The new Mazda CX-8 is the vehicle for which the phrase ‘middle of the road’ (or dirt track) was coined. The sports utility vehicle slots in mid-range between the CX-5 and CX-9 with ease while offering diesel power to the mix.

Now with eight variants, the entry-level CX-8 Sport petrol front-wheel drive comes in below 40 grand (just) at $39,910, plus on-road costs, while the halo is carried by the Asaki diesel all-wheel drive at $65,440. The latter was the test car.

The latest upgrade for 2020, the second since its entry to the market in 2018, the even-seat SUV has been given added appeal to customers who look no further than the bitumen with a new 2.5-litre efficient Skyactiv-G petrol engine joining the front-wheel drive variants.

The Skyactiv-D 2.2-litre diesel unit has been maintained in all-wheel drive models for those more adventurous owners wishing to go bush. This is made easier by the addition of Mazda’s newly developed Off-Road Traction Assist to reduce wheel spin by distributing torque to the tyres with most grip.

The entire MY20 CX-8 model rang is backed by a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty and similar term Mazda Premium Roadside Assistance plan.

A refreshed key fob and new nameplate badging are among few changes with the latest Mazda CX-8.

While the whole range – Sport, Touring, GT and Asaki – offers similar looks characteristic of the seven-seat SUV, 19-inch alloy wheels and power automatic tailgate set the Asaki apart.

Those familiar with Mazda’s layout of controls and instruments will feel at home in the latest CX-8 with minimum changes indoors. Genuine timber trim on doors and dash, and front seat ventilation set the Asaki apart from the rest of the range.

However, one stand-out feature of the test Asaki, not in the most attractive way, was the leather upholstery. The white colour of the test vehicle stuff was an assault on the eyes and would be a bugger to keep clean.

There’s no lack of space for occupants with an electric sunroof emphasising the open feeling in the cabin.

Work by engineers has improved noise, vibration and harshness quality by adding more damping material to the roof.

As well as the 8-inch full-colour dashboard display there’s a 7-inch multi-information meter and head-up windscreen display. Apple Carplay and Android Auto are standard.

The Asaki also boasts a Bose Premium 273W amplifier and ten speakers, including subwoofer.

The latest 2.5-litre petrol engines are limited to front-wheel drive variants, while the carried-over 2.2-litre four-cylinder twin-turbocharged diesel motor with i-Stop, mated with a six-speed automatic, transmission serves the rest of the range.

A top-rate ANCAP safety score comes care of blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert and traffic sign recognition.

Thrown in are an advanced version of Smart City Brake Support with added night-time pedestrian protection plus larger eight-inch central dashboard display with bigger icons for easier recognition.

Compared with many of the modern diesel motors doing the rounds, the carried-over 2.2 litre of the CX-8 Asaki was noisy. The stop / start engine system also was not the best, with a jolt at times when re-engaging.

Fuel consumption claimed by the maker for the 2.2 diesel on the combined urban / highway cycle is 6 litres per 100 kilometres. The test vehicle recorded 8.5 litres per 100 and 4.5 litres per 100, respectively in the suburb and on the open road.

Third row leg room is limited but the middle row can be shoved forward to add space for longer legs.

Getting in and out of the third row has been made easier with the addition of a one-touch switch on the left and right sides of the second-row cushions for the seats to fold down.

Third-row occupants can take advantage of two 2.5A USB power points, making it possible to charge smartphones and other devices from any seat. Parking can be made with confidence thanks to a 360-degree view all-round camera.

At 209 litres, there’s cramped cargo room with all seats in operation. With third-row seating ditched space blows out to 742 litres. The Asaki AWD can pull up to 2000 kg and has a 750 kg unbraked towing capacity.

Mazda continues to tweak its extensive SUV cohort with the MY20 CX-8. There’s a model to suit most lifestyles and budgets. The range-topping Asaki wants for almost nothing in its segment.

Mazda CX-8 Sport 2.5 petrol FWD: $39,910
Mazda CX-8 Sport 2.2 diesel AWD: $46,910
Mazda CX-8 Touring 2.5 petrol FWD: $46,590
Mazda CX-8 Touring 2.2 diesel AWD: $53,590
Mazda CX-8 GT 2.2 diesel FWD: $57,900
Mazda CX-8 GT 2.2 diesel AWD: $61,900
Mazda CX-8 Asaki 2.2 diesel FWD: $61,440
Mazda CX-8 Asaki 2.2 diesel AWD: $65,440
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 4cyl turbocharged diesel, 6sp automatic, AWD, 5dr SUV)

Capacity: 1.956 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders inline
Maximum Power: 140 kW @ 4500 rpm
Maximum Torque: 450 Nm @ 200 rpm
Fuel Type: Diesel
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 6.0 L/100km

DRIVELINE: Six-speed automatic, AWD

Length: 4900 mm
Wheelbase: 2930 mm
Width: 1840 mm
Height: 1725 mm
Turning Circle: 10.76 metres
Kerb Mass: 1957 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 74 litres

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Disc

Five years / unlimited kilometres

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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