What is it?
My apologies in advance.
I was hoping to tell you about the new, cheaper, petrol-powered version of the Mazda’s CX-8.
But alas, Mazda went and sold the car from under me, and so this review is about the top of the line Asaki, diesel-powered, all-wheel drive model instead.
The difference? Pointedly, about $25,000, which puts the Asaki in an entirely different bracket and in front of an altogether different audience, with its decidedly non-family friendly white leather upholstery.
The more recent CX-8 is slightly smaller than the CX-9, but they look similar and CX-8 still provides seating for up to seven occupants.
We’ve never really thought of either model as an SUV, more of a people mover in disguise with its sleek, rounded boy shape.
But an SUV it is and the main drawcard for CX-8 is the lean-burn diesel, favoured overwhelmingly by buyers in this section of the market.
The addition of a cheaper petrol version does however bring the car within reach of young families.
What’s it cost?
The CX-8 lineup has diversified since we last drove the car.
As mentioned it now comes with a choice of petrol or diesel engines, front- and all-wheel drive and four trim levels: Sport, Touring, GT and Asaki.
The petrol version however comes in only entry Sport and Touring grades and only with front-wheel drive.
Prices start at $39,910 for the petrol, front-wheel drive CX-8 Sport. The Touring version is $46,590 — both figures before on-road costs.
Then it’s a hop, skip and am jump to the diesel, all-wheel drive Sport at $46,910, all-wheel drive Touring at $53,590, front-drive GT at $57,900, front-drive Asaki at $61,440 and finally top of the line Asaki all-wheel drive at $65,440.
The entry model is surprisingly well equipped with attractive cloth trim and three-zone climate air, along with LED headlights, heads-up display, traffic sign recognition, auto high beam, rear parking sensors, 8.0-inch touchscreen with DAB+, satellite navigation and active cruise control with stop and go function.
It gets five stars for safety too with six airbags, 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).
Moving up the food chain, you get leather, larger 19 inch alloys, front park sensors, and power adjustment for the front seats, along with a sunroof, 273-watt Bose sound with 10 speakers, heated rear seats and a power tailgate.
Asaki adds Dark Russet or Pure White Nappa leather, real wood door and dashboard inserts, heated steering wheel, cooling for the front seats, adaptive headlights and a 360 degree monitor — to name a few.
What’s it go like?
The 2.2-litre four cylinder turbo diesel produces a healthy 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque.
It is paired with a 6-speed auto, with auto engine stop-start to save fuel — but does not come with gear change paddles.
Nor are there drive modes available.
That said, we didn’t particularly miss the paddles, not with plenty of low down torque — but it’s not that kind of car anyway.
With seating for seven, it’s designed to haul a tribe and that means weekend sport and long, leisurely drives in the country for the most part — neither of which require the terms acceleration or handling.
The diesel drinks from a 72-litre tank and is good for a claimed 5.9L/100km, which is frankly amazing for a vehicle this size.
We were getting 6.9L/100km after more than 300km (the last time we got 6.2L).
For a big car it feels smaller than its 4.9 metres suggest, with plenty of legroom for front and second row passengers.
The flip up third row seats are substantial, but legroom could be the subject of negotiation with those in front — slide the second row forward and it’s all good.
The cabin in Asaki exudes class, with top rate fit and finish, upmarket Nappa leather and real wood inlays.
The tiny sunroof is however just that — tiny — and of benefit to only front seat occupants.
The boot with the third row in use is small, but that’s par for the course.
Instrumentation is showing its age, with a smaller screen than more recent models and not as many options for configuring the partly digital dash.
We do however like the tiny speed limit reminder and the way a red line follows the needle of the analogue style speedo as soon as you exceed the limit.
A digital speed is offered by the head-up display, but sadly the display is near invisible if you happen to wear polarised sunglasses.
The diesel is smooth and relatively quiet, with plenty under foot for steep hills and the occasional overtake.
A look at the specs reveals it has technology to reduce the noise of the engine: Natural Sound Frequency Control and Natural Sound Smoother.
It’s reasonably quick off the mark too, with strong mid-range acceleration. The dash from 0-100km/h takes 9.6 seconds in the heavier all-wheel drive version.
The ride is firm, but not overly firm, and it handles reasonably well, with plenty of grip in corners at what we’d call reasonable speeds.
Helping keep things in check is G-Vectoring Control Plus that brakes individual wheels to help maintain corner control.
Given the level of electronic aids and the fact it unlikely to go off road — all wheel drive is almost overkill.
Although the climate control system 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.
The doesn’t bode well for kids in the back who could well add to the colour scheme if you’re not careful.
There’s 209 litres of luggage space behind the third row, with another 33 litres under the floor, or 742 litres with the third row folded — or 1727 litres with both the second and third rows lying flat.
And, in case you’re wondering, CX-8 can tow up to 2000kg.
What we like?
- Good looker
- Good size
- Car-like handling
- Ease of entry and exit
- Diesel performance and economy
What we don’t like?
- Price not family friendly
- White leather less than family friendly
- Old-style analogue style instruments
- Heads-up difficult to see with polarised sunglasses
The bottom line?
The price of a car is of course relative to income.
To some $65K is a fortune, for others it probably an absolute bargain, especially given Asaki’s level of equipment, Nappa leather and real wood trim.
We look forward to driving the entry, petrol-powered Sport when it becomes available.
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Mazda CX-8 2.2 Askaki AWD, priced from $65,440