SPOTLIGHT ON SPACE
MAZDA CX-8 FITS THE FAMILY ... AND PARKING SPOTS
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.