LCV SUV OF THE YEAR: Mazda CX-8
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.