Mazda has been promising us their SkyActiv-D diesel technology for nearly a decade now. We finally have the CX-5 on sale with a diesel — and I do mean finally, as even that was years in the making — and it seems we’ll get the Mazda6 diesel this year as well.
Autoblog noticed that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) posted new certification documents for the Mazda6 on January 31. The document focuses specifically on Mazda’s midsize sedan, where it mentions a 2.2-liter turbocharged engine paired to a six-speed automatic as an option. It didn’t mention whether the car would have an all-wheel drive option, but it’s a possibility given that the Mazda6 is available with a diesel and all-wheel drive in overseas markets. In the CX-5, that engine produces 168 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque in its U.S. spec.
But here’s the thing: Is it already too late for the Mazda6 diesel to really be successful here?
In a market of one
Quick question: How many diesel sedans are currently on sale in the U.S.? In the old days, you used to be able to buy a Volkswagen Passat or Jetta TDI, a Chevrolet Cruze, a BMW 3 Series, Audi A3, Mercedes-Benz E-Class or even a Jaguar XF with a diesel engine. Today, none of those models have a diesel option, and some like the Cruze have died out entirely.
Now, the market remains reasonably strong for diesel trucks. That said, Volkswagen’s “Dieselgate” scandal did inarguably chill the public’s perception on diesel in this country. But beyond that the price difference of diesel fuel, the need to top off a DEF tank every once awhile and the added expense of buying a diesel car in the first place more or less eliminated any of Mazda’s possible competition in the market. The Mazda6 diesel may fare a bit better with the market all to itself, but all those factors may steer buyers away from the long-promised SkyActiv-D powertrain if it launches this year as a 2021 model.
Electrification is the new diesel
Then there’s the matter of the midsize sedan’s sibling, the CX-5. The Mazda6 diesel will launch only on the top-trim Signature trim, eliminating more affordable options. The CX-5, for its part, starts at $41,000 before destination fees, nearly putting it in the same price bracket as the larger CX-9 Signature. For its part, the CX-5 diesel also gets substantially worse fuel economy than, say, a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, despite being nearly $5,000 more than even the most expensive Limited trim.
So there you have it. For what it’s worth, diesel enthusiasts will have a new sedan option later this year. A new generation Mazda6 is reportedly in the works, and recent patents suggest Mazda is working on a new gasoline inline-six and an eight-speed automatic transmission. While the company may release information on that later this year, electrification is also coming into play as automakers aim to improve fuel economy figures across their model lineups.
Based on the CX-5, the Mazda6 diesel should come in around $40,000 if it does go on sale later this year. What do you think? Are you excited or do you think it’s too little, too late? Let us know in the comments below!