What is it?
Mazda’s CX-8 really is a gem of a car.
It can do everything the slightly larger CX-9 can do, but with family friendly diesel economy.
At a glance it can be difficult to tell the two 7-seaters apart, suffice to say CX-9 is 175mm longer and 129mm wider, and is powered by a thirstier turbocharged petrol engine.
CX-8 represents the diesel CX-9 buyers always wanted.
What’s it cost?
CX-8 comes in three versions: Front-wheel drive Sport, All-wheel-drive Sport and All-wheel drive Asaki — all with the same diesel engine.
Prices start at $43,910 for the CX-8 Sport, as tested, $4000 more for the AWD version or $63,090 for the top of the line Asaki AWD with all the bells and whistles.
Entry Sport is well equipped with attractive cloth trim and three-zone climate airconditioning, along with LED headlights, heads-up display, traffic sign recognition, auto high beam, rear parking sensors, 7.0-inch touchscreen with DAB+, satellite navigation and active cruise control with stop and go function.
There’s also 17 inch alloys with 225/65 rubber, auto lights and wipers plus an auto dimming rear view mirror, and six-speaker audio.
New to the list since we last drove the car is G-Vectoring Control Plus, an advanced version of GVC that adds direct yaw moment control to improve handling and stability.
Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have also been added.
Missing from the list however are front parking sensors which would be kind of handy in a vehicle measuring 4.9 metres long, because you spend a lot of time flicking between the front and the back when parking.
Being large and reasonably high off the ground CX-8 is easy to get in and out of, with wide-opening doors.
Cargo space extends from 209 litres behind the third row, with another 33 litres under the floor, to 742 with the third row folded or 1727 litres with both the second and third rows down.
And it can tow up to 2000kg.
It gets five stars for safety with six airbags, a rear view camera, Auto Emergency Braking (AEB), Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM), Lane Keep Assist (KAS) with Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Driver Attention Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA).
What’s it go like?
The 2.2-litre four cylinder turbo diesel is teamed with a 6-speed auto, with auto stop-start to save fuel — but misses out on steering wheel mounted gear change paddles.
We didn’t miss the paddles and you probably won’t either, not with plenty of torque on tap and more on your mind than pushing the speed limit.
The diesel engine produces a healthy 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque, with a 72-litre tank that is good for a claimed 5.7L/100km.
We were getting 6.2L/100km after more than 500km.
It’s a smooth, unfussed setup that’s ideal for family motoring, with plenty in reserve for steep hills and the occasional overtake.
The ride is firm, but not too firm that it is uncomfortable, with steering that is light and responsive, geared to the soccer mums who’ll probably spend most time driving the wagon.
It’s pretty quick off the line, with strong mid-range acceleration and there’s not much noise from the diesel most of the time.
To be exact, 0-100km/h takes 9.2 seconds in this model, and a slightly slower 9.6 seconds with the heavier all-wheel drive version.
Frankly, we reckon the all-wheel drive is overkill, given the level of electronic safeguards and the fact no one is likely to take this vehicle off road.
A nice touch at this price point is the heads-up window display and traffic sign recognition to keep you abreast of the current speed limit.
But the heads-up is difficult, if not impossible to see with polarised sunglasses.
The second row of seats slides backwards or forwards as required, but with the third row in use there’s not much space behind the back seat.
Although the airconditioning offers three zones (one for the rear), with separate temperature controls located at the rear of the centre console — there doesn’t seem to be any outlets for the third row where they are needed most.
If anyone is going to get sick, it’s the littlies in the third row.
What we like?
- Good looker
- Family friendly
- Relatively cheap
- Diesel performance and economy
- Easy to get in and out of
What we don’t like?
- No front parking sensors
- Analogue style instruments
- Needs more speakers for the rear
- Heads-up difficult to see with polarised sunglasses
The bottom line?
What’s not to like?
CX-8 has a lot to offer large families and at a relatively cheap entry price.
CHECKOUT: Classy CX-8 a quiet achiever
CHECKOUT: And then there was 8 – CX-8 that is
Mazda CX-8 Sport 2WD, priced from $43,910
Looks - 8/10
Performance - 8/10
Safety - 8/10
Thirst - 8/10
Practicality - 8/10
Comfort - 8/10
Tech - 8/10
Value - 8/10