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Can Mazda take on BMW and Mercedes-Benz? Why the 2022 Mazda CX-60 is pushing the Japanese brand into direct competition with premium brands

The Mazda CX-60 is the most premium offering the brand has introduced yet.

Australia’s love of Mazda is set to reshape how the brand positions itself around the world, pitting it in direct competition with the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Mazda Australia has been a success story for the Japanese brand for a long time. Our embrace of the brand’s models and ‘semi-premium’ positioning has been a standout for a brand that is only a minor player in the European and US car markets.

That’s why the all-new CX-60 represents such a massive shift for Mazda on a global scale. It’s the first model from its new ‘Large Product group’ that will spawn the CX-70, CX-80 and CX-90 SUVs as well as the new-generation Mazda6, and there’s the RX-7 revival rumours that just won’t go away (more on that later).

This new rear-wheel-drive-capable vehicle platform and family of six-cylinder and hybrid engines has been designed to transition Mazda from a ‘semi-premium’ mainstream brand into an actual premium player.

At a global level, it seems a risk worth taking, pushing Mazda into a new segment of the market creates more potential for growth in countries like the USA. But will this strategy work here in Australia?

There’s been no details of local CX-60 pricing yet, but given the upward trend for all brands, it’s likely this new model on a more advanced platform will carry a price premium over its current equivalent, the CX-5.

For starters, it’s a slightly larger vehicle than the CX-5, and add to it the already confirmed hybrid powertrain and the expected inline six-cylinder engines, and you have the recipe for a rival to the likes of the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC.

Pricing for the current CX-5 range tops out at $53,680 for the Akera diesel, while pricing for the German trio begins at $72,700 (Q5 40 TDI), $76,900 (X3 xDrive20d) and $74,976 (GLC 200). That leaves some space between the current CX-5 and these Germans for the CX-60 to slot in nicely, so don’t be surprised if pricing for the range begins with a six and stretches upward from there.

This will move Mazda further away from the likes of Toyota and Hyundai, a trend we’ve seen playing out for several years now. Mazda has methodically reduced the number of low-margin models it offers, pushing the entry price of its Mazda2 up to $23,190 and the Mazda3 to $26,340.

Annual Mazda3 sales have more than halved in the past five years, dropping from 36,107 in 2016 to 14,663 in 2021. However, overall Mazda’s sales have only dropped by 14 per cent in the same time period, as newer models such as the CX-30 and CX-8 have arrived and added to the brand’s total.

Mazda Australia is yet to confirm exactly what its future line-up will consist of, but a spokesperson for the brand did confirm that all four new SUVs - CX-60, CX-70, CX-80 and CX-90 - will be available if they believe there is a market for the quartet.

That would mean a 10-strong SUV line-up for the brand -  MX-30, CX-3, CX-30, CX-5, CX-60, CX-70, CX-8, CX-80, CX-9 and CX-90 - as well as the ongoing Mazda2, Mazda3 and new Mazda6. 

Then there’s the ongoing speculation about bringing back a flagship, rotary-powered sports car into the range, sitting above the MX-5. As we reported in January, sources in Japan have indicated that Mazda may work with Toyota to produce an ‘RX-9’ that shares its platform with the production version of the Toyota GR GT3 Concept.

A new range of premium SUVs and a hero sports car sounds like precisely what a brand would need to send a message to the established luxury players.