Mazda sports utility vehicle sibling rivalry just got hotter, with a reborn five-year-old CX-8 refitted out and snapping at big brother CX-9’s heels — while fending off the challenge of the mid-size CX-5.
New signature wings add a premium quality feel, a metallic finish reflecting light in motion, enhancing vehicle dynamics, maybe the colour too, in this case Soul Red Crystal Metallic.
Mazda designers have modernised the CX-8 exterior with bold new front and rear bumpers, and tailgate, LED headlamps and tail lights, while a new front grille maintains the company’s Kodo – Soul of Motion design tradition.
Black metallic and machined finish 19-inch wheels give a lift to the sleek styling and sophistication of the GT SP.
What’s it cost?
CX-8 is available in six grades – Sport, Touring, Touring Active, GT SP, Asaki and Asaki LE – with petrol or diesel power front or all-wheel drive.
The entry-level Sport FWD petrol comes to market at $42,060, while the Asaki LE diesel AWD tips the scales at $71,410, both plus on-road costs.
Rearranging the chairs, the Touring Active takes over where the old Touring diesel stood, while the GT SP fills the gap left by the absence of the petrol and diesel Touring SP and GT models.
On test was the GT SP petrol, which takes in premium touches such as power sliding and tilting sunroof and burgundy or black leather seat trim.
Call me out of touch but I remain a fan of the switch-and-knob style of control of in-cabin tech.
There is nothing worse than sticky fingerprints on the touchscreen.
The CX-8 centre-console rotary control set-up is my kind of connection.
Some previous CX-8s had only half-smart levels of phone mirroring.
Mazda has fixed this and updates now offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay wirelessly.
Also newly included is wireless device charging and 10-speaker Bose audio.
The Mazda CX-8 scored a five-star safety rating when it was introduced in 2018.
As little has been significantly changed, the Australasian New Car Assessment Program says it will not be retesting the latest version.
Included are blind spot monitoring, lane-keep assistance, rear-cross traffic alert, tyre pressure monitoring, traffic sign recognition and Isofix child seat anchors for two of the rear seats.
A reversing camera is standard across the range but only in the Asaki and LE is there a full 360-degree system.
Mazda’s 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty, with roadside assistance, applies across the model range, with service intervals of 12 months or 15,000km.
What’s it go like?
Three rows of seats, with quality finishes, offer enough space to fit all but the most broad-beamed family members comfortably on short trips or long journeys.
Massive rear doors open to almost 90 degrees. There are sun shades too, but there’s still some clambering required before you can settle into the third row.
Once in, the upright back rest and the cramped knee situation are not conducive to long-distance comfort.
There’s limited head room here but the GT SP does have the power adjustment and rear seat heaters of upper spec’d variants.
A non-too generous 209 litres of cargo space is available with all seats in operation.
A removable base boots capacity to 242 litres.
With the third row folded the total rises to 775 litres.
On offer is the choice of two engines – a 2.5 litre four-cylinder petrol or 2.2 litre turbo-diesel – both mated with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Diesel versions boast all-wheel drive, while petrol versions have to make do with front-wheel operation only.
The test vehicle included the petrol engine, which sends a maximum 140kW of power and 252Nm of torque to the front wheels, putting the brake, so to speak, on top-notch towing.
Maximum rating is 1800kg.
The six-speed transmission is left behind by rivals with more cogs but it doesn’t seem to affect the CX-8 unduly, producing a smooth run through all but the upper echelons of the rev band.
Engine noise is the downside here.
Fuel consumption is claimed to be an average of 8.1L/100km for the petrol front-wheel drive on the combined urban/highway cycle.
The test vehicle came up with 11.4L in city and suburban work and 6.1L on motorway cruising.
With a bit of heft to handle, the ride can be hostage to some bumps and bangs over bad roads.
Steering responds with feeling and is particularly efficient in parking manoeuvres at lower speeds.