Mazda has expanded its SUV range to five models with the new CX-8 filling the gap between the mid-sized CX-5 and large CX-9 previously occupied the discontinued CX-7. The other two models are the compact CX-3 and marginally larger CX-30.
Launched here in mid-2018 the seven-seat CX-8 shares the same wheelbase as the CX-9 although it is slightly shorter and narrower while having the same width as the five-seat CX-5. Many components are unique to the CX-8.
Interestingly, the CX-8 was initially only meant for the Japanese market but Mazda Australia pushed hard for it to come here partly because it was available with a diesel engine, an option that wasn’t available in the CX-9 and so was seen to be restricting rural sales.
That 2.2-litre turbo-diesel remained the only power option until a 2.5-litre petrol was added at the start of this year.
There are now eight models in the CX-8 range, two with petrol engine and six with diesels. The two petrol variants are only available with front-wheel drive and Sport or Touring equipment levels. The Sport and Touring diesel models are all-wheel drive only while the higher-specced GT and Asaki variants come with the choice of either FWD or AWD.
Prices range from $39,910 for the FWD Sport petrol through to $65,440 for the AWD Asaki diesel. On-road costs need to be added.
CX-8 is easily recognisable as a Mazda SUV with the same design philosophy as its four stablemates including their slick lines and almost coupe-like rear end.
Like the larger CX-9 the ‘8 is a seven-seater but, having the same width as the five-seat CX-5, it’s relatively narrow inside and best suited to a maximum of four adults and three children.
Other dimensions are closer to the CX-9 meaning that there’s good legroom and comfortable headroom in all seats.
Access to the third row seats in all models except the entry-level Sport is made easier courtesy of a one-touch walk-in switch added to the left and right seat cushion sides on the second row that fold the seatbacks. The centre seats can also slide forward to provide extra third row legroom.
With all seats in place boot space is limited to just 209 litres, expanding to 742 litres with the third-row seats folded.
The materials are high quality and contribute to a nice ambience to the interior of the CX-8 which augurs well for potential long-distance trips. There are also plenty of storage spaces throughout.
Controls are logical and well-placed for a minimum of driver distraction from the road ahead. There are also climate controls in the second row seats.
Mazda CX-8 GT and Asaki models come with a powered sunroof.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The CX-8 diesels are powered by Mazda’s SkyActiv 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine. It produces up to 140 kW of power and an impressively high 450 Nm of torque, the latter available from 2000 rpm.
Petrol power comes from the naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre four-cylinder 140 kW / 242 Nm unit that features in a number of other Mazda models, rather than the more powerful turbo-petrol 2.5 in the CX-9.
All CX-8 models have a six-speed automatic transmission.
All CX-8 models have the high level of advanced safety equipment. These include blind spot monitoring; driver attention alert; emergency stop signal; forward obstruction warning; lane departure warning; lane-keep assist; automatic high beam; rear parking sensors; rear cross traffic alert; reversing camera; roll stability control; automatic emergency braking; trailer stability assist; and traffic sign recognition.
Touring adds front parking sensors while GT and Asaki also get enhanced front lighting systems.
All CX-8s have an eight-inch MZD Connect colour touchscreen that’s clear and easy to us. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, missing originally, were added in the latest upgrade. Satellite navigation is standard across the range as are the usual infotainment features.
Mazda CX-8 GT and Asaki get a 273-Watt 10-speaker Premium Bose sound system. They also have third-row USB inputs.
We were able to drive both the 2WD Sport petrol and AWD diesel Asaki models back-to-back over a two-week period.
Entry and exit is easy helped by rear with doors that can be opened to a full 90 degrees.
The petrol engine is a step down from the turbocharged unit in the CX-9 turbo that we tested recently. It’s still quite smooth and refined in most situations but does need a fair bit of urging when fast acceleration is required.
As is to be expected the diesel CX-8 provides the extra grunt and does so with a minimum of turbo lag. We found the six-speed automatic transmission to be in the correct gear virtually all the time.
In more sedate situations the diesel is relatively quiet at idle from the outside and barely discernible from the petrol. Inside the sound levels are nicely muted.
The word ‘Sport’ is probably the most misused in the automobile industry and the CX-8 Sport models are certainly not sporty. No problem with the Touring name being used because that’s exactly where the CX-8 excels.
Suspension and steering are designed for comfort and CX-8 handles safety and predictably.
The AWD system uses Mazda’s Off-Road Traction Assist function to suppress tyre spin and distribute the appropriate amount of torque to the wheels.
As is often the way, Australia’s coarse-chip roads create a fair bit of noise. Anywhere else it’s peaceful and relaxing to sit in.
During our week in the FWD petrol we averaged just over 10 litres per 100 kilometres, compared with the published 8.1 L/100km. We got closer to the factory tested 6.0 L/100 with the AWD diesel keeping it down into the low sevens.
Our initial reaction to the arrival of the Mazda CX-8 was ‘why?’ – after all the previous CX-7 had been deemed unnecessary given the success of the CX-5.
But having spent a fortnight behind the wheel it now does make sense. It comes with two more seats than the CX-5; is smaller and more manageable than the CX-9; comes with the choice of petrol or diesel power. It even slips under the $40,000 price tag in it lowest priced model. Not really of course but it is a very valuable marketing tool.
AT A GLANCE
Sport FWD 2.5-litre petrol: $39,910 (automatic)
Touring FWD 2.5-litre petrol: $46,590 (automatic)
Sport AWD 2.2-litre turbo-diesel: $46,910 (automatic)
Touring AWD 2.2-litre turbo-diesel: $53,590 (automatic)
GT FWD 2.2-litre turbo-diesel: $57,900 (automatic)
GT AWD 2.2-litre turbo-diesel: $61,900 (automatic)
Asaki FWD 2.2-litre turbo-diesel: $61,440 (automatic)
Asaki AWD 2.2-litre turbo-diesel: $65,440 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Mazda dealer for drive-away prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Mazda CX-8 Asaki 2.2-litre turbo-diesel AWD five-door wagon)
Capacity: 2.191 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 140 kW @ 4500 rpm
Maximum Torque: 450 Nm @ 2000 rpm
Fuel Type: Diesel
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 6.0 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 150 g/km
DRIVELINE: Six-speed automatic
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4900 mm
Wheelbase: 2930 mm
Width: 1840 mm
Height: 1720 mm
Turning Circle: 11.7 metres
Kerb Mass: 1840 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 72 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc
Five years / unlimited kilometres