For something good and different, try Mazda's CX-5 Skyactiv Diesel

Mazda improves diesel technology and mates it with one of market's best CUVs

Published: November 9, 2019, 4:30 PM
Updated: November 23, 2021, 4:05 PM

2019 Mazda CX-5 diesel

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Skyactiv-D AWD


  • Next-gen diesel
  • Gobs of torque
  • Sharp looks


  • A bit pricey
  • Diesel pumps getting hard to find
  • It’s different

Mazda, being Mazda, continues to stretch the engineering envelope with its 2019 CX-5 Signature Diesel compact utility vehicle. The small Japanese company has a lengthy record of pursuing what others have abandoned. Early on, it picked up the rotary engine torch, abandoned by its German proponents. Later, it developed a small displacement (2.3-litre) V-6 engine operating on the Miller Cycle. And now it has produced a diesel engine, while others are dropping compression ignition engines like hot potatoes, following the highly publicized VW fiasco.

Why? Because Mazda sees an opportunity abandoned by others. Diesel aficionados remain loyal to this alternative powerplant and its benefits and the company believes the demand for diesels remained strong in Canada.

Canadians like their diesels

More than 18,000 crossovers with diesel engines were sold in Canada in the past three years. Plus, Mazda surveyed owners regarding interest in a diesel engine for the CX-5 and more than 4,000 raised their hands. The interest was especially strong around large metropolitan areas where diesels are at their best. They have loads of torque, which is great for accelerating from stop lights, and they excel at low speed fuel economy.

Mazda’s surveys showed that urban dwellers were interested in a premium compact utility vehicle with a full slate of features and a diesel engine. Voilà! The Mazda CX-5 Signature, Skyactiv-D, with a 2.2-litre turbocharged diesel engine!

Since this is Mazda, there is some unique engineering involved. Allow me to go a bit techie.

While gasoline engines use an electric spark to ignite the fuel/air mixture, Diesels use extreme compression, squeezing the air/fuel mix to the point it gets so hot it self-ignites. No spark plug or electricity is involved or necessary. To minimize emissions, diesels rely on a very lean mixture – more air per unit of fuel than a gasoline engine. The bad news is that this extra air results in the generation of nitrogen oxides (NOx) – unpleasant stuff.

Lower compression

The Skyactiv-D diesel engine has the lowest compression ratio of any diesel engine in the world. A 16:1 compression ratio (16 parts of oxygen to one part fuel) is common. Skyactiv D diesels operate at 14:1. This means lower pressure and temperature within the combustion chamber, and extra time for injected fuel to mix with the air. The result is more complete combustion and less NOx and soot. Other unique features include injectors capable of nine injections per combustion event, ceramic glow plugs, and a 2-stage turbocharger.

Like all other passenger vehicle diesels sold in North America, Mazda uses Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) to clean up the remaining NoX. Comprised of urea and water, and commonly known as AdBlue, it is injected into the exhaust system. The resulting chemical reaction allows the exhaust to meet existing emission regulations.

The CX-5 has been widely praised for its looks, ride comfort and quality. To ensure it appeals to the intended market, Mazda made the diesel engine available only in the top Signature trim as a $5,000 option. Standard equipment includes an extensive array of features expected from a luxury vehicle, and many that are optional on them.

I’ve previously praised the CX-5 as a favourite ute in this size, regardless of price. The Mazda CX-5 Signature Skyactiv-D that I recently drove for almost 1,000 km had the instant torque and good fuel economy expected of a diesel. And it retained all the attributes that have made this one of my favorite utes – style, space and excellent driving dynamics.

Mazda has no hybrids, plug-in or otherwise in its lineup, at least not yet. It says the Skyactiv diesel offers similar fuel economy to a hybrid, offers more power, and was less expensive to develop and produce. It also adds less weight than the battery pack required for a hybrid. As a bonus, the CX-5 Signature Skyactiv D comes with free scheduled maintenance for two years or 32,000 km. 

The next step beyond is an electrified Mazda, of course with a difference. An electric motor will be the main motivator, rumoured to be supplemented by a tiny rotary engine to serve as a range extender.

In the meantime. There’s a lot to like in the Skyactiv-D.


Price: $45,950 base, $45,950 as tested, plus freight

Engine: turbocharged 2.2-litre, 4-cylinder diesel, 168 horsepower, 290 lb-ft of torque, low sulphur diesel fuel

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Drive wheels: all-wheel drive

NRCan Fuel Consumption (litres/100km city/highway): 8.9/7.9

Length: 4,550 mm

Width: 1,842 mm

Wheelbase: 2,698 mm

Weight: 1,788 kg

Significant Standard Equipment: cocoa-brown Napa leather upholstery, all-wheel-drive, automatic auto-levelling LED headlights, radar cruise control with stop and go function, heated front and rear seats, ventilated front seats, panoramic sunroof, rear privacy glass, 17-cm colour infotainment touch screen with support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and voice-control for audio functions, 10-speaker Bose audio system, navigation, satellite radio, heads-up display with traffic sign recognition, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, advanced Smart City brake support with pedestrian detection.  

Options on test vehicle: none