Mazda launches the 5+2 CX-8, and updates the successful CX-5 too.
THERE’S AN OLD SAYING FROM AUTHOR Harper Lee that suggests ‘you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family’, basically suggesting that like ‘em or not, that family will always be there.
But the Mazda SUV family seems to be filled with models that would all be chosen, combining a range with features and family lineage that’s proving both popular and successful. The CX-7, CX-9, CX-5 and CX-3 are models that show Mazda knows which way its SUV bread is buttered, combining looks, practicality, performance, technology in everything from the compact to the large SUV, from five to seven-seats. With Mazda leading the SUV retail market, and the CX-5 in the running to claim the 2018 sales race, Mazda has put together a one-two punch with an upgrade to the hugely-popular CX-5, plus the introduction of an all-new CX-8.
Targeted at those who ‘sometimes’ require a third row, the CX-8 is marketed as a ‘5+2’ seven seater, which may answer a question not specifically asked, but that’s often the secret to creating a new niche. The 5+2 nomenclature also provides a marketing point of difference to the CX-9 pure-sevenseater, that’s a little larger than it’s new, smaller sibling.
Naturally and numerically logically, the new CX-8 fits dimensionally between the CX-5/CX-7 and CX-9, but retains the interior dimensions of the larger CX-9. The threemodel range starts with the GSX in front- or all-wheel-drive, up to the Awd-only Limited.
All models are well stacked with so many features, even in the base model you’re left wondering what would be added: 19-inch wheels and LED lights being two top-spec examples. All the expected 2018 mod-cons are there, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitors, heated seats, power tailgate, four USB ports and Bose sound system.
The combination of technology offers the closest thing to autonomous driving that a popular, ‘normal’ SUV can provide: set the cruise to the speed limit and it sets the distance to the car in front, lane departure performs minor corrections to lane position and even gently guides it through curves at speed, and even in traffic, right down to standstill, the cruise control will automatically
The new CX-8 is a 5+2 seater, providing a point of difference to the pure seven-seat, slightly larger, slightly more expensive CX-9.
restart within a few seconds – or if the wait is longer, it restarts with the flick of the resume button. Even the istop mode, which deactivates the engine to save fuel, is fast to respond and lights the ‘deactivate’ button, if the driver so chooses. No need, however, as even a tug on the steering wheel brings the engine back into life.
The Head-up Display is also brilliantly convenient, not just for the displaying the basics of speed and cruise control distance, but showing the speed limit, actively reading speed signs so a driver is always aware of the limit any time.
That engine is a next-gen evolution of the Skyactiv 2.2-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder, shared in the new CX-5. Remarkable for its performance, economy and refinement, in the just under two-tonne CX-8, the engine offers 450Nm, and as good as 6.0l/100km in FWD models, with the big 74-litre fuel tank offering a theoretical range well over 1000km. What the numbers don’t show is a supreme quietness of the engine, remarkably free of almost all diesel rattle.
Peak torque arrives at 2000rpm, but there’s a remarkable spread a power, which barely tapers off to its high (for a diesel) 5000rpm redline. The ride quality is great, vision is excellent, especially around the thin A-pillars, and the seats are very comfortable. The whole cabin is driver-centric, but feels wholly logical, laid-out neatly and highly legible; in fact, functional cabins don’t come much better.
While the external size looks small, the interior feels big, and that feeling runs all the way to the third row. Mazda suggests it’s comfortable for passengers up to 175cm, but even this 189cm test bunny climbed into the third row and found very accommodating leg and footroom, even with the second row in an ‘adult’ position. Headroom is the limiting factor, hence the Mazda height suggestion, but it’s still reasonable for six-footers, though Aucklandto-wellington could be a different story.
At 4900mm, the CX-8’S length is 200mm longer than a Santa Fe or Skoda Kodiaq/vw Allspace, and closer to the 5065mm CX-9, than the relatively stubby 4540mm CX-5; and being a few grand cheaper model-for-model, the two big Mazda siblings are almost twins, with subtle differences.
So rather than the ‘choosing family’ cliché, the CX-8 follows a different adage, proving you can never have too much of a good thing.
Third row raised accommodates passengers up to 175cm, according to Mazda, though even 190cm will fit with reasonable comfort, especially in regard to leg/footroom, and even cup-holders each side. The boot is also spacious with the seats raised.
There isn’t much missing from the Mazda CX-8’S cabin, with tech, space, practicality and modern textures and finishes.