Mazda will strengthen its European diesel range within 18 months by fitting a joint Ford/PSA, 155-horsepower, 2.2-litre engine to both the newly-introduced CX-7 SUV crossover and the redesigned 6 saloon, hatchback and wagon range launched at the Frankfurt show last week.

This provides the potential to quadruple initial British market petrol-only CX-7 volume to nearly 4,000 units because most rival models in the MPV [minivan]/crossover segment here are sold with diesel engines. The upcoming new turbodiesel is particularly important for the revamped 6 as it re-enforces Mazda's new pan-European fleet sales strategy, which is currently being planned.

The CX-7 has been launched initially only with a turbocharged 2.3-litre petrol engine (shared with the sporty 6 MPS) and six-speed manual transmission - Mazda UK said the 'US-style' automatic option available across the Atlantic would not suit drivers here. UK/Europe-specification models also have stiffened, retuned suspension compared to US and Japanese-market versions.

The new generation 2.2-litre engines will be built at PSA's Tremery factory in France by the Ford-PSA diesel joint venture and are also destined for Ford Europe's Mondeo and Jaguar X-type.

Existing Ford-PSA diesels span the 1.4 I4 to 2.7-litre V6 range, with tunes varying by vehicle brand (also including Land Rover, Citroen and Peugeot) and have established an excellent reputation with consumer motoring press here in Europe which praises them for power, refinement, economy and low emissions.

Mazda Motors UK's sales director, Mark Cameron, told just-auto the CX-9, the CX-7's larger sibling (developed primarily for the US), using 3.5-litre Ford and 3.7-litre Mazda V6 petrol engines, would not be sold in the UK although he admitted the seven-seater had been "investigated."

Mazda also highlighted a five-band reduction in UK company car tax liability for the redesigned 1.8-litre petrol 6 hatchback with CO2 emissions now down to 162gms/km from 186gms, resulting  in a 24% to 19% tax rating saving.

CO2 emissions from the automaker's in-house-developed two-litre turbodiesel have been cut from 165g/km to 149g, due partially to the new D-segment 6, like the recently introduced B-segment 2, being lighter than its predecessor.

Cameron would not comment on future diesel developments but hinted at a move upsize for the current 5 MPV into Ford's S-Max territory within two years.

He said: "We will continue with more stylish and sporty, but fundamentally functional cars. There is no reason why those elements should be mutually exclusive."

An updated 5, due in January, will gain electrically operated sliding side doors and a five-speed automatic transmission option - Mazda, claiming there wasn't sufficient volume potential, left the autobox off the Europe options list when the model was first launched here in the UK in mid-2005.

Hugh Hunston

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