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by Tim Beissmann

All-wheel-drive variants of the popular Mazda CX-5 will get a much-needed boost early next year when the mid-sized SUV’s underpowered 2.0-litre petrol engine is replaced by a more powerful 2.5-litre unit.

Mazda Australia today confirmed expectations that the 2.5-litre would become available locally after Mazda Europe’s vice-president of R&D, Ichiro Hirose, revealed to media in September that the company was introducing the engine to the CX-5 range.

Revealed for the first time in the third-generation Mazda6 in August, the 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine is one of the newest additions to the Japanese manufacturer’s ‘SkyActiv’ suite of fuel-saving technologies.

From the first quarter of 2013, AWD variants of the Mazda CX-5 Maxx, Maxx Sport and GT will adopt the new engine, while front-wheel-drive variants of the Maxx (manual and automatic) and the Maxx Sport will retain the existing 2.0-litre.

Generating a targeted 138kW and 250Nm (Mazda says the CX-5’s output is yet to be finalised), the 2.5-litre unit will deliver around 25kW and 52Nm more than the smaller 2.0-litre.

The larger, more powerful engine will be less fuel efficient than the one it replaces, however. Existing AWD petrol models consume a claimed 6.9 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, while at this stage Mazda has promised only an average consumption figure of “better than 8.0 litres per 100km” for the 2.5-litre-powered models.

Mazda Australia public relations manager Steve Maciver admitted there would also be a “small” price rise attached to the introduction of the larger engine, but would not reveal the exact damage to future customers’ bank accounts.

While the Mazda CX-5’s 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine has earned praise across the industry and proved a strong seller, the 2.0-litre petrol has been criticised for its lack of torque – particularly in the AWD models, which weigh just shy of 1600kg.

Maciver said Mazda Australia was wasting no time in adding the brand-new 2.5-litre petrol engine as it seeks to broaden the CX-5’s powertrain line-up, but denied its impending launch was motivated by negative feedback from customers and journalists.

“It’s to give our customers more choice,” he said. “We have a history of offering the largest engines available to us, so this is no different to what we have done in the past.”

The Mazda CX-5 launched in Australia in February and has since gone on to become one of the country’s top-selling SUVs.

To the end of October, Mazda has sold 12,718 CX-5s in Australia, trailing only the well-established Toyota Prado (14,496) and the Nissan X-Trail (13,681) for total sales.