazda6 SkyActiv-D, but neither are on sale in the current model year. So what gives?
Mazda has faced hurdles getting their diesel engines certified for sale in the United States. That’s why it took until 2019 to pass muster with federal and state agencies like California’s Air Resources Board (CARB). And the engine did launch on the CX-5 for that model year, but there was a catch (or actually two): The CX-5 SkyActiv-D was only available in top-end Signature trim, and prices started at $41,000. No less expensive diesel variant is available.
Too late for diesel?
At this point, our friends over at Carscoops asked Mazda point-blank about the diesel mill’s future in the U.S. After all, it’s been on-again, off-again then on-again over the past seven years. A company spokesperson said that, “we have completed certification of the 2020 MY diesel powered CX-5 and Mazda6…more information will be released at the appropriate time.” To our knowledge, the engine did not change substantially from the 2019 engine that was certified, though there may have been some wrangles going on behind the scenes.
Apart from the CX-5 diesel’s sheer asking price, there’s another issue: It’s barely more efficient than the gasoline engine. According to EPA figures, the 2.2-liter engine manages 27/30/28 city/highway/combined MPG ratings in all-wheel drive form (the Signature is all-wheel drive only). The city mileage ratings are better, but the highway figure is exactly the same as the naturally-aspirated, much cheaper 2.5-liter gasoline unit. Mazda’s 2.5-liter turbocharged engine, for its part, isn’t substantially worse on fuel economy. The turbo engine also manages more power and more torque to boot.
So there’s an important question at play: Is it too late for Mazda’s diesel? Just considering the current climate in the American market and how the automaker positioned the CX-5’s diesel engine, as well as its relative power and fuel economy, buyers have largely taken the 2.5-liter gasoline engine in droves. Efficiency may be better on a U.S.-spec (front-wheel drive) Mazda6, but even that model is supposed to see a substantial update in the coming years.
If you’re a diesel fan, the fact that Mazda is still working on SkyActiv-D is good news. We may well see them arrive in the 2021 model year. That said (depending on how they price a diesel option), there aren’t many choices left, as most other automakers have all but abandoned the fuel on our shores in favor of gasoline and hybrid powertrains.
For a general look at the Mazda CX-5, check out our review below: