Mazda CX-8 $53,495 – $62,495 Powertrains: 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four (140kW/450Nm). Six-speed automatic, FWD or AWD. Body styles: Five-door SUV On sale: Now.
People movers are out at Mazda and crossover SUVs are in. The CX-8 is the first all-new example of that strategy and while it fits between the CX-5 and CX-9 in the Japanese manufacturer’s range, it is far more like a cross between a Mazda6 wagon and a CX-9. You know – a crossover!
Make me an instant expert: what do I need to know?
The CX-8 comes at a time when SUVs are reigning supreme in the sales charts. It is also a time when Mazda is dominating the private market for SUVs, with an impressive 11.2 per cent slice of the SUV pie once rentals are taken out and Toyota slides back down to everyone else’s level. And behind Mazda.
While the CX-9 seven seater is purely petrol-powered, the CX-8 goes compression-ignition across the range, being propelled exclusively by a heavily revised version of Mazda’s excellent 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine previously seen in the CX-5 and Mazda6.
The diesel engine produces 11kW more power and 30Nm more torque than the previous version, thanks to the adoption of more efficient rapid multi-stage combustion and a new variable geometry turbocharger that also improve the engine’s efficiency contributing to impressively low fuel consumption figures as well – Mazda claims just 5.7L/100km for the FWD and 6.0 for the AWD.
Speaking of which, the CX-8 is available in either FWD or AWD in entry GSX form, or solely AWD in top-spec Limited form.
The AWD system is Mazda’s “i-Activ” predictive system that uses 27 sensors around the car (including things like the rain sensors for the windscreen wipers, steering torque, temperature and speed) to make 200 calculations per second to predict where torque will be needed and act accordingly, distributing it to the rear wheels anywhere between one and 50 per cent.
Where did you drive it?
The launch took place at the Hampton Downs race track, which would seem a wildly improbable place to launch a large seven seat SUV, but it also happened to be the launch of the facelifted Mazda6.
So it was the 6 that got track time while we drove the CX-8 on the wonderfully winding Waikato back roads south of the track. After heading slightly north first, that is, to go around the back of the old Meremere power station, before heading back down country on some superbly serpentine roads.
You might not think a large SUV would suit roads like this, but the CX-8 was a pleasant surprise, coming across more like a taller AWD version of a Mazda6 wagon than a clumsy, floppy SUV.
What’s the pick of the range?
While there were no FWD GSXs on the launch event, it quickly became obvious on the winding and wet roads of the North Waikato that the AWD will absolutely be the pick of the range.
The thoroughly excellent AWD system combines beautifully with the diesel engine’s fat torque and an agile chassis, allowing the driver to get a delightful flow going through a series of corners, much in the way you do in a Mazda6. Funny that.
While the entry GSX isn’t wanting for standard equipment, the extra money spent on the Limited is worth it, making it our pick.For $6,500 over the GSX, the Limited adds power seat adjustment, Nappa leather, a powered tailgate, a heated second row of seats and a 10-speaker Bose audio system – among other things – to the
GSX’s already impressive standard equipment haul that includes Mazda’s i-Activsense safety package that sees all CX-8s get autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, traffic sign recognition, automatic high beam, lane departure warning, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control as standard.
That said, the GSX still retains all the basic attributes that actually makes the CX-8 an enjoyable steer, not something that you would usually say about a vehicle capable of swallowing seven people.
Why would I buy it?
Because you need seven seats but can’t bring yourself to buy a traditional SUV or (shudder) a people mover? That should be reason enough, really.There is very little in the seven-seat arena that offers quite what the CX-8 does. While something like the Skoda Kodiaq delivers similarly satisfying driving dynamics, it still looks like a conventional SUV (a very good looking one, that is), where the CX-8 is a far lower, sleeker looking affair that retains quite a bit of the visual appeal of the Mazda6 wagon.
Why wouldn’t I buy it?
Because you don’t need seven seats an, therefore, according to my universal theory that a station wagon or sedan that sits on the same platform as an SUV is always better, you should buy the Mazda6 instead. The wagon if you still need more load space.
The one other reason you might pass on the CX-8 would be its motivating force – a diesel engine. While it is a thoroughly excellent diesel, private buyers still largely prefer petrol, so will tend to gravitate more towards the CX-9.
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