Mazda rarely follows the herd. While some rival carmakers have ditched diesel power, Mazda continues to see a place for efficient oil-burning engines. Its largest SUV, the CX-60, is offered as a plug-in hybrid, but we’ve been testing the diesel 4×4 version.

What are we looking for?

How well does the CX-60 tow, and does diesel power still have a fuel economy advantage over hybrids for caravanners? We all know the best tow cars are stable and reliable – is the CX-60?

Towing with the Mazda CX-60 3.3 e-Skyactiv D MHEV 254ps AWD Homura

Mazda has tried to combine the best of old and new in the CX-60 diesel. While engines that drink from the black pump may now be on their way out, mild-hybrid power is very much in. The CX-60 uses mild-hybrid assistance to take the strain from the engine, improving economy and lowering emissions. This allows the engine to switch off when coasting, even while towing.

We matched the Mazda, with its 2025kg kerbweight, to a Coachman VIP 545 with a MiRO of 1497kg, borrowed from Broadlane Leisure. The big six-cylinder diesel engine immediately felt at home while towing, with plenty of pulling power, even from low revs, something which is always good to see after matching a car to a caravan. It’s not the quietest engine, but there’s no arguing with 406lb ft of torque from as low as 1500rpm.

We towed the day after very heavy rain, and the big Mazda remained surefooted.

Side view of the Mazda CX-60
Rear leg- and headroom are generous

This being the four-wheel drive (there’s also a two-wheel-drive diesel), the CX-60 pulled away from junctions and on steep hills with no wheelspin or signs of strain.

Throughout the test, we used the car’s towing mode, which Mazda says optimises the powertrain for coping with a heavy load – it certainly felt competent and reassuring, traits that we’d look for in the best SUV for towing.

Heading out onto the motorway during our test underlined the strength of the engine, which easily reached 60mph by the end of the slip road.

It also demonstrated the vehicle’s commendable high-speed stability, with just the occasional nudge from the van while passing HGVs.

Arrive at a campsite and the CX-60 is easy to manoeuvre, ably assisted by the surround-view camera system, which is standard on Homura spec.

Towball and electrics are priced at £1196.44

The caravan towbar drops down at the push of a button – or at least it should. Our model had arrived with a fault and needed to be repaired before the towbar would move into place. Hopefully, that’s a rare problem from a brand that has such an enviable reputation for reliability.

The electrics are located on the side of the towbar, well clear of the bumper.

Solo driving in the Mazda CX-60 3.3 e-Skyactiv D MHEV 254ps AWD Homura

The 3.3-litre six-cylinder diesel is the key to the Mazda’s excellent driving experience. Most diesel alternatives to the CX-60 use smaller-capacity, four-cylinder engines, but Mazda reckons a bigger engine doesn’t need to work as hard for a given level of performance and can compete with smaller engines for fuel economy.

In practice, the Mazda engine treads a fine line between gruffness and character. It’s noisy when cold or revved hard and isn’t as smooth as the best six-cylinders. But it sounds like what it is – a big, punchy engine with plenty of performance.

Once the engine is warm, it’s less vocal and settles down to a background murmur on the motorway. It’s a shame there isn’t less road noise, though – blame the big 20-inch wheels and wide tyres.

Boot space in the car
Boot is very large, offering 570 litres with the seats upright

Having driven the plug-in hybrid version, the diesel has the more comfortable ride. But the Mazda still feels unsettled and fidgety over broken surfaces.

The CX-60 suits sporty drivers rather than someone looking for the last word in comfort. Select ‘sport’ mode and the steering weights up and the eight-speed automatic gearbox is more eager to change gear. Whichever mode you choose, the Mazda corners keenly for a car weighing just over two tonnes.

In ‘normal’ setting, the steering is more sensibly weighted for parking, and the 360-degree cameras help in tight spaces.

Space and practicality in the Mazda CX-60 3.3 e-Skyactiv D MHEV 254ps AWD Homura

The driver has plenty of space and lots of adjustment to both seat and wheel. We were comfortable despite several hours of driving.

The dashboard is typical Mazda – this may be an SUV, but the cockpit could have been taken from a sports car. The air-con uses physical controls and the infotainment screen is run through a rotary controller between the seats. It’s a bit like BMW’s iDrive, only in this case you can’t prod the screen instead, as it’s not touch-sensitive. Add in the best caravan sat nav and you’ll be fully kitted out with gadgets for an enjoyable experience on the road.

Cockpit of the CX-60
The cockpit could have been taken from a sports car

Rear leg- and headroom are generous, so a lanky adult can travel in comfort even if those in the front are also tall. The boot is very large, offering 570 litres with the seats upright. Levers on either side of the tailgate fold the back seats if more space is needed.

Buying and owning a Mazda CX-60 Homura

At just over £50,000 in this specification, the big Mazda sits at the kind of price where mainstream and premium SUVs overlap. In mid-spec Homura trim, the CX-60 offers lots of kit and performance compared with other SUVs at this price.

In official tests, the AWD diesel returns around 54mpg. We saw closer to 47mpg on the motorway and 27.8mpg while towing.

You can expect to see back about half of the original purchase price after three years and 36,000 miles, What Car? estimates.

Are you in need of a refresher on the different types of weights and measures you need to be aware of? We explain everything you need to know about caravan towing weights.

Alternatives to consider

If you’d like to see what a plug-in hybrid SUV can offer, see what we made of the Honda CR-V 2.0 Plug-in Hybrid 2WD Advance Tech – it’s a practical SUV that we think should be ideal for families, has plenty of high-tech features and offers a generous boot. Alternatively, try the Volkswagen Touareg 13.0 V6 TDI 286PS 4Motion Black Edition it’s a stable diesel option that we think provides everything you would look for in an SUV.

Mazda CX-60 3.3 e-Skyactiv D MHEV 254ps AWD Homura spec

  • Price: £50,705
  • What Car? Target Price: £47,303
  • Retained value after three years: 50%
  • Kerbweight: 2025kg
  • 85% of kerbweight: 1721kg
  • Gross vehicle weight: 2516kg
  • Max towing limit: 2500kg
  • Gross train weight: 5016kg
  • Towball limit: 100kg
  • Price of towball and electrics: £1196.44
  • Boot size: 570-1726 litres
  • Payload: 491kg
  • Test conditions: Wet
  • Engine size: 3283cc
  • Power (hp): 254 @ 3750rpm
  • Torque (lb ft): 406lb ft @ 1500-2400rpm
  • Official combined economy: 53.3-54.3mpg
  • Towing economy: 27.8mpg
  • CO2 emissions: 138g/km
  • First year car tax: £245
  • Second year car tax: £560
  • Insurance group: 38A
  • Euro NCAP rating: 5/5

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