FAM­ILY GUY

Mazda launches the 5+2 CX-8, and up­dates the suc­cess­ful CX-5 too.

New Zealand LCV - - CONTENTS - Story: Dean Evans

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.

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