Maybe it’s because the price of diesel has crept up. Maybe it’s because Volkswagen got busted for a massive fuel economy scam a few years ago. Maybe it’s because people stopped caring about fuel economy.
But whatever the reason, diesel-engined cars have decreased in popularity to the point where they’re almost unavailable.
For a while, it seemed like just about every manufacturer offered a diesel-engined car of some type. No more. VW, for example, was once an industry leader in this alternate fuel technology. But it’s now out of the diesel business in North America.
Mazda has never really been a trend-setter in diesel engines (yes, they did briefly offer a diesel pickup back in the 1980s). However, they’ve recently introduced the diesel-powered CX-5.
It’s a good one.
The CX-5 Diesel is powered by a 2.2-litre four-cylinder engine that features twin turbochargers. This gives it a power output of some 168 horsepower and just under 300 foot-pounds of torque.
There’s one transmission choice: a six-speed automatic that features a manual shift mode and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. It also comes with an all-wheel-drive system.
It has a full bevy of convenience and engineering features, including heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel (yes!), self-levelling headlights, wide-angle rearview camera, lane-keeping assist, traction control, and on and on.
In every respect, the CX-5 Diesel is an extremely driveable vehicle and Mazda hasn’t missed much when it comes to providing a complete driving experience.
The diesel drivetrain is a paragon of smoothness and civility. Cold starts involve a mere one-or-two-second delay and the engine fires up without any clatter or drama.
I don’t think I’ve driven a better behaved diesel engine. It’s about as unobtrusive as these things get. This engine also provides plenty of grunt – both in the city and on the highway. In fact, during the latter, it feels like a small displacement V8, with ample reserve power and a smoothness that’s quite remarkable.
That said, fuel economy is not great: 9.8 litres/100 km in town and 7.4 on the highway.
It should also be noted that the diesel engine is a $5,000 option and comes with the Signature version, which is the top of the range for this model.
And one other thing regarding diesel. Why is it that at gas stations, the diesel pump is always so funky and messy?
I filled this little puppy up a couple of times and the diesel pump, compared to its gasoline equivalents, is a mess – slippery underfoot from spilled fuel, a slimy handle, with the smell of diesel all over the place.
Presumably, the diesel pump is used considerably less than the gas pump, probably significantly less. So why is it such a disaster?
When you’re finished, your hands smell, you’ve got diesel fuel on the bottom of your shoes and, unless you clean yourself up, you’ll be taking this stink into the car with you. My tester had a steering wheel that smelled like diesel fuel the entire time I drove it. It’s really annoying and difficult to explain.
Fortunately, with the CX-5, you can disengage the annoying lane-keeping feature, which is what I did, pronto. Otherwise, the car has a kind of skittishness about it. It feels like it’s continuously correcting itself and compensating for any deviations. It’s very subtle and mainly noticeable during extended highway cruising, but is yet another reason not to use it. I don’t need the car to keep me informed as to what lane I’m in.
The CX-5 Diesel is close to $50,000 before taxes and extras. Add various levies and you’re easily in the mid-$50,000 range. That’s a decent chunk of change and it won’t be compensated for by improved fuel costs.
Nonetheless, this is a lovely automobile, and the interior layout is the same as the garden-variety CX-5. It has a nice sense of balance, plenty of get-up-and-go, is comfortable and easy to get along with, and provides a nice sense of driveability. I hope it stays on the market.
2020 Mazda CX-5 Diesel
Engine: 2.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Horsepower: 168 at 4,000 rpm
Torque: 290 foot-pounds at 2,000 to 5,500 rpm
Base price: $46,400; as tested, $48,295
Fuel economy: 9.4 litres/100 km city and 7.4 litres/100 km highway
Ted Laturnus writes for Troy Media’s Driver Seat Associate website. An automotive journalist since 1976, he has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist of the Year twice and is past-president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).