The Mazda CX-8, like its name and appearance suggest, is just another Russian doll in the Japanese brand’s successful SUV line-up.
But where the crossover CX-3 is markedly different to the CX-5 for size and the seven-seat CX-9 above that, the CX-8 sits almost neatly alongside that largest model except for a slightly smaller body and key differences underneath.
Namely, its 2.2-litre diesel is unique to the model just as the 2.5-litre petrol engine is to the CX-9 – so if you want a diesel seven-seat Mazda the CX-8 is the only option.
Vehicle Style: Large SUV
Price: $42,490 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 140kW/450Nm 2.2-litre turbo diesel 4cyl | six-speed automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 6.0 l/100km Tested: 8.2 l/100km
While the CX-8 is dimensionally a little smaller than the CX-9 it shares the same-size wheelbase at 2930mm long, which is top of the class and beyond medium five-seat SUVs that offer an (emergency) third-row. The Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace is an exception here, which also grows longer in wheelbase to add two more pews, but is not quite as liberating in the rear.
And under the bonnet is a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel ‘Skyactiv-D’ engine also used in CX-5 that’s more frugal than the petrol-only CX-9. It produces 140kW and a healthy 450Nm of torque through a six-speed automatic transmission and the option of either front- or all-wheel-drive.
The lineup starts with this front-wheel-drive Sport grade, priced at $42,490 plus on-road costs, and asks an additional $4,000 for all-wheel-drive before jumping substantially to the top-grade Asaki at $61,490.
In its most simplest form, the CX-8 comes standard with 17-inch alloys, cloth trim interior, a 7.0-inch infotainment system with DAB+ and satellite navigation, heads-up display, tri-zone climate control and remote locking with keyless start.
Standard safety technology is comprehensive and includes AEB, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning with lane keeping assist, rear-cross traffic alert and a reversing camera.
The top-grade Asaki adds more premium features, like leather trim, heated electric seats and other mod cons, but at such a substantial price increase there’s little point tossing up between model grade value. Needless to say though, the CX-8 is a competitive package.
THE INTERIOR | RATING: 4.0/5
Standard Equipment: Keyless entry with push-button start, tri-zone climate control, active cruise control, fabric trim with electrically adjustable front and second row seats, automatic on/off headlights/wipers, auto up/down high-beam and auto-dimming rear-view mirror, lane keeping assist with departure warning.
Infotainment: 7.0-inch colour screen with Bluetooth and USB input, digital radio, satellite navigation and 6-speaker.
Cargo Volume: 209/742 litres
Inside is again a reproduction of other CX- models and the dash feels open and smart, though broken up by the centrally-mounted infotainment screen. Below that the centre console contains an intuitive layout, similar to the CX-9, for climate control and function buttons, and the ergonomically positioned MZD Connect controller – a push-button rotary dial and volume knob – makes changing the infotainment settings and media playback simple. The CX-8 doesn’t have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity and instead relies on simpler Bluetooth playback.
The controls for the driver are well laid out and the seat is comfortable, finding a good position from ample seat and steering wheel adjustment that has a suitably high view.
Everything is logical and it looks tidy, even if some of the trim elements aren’t plush.
The seats themselves have a simple fabric finish but with good padded support underneath they’re comfortable and the rear pews also have some support. The CX-8's longer wheelbase pays off in the two back rows and a sliding and reclining second-row help find a ‘just right’ compromise between the seats.
The third-row feels typically squashed but it’s not bad for taller passengers, like teenagers. Problem is boot space with all seats up is reduced to 203-litres – surprisingly, that’s larger than the CX-9, even if by 6L.
However, with the third-row plumbed down the boot is 742L large, well beyond a normal medium SUV-sized boot and not far off its larger sibling. The third row can also be split folded, so it can take six passengers with liberated cargo space.
ON THE ROAD | RATING: 3.5/5
Engine: 140kW/450Nm 2.2-litre turbo diesel 4cyl
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, FWD
Suspension: MacPherson strut front and independent rear
Brakes: Ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes
Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering
It isn’t much of a surprise that the 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel in the CX-8 doesn’t feel as spritely here than in the CX-5, given it’s the biggest car in the Mazda range to use it. But its 450Nm of torque – down by 20Nm over the petrol-powered CX-9 – is enough to drag along a full car load and more importantly remain frugal.
The CX-8 drinks a claimed fuel consumption of just 6.0L/100km which is 2.8L less than the turbo petrol CX-9’s claim. We achieved 8.2L over a week which is efficient for such a large car and over long distances the diesel will prove a smart choice.
But around town the petrol CX-9 might be the better pick, as the CX-8 isn’t as refined and the diesel engine can be a little noisy, clattering on idle and especially when worked to get up to speed.
It’s not to say it isn’t a suitable unit for town and overtaking, with acceleration responsive through most of the rev range, but it doesn’t have the hushed cabin refinement found in the CX-9 or the near-priced Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace.
On the plus its ride is similar to its bigger sibling, having good compliance on varied road surfaces and a slightly elastic but direct steering response that matches a stable footing at moderate speed. It’s a good thing to move around traffic, small car parks and cruise out of the city in on the weekend.
SAFETY | RATING: 5.0/5
5 Stars – this model scored 35.87 out of 37 points when tested by ANCAP in 2017.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side and full-length curtain airbags, ABS and ESC, rear parking sensors with rear-view camera and rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitor, sub-80km/h front autonomous emergency braking (AEB) including pedestrian detection and reversing-AEB, adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years, unlimited kilometres.
Servicing: Annual or 15,000km servicing intervals with a capped-price cost of $332/$375/$332/$375/$332 for each check-up over the first five years or 50,000km.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Toyota Kluger is as big inside as it is outside and there’s lots of storage for a family to make the most of. It’s powered by a solid engine and is better value with new safety features, but compared to the CX-8 it doesn’t quite have the same finesse on detail inside.
The Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace is a late, new contender that like the CX-8 has a larger wheelbase than its five-seat equivalent sibling. It has a very smart interior that can be optioned with class-leading technology, and its engine and price are both competitive with the Mazda’s. It is, however, a touch smaller inside, with a shorter wheelbase.
The Hyundai Santa Fe has had a rejuvenation that sees it looking as modern as the best in this class. It’s big but not as big as the CX-8, and a solid alternative with a touch nicer ride.
Of course, there’s also the Mazda CX-9… which might have been overlooked if you don’t really need a diesel. Because if not, it’s priced on par with the CX-8, and is a slightly larger and more refined vehicle.
- Toyota Kluger
- Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace
- Hyundai Santa Fe
- Mazda CX-9
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL RATING: 4.0/5
It’s not exactly a CX-9 with a diesel engine but the CX-8 is a well-rounded blend of smarts from the Japanese maker’s SUV parts bin. Most important for this model the engine is good – both willing and efficient – but its noise and lack of relative refinement should be a question for buyers that don’t really need a diesel engine. The CX-9 is better in this regard, and closely priced.
As an upgrade from the CX-5 diesel, the CX-8 doesn’t miss a beat – it has more space around the cabin and a much more versatile boot, with good-looking familiarity.
- Interested in buying Mazda CX-8? Visit our Mazda showroom for more information.