New Zealand LCV - - LCV OF THE YEAR 2018 -

EAS­ILY THE BUSIEST SEG­MENT AND the most hotly con­tested, the top prize could have gone to any of our fi­nal­ists, each mak­ing a big im­pact through­out the driv­ing year. To even make the fi­nals in a cat­e­gory as com­pet­i­tive as the SUV mar­ket is a tough chal­lenge, it­self packed with sub cat­e­gories for small, medium and large. We’ve gath­ered our five best, which co­in­ci­den­tally, some­what fit­tingly, span all size cat­e­gories.

VW’S Tiguan Allspace is al­most a proxy fi­nal­ist, rep­re­sent­ing the 2017-win­ning Skoda Kodiaq upon which it’s based, its seven seats and 162kw in­duc­ing big smiles from our speed-hun­gry test mules. Hyundai’s Kona com­bines all the strong at­tributes of a com­pact SUV into a uniquely styled and supremely prac­ti­cal pack­age;

Our aim is to pick fault as much as find forte, and the Mazda CX-8 just kept re­sist­ing crit­i­cism.

the ad­di­tion of the EV model alone could have won the award, and the Kona has proven a sales suc­cess, in the top ten for much of the year. Holden’s Aca­dia was a pleas­ant sur­prise, and for a re­badged GMC with the rep­u­ta­tion of an Amer­i­can im­port muscling in on our ground, it sur­passed the hype, com­bined with a sharp price and a dy­nam­i­cally im­pres­sive pack­age. And then there’s the Subaru Forester, an in­cred­i­bly ac­com­plished pack­age, highly prac­ti­cal, full of ad­vanced tech and it sounds good, too; a lit­tle like the iconic Subarus of old.

But as good as all those SUVS are, there was one that pushed our plea­sure cen­tre just a lit­tle harder. Mazda’s all new CX-8 slot­ted in nu­mer­i­cally neatly be­tween the CX-5 and CX-9, two al­ready im­pres­sive pack­ages. Not just com­bin­ing the best of both worlds, but mak­ing them bet­ter, the CX-8 takes the seven-seat prac­ti­cal­ity and func­tion­al­ity of the CX-9, shrinks the pack­age ever so slightly, repli­cates the best bits of mod­ern tech from the CX-5, and puts it all to­gether in one supremely sat­is­fy­ing SUV.

The CX-8 didn’t ex­actly blow us away at the mid-year launch drive. It was com­pe­tent and im­pres­sive, but the more we drove it, the more we loved it. Over an ex­tended drive, and dur­ing our seven-seat com­par­i­son against some tough com­pe­ti­tion, CX-8 proved it­self thor­oughly com­plete, highly pol­ished and value-packed. Through­out the crit­i­cal test­ing, our aim is to pick fault as much as find forte, and the CX-8 just kept re­sist­ing crit­i­cism.

CX-8’S seven seat lay­out ac­com­mo­dates ev­ery pas­sen­ger in supreme com­fort, its dash lay­out com­bines form and func­tion, par­tic­u­larly with the Carplay/auto up­dates that can be retro­fit­ted to early mod­els, and its 2.2 Sky­ac­tiv diesel is not just ath­let­i­cally fast AND fru­gal, it sounds great, too, an as­pect not of­ten heard in this mar­ket. Then there’s the price com­po­nent: cheaper than its di­rect ri­vals, and with high equip­ment lev­els in lower mod­els. In a tough field of out­stand­ing fi­nal­ists, a split de­ci­sion is a re­minder that 2018’s top-five SUVS were all ex­tremely im­pres­sive, but the Mazda pushes the lim­its just that lit­tle more. Tech, style, com­fort, per­for­mance, prac­ti­cal­ity, econ­omy, price, safety: check, times eight.

In a se­lect pool of ex­cep­tional SUV fi­nal­ists, Mazda’s CX-8 is LCV’S SUV of the Year.

CX-8 in­te­rior is stylish, func­tional, loaded with tech­nol­ogy and seats seven in com­fort, in­clud­ing ex­cel­lent third row ac­com­mo­da­tion for six-foot­ers.

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