SPOT­LIGHT ON SPACE

MAZDA CX-8 FITS THE FAM­ILY ... AND PARK­ING SPOTS

Mercury (Hobart) - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - GRANT EDWARDS

Mazda is con­fi­dent it has the sev­enseater bases cov­ered with the not-too-big, not-too-small and jus­tright CX-8. The diesel-only SUV, start­ing from $42,490 plus on­roads, cruises into a seg­ment be­tween its sta­ble­mates, the mid-size CX-5 and larger CX-9, which also has net­ball team ca­pac­ity.

“Each of our SUVs has a dis­tinct au­di­ence … con­sumers want choices,” says Mazda Aus­tralia boss Vi­nesh Bhindi. “The CX-8 is … for grow­ing fam­i­lies, who have one to two kids and might be con­sid­er­ing an­other and of­ten find them­selves with a few ex­tra pas­sen­gers as friends come along for the drive.

“Where the CX-9 is too big and the CX-5 too small, the Mazda CX-8 an­swers the call as the per­fect in-be­tweener.”

The CX-8 com­bines fam­ily traits and di­men­sions. It is 175mm shorter than the petrolonly CX-9, shares its 2930mm wheel­base and at 129mm nar­rower is the same width as a CX-5.

New car shop­pers are aban­don­ing diesels in the wake of the Volk­swa­gen Diesel­gate scan­dal, but it re­mains the en­gine of choice for those in high-end large SUVs. With that in mind, petrol is not an op­tion on the CX-8. Mazda’s cus­tomer anal­y­sis found this was no hand­i­cap.

“Peo­ple re­ally like the fuel con­sump­tion sticker num­bers but whether it was a diesel or petrol was ir­rel­e­vant,” says Mazda mar­ket­ing chief Alastair Doak.

Rais­ing eye­brows is the CX-8’s po­ten­tial range of 1300km on one tank. The diesel claims 5.7L/100km in the front-wheel drive Sport.

It’s a sim­ple model line-up, with just two mod­els sep­a­rated by a large price gap.

The base Sport grade is avail­able in front­drive or the $4000 more ex­pen­sive all-wheel drive. All-wheel drive also comes with a weight penalty that bumps the claimed thirst to 6.0L.

Step in­side the CX-8 and savour the mar­que’s push to­ward “main­stream pre­mium”. As with the re­cently re­leased Mazda6 sedan, it’s a size­able step up­mar­ket with ma­te­ri­als and styling.

Shiny pi­ano black fin­ishes on the con­sole and doors com­bine with faux leather and sil­ver gar­nishes. Even the cloth trim looks classy.

Other ba­sic equip­ment in­cludes a thin seven-inch colour touch­screen with sat­nav, dig­i­tal ra­dio and three-zone air­con.

It’s a hefty step up to the range-top­ping Asaki vari­ant at $61,490, which comes stan­dard with all-paw grip along with nappa leather trim, 19-inch al­loys (up from 17s), power tail­gate, power ad­just­ment of the front seats, Bose au­dio and ad­vanced key­less en­try.

Safety is solid across the three-tier range, in­clud­ing Mazda’s city brake support which ap­plies the brake au­to­mat­i­cally if an im­mi­nent col­li­sion is de­tected be­tween 4km/h-80km/h, or in re­verse.

ANCAP has yet to crash test the CX-8. Key in­clu­sions are lane-keep as­sist to steer the car within road lines if the driver wan­ders, radar cruise con­trol to main­tain a set dis­tance from ve­hi­cles ahead, re­vers­ing cam­era and rear park­ing sen­sors.

Its head-up dis­play projects speed and other de­tails on to the wind­screen rather than a popup panel as in pre­vi­ous Maz­das.

Un­like some com­peti­tors the cur­tain airbags pro­vide pro­tec­tion to the end of the third row.

Seven colours are on the palette: ti­ta­nium, black, blue and white, with a $300 pre­mium for metal­lic red, sil­ver and grey.

ON THE ROAD

Sound sup­pres­sion is im­pres­sive. Only the coars­est chip sur­faces gen­er­ate road rum­ble.

The diesel is also quiet. At idle when it reaches op­er­at­ing tem­per­a­ture, many would strug­gle to de­tect it’s an oil-burner and it’s strong to boot — plant your foot and the power de­liv­ery is smooth and ro­bust.

On the open road, the head-up dis­play is a handy ally as the CX-8 silently moves through the six ra­tios with ease.

There are no pad­dle shifters on the steer­ing wheel but they’re not needed, as the au­to­matic box shifts in­tu­itively to cruise at 100km/h at 2000rpm.

Our 300km jour­ney in the front-drive Sport, which is tipped to be the vol­ume seller, in­cluded some spir­ited hilly driv­ing. We av­er­aged 6.9L/100km, more than a litre over the claimed com­bined fig­ure.

The quiet cabin en­vi­ron­ment ac­cords with the com­fort tun­ing of the sus­pen­sion.

The CX-8 bounces over some mid-cor­ner bumps but main­tains its com­po­sure in most con­di­tions.

The traf­fic sign recog­ni­tion uses cam­eras to read signs and pro­vide a constant re­minder of zone re­stric­tions in the head-up dis­play.

Switch on the in­tel­li­gent speed as­sis­tance and it will keep to the zone’s des­ig­nated pace, en­sur­ing you never get on the wrong side of a speed cam­era. It worked nearly per­fectly for our jour­ney, in­clud­ing road­works, and was tripped up only briefly in a 100km/h sec­tion.

Op­er­a­tionally there is noth­ing too flashy. Ana­log gauges in­form the driver, Mazda’s dex­ter­ous dial con­trols the main screen func­tions, there are a pair of USB ports in the front con­sole and the back and a 12V port sits on the front pas­sen­ger side.

Smaller adults can fit in the third row but any­one taller than 170cm will find their hair brush­ing the roof lin­ing.

There is three-zone cli­mate con­trol, with in­de­pen­dent di­als for the sec­ond row but noth­ing for those fur­ther aft.

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