JUST like hybrid technology, diesel cars are relatively scarce in Malaysia, although they are steadily gaining the interest of consumers.
Initially introduced as premium brands, they have become more affordable now.
But what we have here are the Mazda CX-5 2.2L SkyActiv-D 2WD and the Hyundai Tucson R 2.0 CRDi, representing the C-segment class of sports utility vehicles (SUVs).
You see, diesel SUVs make a lot of sense, especially if you are an owner who has to cover a lot of miles.
Mazda CX-5 2.2L SkyActiv-D 2WD
Mazda pioneered the oil-burner game for the segment in Malaysia by introducing its SkyActiv-D 2.2L lineup in 2016.
The engine is not only for the CX-5, but for the Mazda 6 as well. It features a 14:1 compression ratio - the lowest among diesel engines - pushing out 173hp at 4,500rpm, with 420Nm of torque from as low as 2,000rpm.
Mazda’s i-Stop engine idling stop system is also an integral part of the powerplant to save fuel.
The CX-5 diesel 2WD is priced at RM164,579.10, which is nearly RM11k cut-price than the 4WD version.
Being an all-new car, the 2018 CX-5 gets substantially more dramatic exterior with larger front grille and slimmer headlights, coupled with dynamic-looking tail lights.
Compared with the Tucson, the CX-5 may have a cleaner silhouette, whereas the former clearly has bulkier and sharper features.
Inside, the Mazda CX-5 is admittedly a nice place, with a posh and opulent dashboard design.
The shiny chrome trims found on areas, such as air-con vents and steering wheel, showcase attention to details, although they may collect fingerprints over time.
The interior of the CX-5 is also clearly driver-focused, with every controls built within easy reach.
However, the driver-oriented design comes at the cost of space, with the rear legroom looking a bit cramped. I believe that the Tucson can seat three adults on the rear more comfortably than the CX-5.
Boot capacity also echoes the same characteristics as the cabin space, with 442 litres (with rear seats up) as opposed to 488 litres on the Tucson.
Driver-oriented traits of the CX-5 is even more apparent when behind the wheel.
Although I was a bit sceptical on Mazda’s Jinba-ittai philosophy of oneness between man and machine, I found that it somehow works, as far as driving is concerned.
Despite having 420Nm under the hood, power delivery is super linear and enables the driver to accelerate “politely” out of a junction, which is good.
This was partly due to Mazda’s unconventional approach of employing naturally-aspirated engines in their vehicles, compared with the use of turbochargers by most automakers.
Speaking of unconventional approach, I found that the application of push forward to downshift, and pull backward for upshifting on the CX-5’s gear knob in manual mode to be very, very sporty and natural.
What a simple, yet nice touch by Mazda’s engineers and designers. Too bad the Sport Mode drive selection switch is absent in the SkyActiv-D CX-5 range.
Safety-wise, the CX-5 2.2L SkyActiv-D is fitted with i-Activsense Advanced Safety Technology, comprising of kits like lane departure warning system, lane keeping assist system, driver attention alert, blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alert, along with the usual safety features.
Hyundai Tucson R 2.0 CRDi
Another diesel SUV that is just as competitive and capable is the Tucson R 2.0 CRDi, which has an engine that is 200cc smaller than the CX-5, but is equipped with a variable geometry turbocharger that feeds air into the engine.
This enables the Tucson’s engine output to be rated at 178hp at 4,000rpm, producing 400Nm of torque - 20Nm less than the CX-5 - but with lower rpm of between 1,750 and 2,750.
This engine does not get to be paired with the talented 7-speed DCT just like the 1.6-TGDi did.
Instead, Hyundai uses a 6-speed automatic unit, which is said to serve better given the 2.0 CRDi’s high torque output.
On-the-road price for the Hyundai Tucson is RM155,788.00, making it a bargain compared with the CX-5, which is RM9,000 more expensive.
The Tucson’s sheet metal may not be as new as the CX-5, but it still gets upmarket features like full-LED headlights with static bending lights, as well as optional bodykit and larger wheels upgrade.
Nothing too fancy inside the Tucson’s cabin, but it practically works. Apart from decent materials and surface feels, the overall front and rear cabin of the Tucson is noticeably more spacious than the CX-5.
Both the Tucson and CX-5 are blessed with rear air-con vents and ample storage compartments, with two cup holders in each of the cars’ centre console.
On the driving aspect, I can see that the Tucson has slightly naughtier side. Both cars are relatively quiet even at highway speeds, but the Tucson is a bit more “loose”, which is not a bad thing at all.
For instance, it’s pretty easy to light up the front tyres of the Tucson off the line, accompanied by traction control light blinking on the instrument cluster, of course.
The CX-5, with its G-Vectoring Control (GVC) now fitted as standard, makes the ride a tad too composed and tidy.
Despite coming with a host of passive and active safety features, the Tucson R 2.0 CRDi feels more natural in driving characteristics compared with the CX-5 SkyActiv-D.
Nevertheless, the Tucson’s infotainment system is still a let down, at least for me.
It appears to be a little isolated from the car.
While the CX-5 2.2L SkyActiv-D has a plush interior, the Tucson R 2.0 CRDi excels in having a more rational one. Both cars surprisingly arrived at almost the same level of driving quality, each in their own ways.
The CX-5, with its GVC, may be pleasant to most drivers, but has weird, unnatural interruptions as you reach near its physical limits.
But I don’t know, the alteration may lead to a drive with less fatigue, I suppose, especially over a long journey.
The Tucson, apart from being more spacious, can be quite a fresh looker on road with the right exterior combinations.
Both SUVs recorded pretty great combined (urban and highway) fuel consumption figures, with 13.86km per litre for the CX-5 and 14.94km per litre for the Tucson.