Mazda CX-8 review: Rising to the occasion

If you have a large family, options for cars that can ferry everyone around start to dwindle very quickly.


Back in the early 2010s, MPVs were all the rage, and the streets were full of Toyota Wishes and Honda Streams.


Today, the market has gravitated towards SUVs, and while MPVs are still around they have gained loads both in price and size. Plus, boxy toaster looks might not appeal to some car buyers.


There aren’t many SUVs on the market that come with seven seats. Competition is scarce, but Mazda has answered the call with the Mazda CX-8. So then, is it any good?


If the styling works, don’t change it

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Compared to other SUVs on the market where funky styling and bold lines tend to lead to unique and sometimes questionable looks, the CX-8 has a relatively understated design language. This allows it to fly under the radar and some might not even realise this model exists.


However, it still has Kodo design traits that make it quintessentially Mazda, and its styling lines up nicely with the rest of the current model range.


Up front, a unique chrome radiator grille announces to the whole world that you bought the highest-end ‘Super Luxury’ variant, accompanied by adaptive LED headlights.

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This variant also receives larger 19-inch alloy wheels, but aside from that there’s not much bling anywhere else. To be honest, if you take a glance at the CX-8, you might very well confuse it for its larger CX-9 sibling.


Tricks up its sleeve

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Sitting inside, you really feel separated both from the rest of the world outside, and your other passengers. Each seat is situated far apart from one another, and each occupant feels like they have their own personal space in the car.


As this is the six-seater ‘Super Luxury’ option, there is a 2nd row centre console as opposed to a regular ‘peasant’ seat.

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Up on the flight deck, I really like the design of the cabin.


Although it may look cramped on first glance, there is more than enough space to manoeuvre around, and everything you need is within arm’s length.


The highest end CX-8 also comes with premium Nappa leather over its cheaper siblings, but you can only get it in brown. That’s going to make it hard to decide on an exterior colour to match.

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The multitude of controls also makes the CX-8 feel like an aircraft cockpit, and drivers may require a bit of time to familiarise where everything is.


Still, having physical buttons is much better than having everything jam packed onto a screen.


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Speaking of screens, they may seem slightly dated for our current generation of cars, but they still function as intended without trying too hard in order to impress your passengers.


The instrument cluster, at first glance, might seem old school analogue. But, upon closer inspection it is actually a digital 7.0-inch display.


Whilst most manufacturers are steering towards fanciful displays, a screen that just works in a natural and unobtrusive way is still my preferred choice.


Functional over form any day.

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The CX-8 is quiet even at speed, meaning you get to enjoy all your favourite tunes with clarity thanks to the 10-speaker Bose system. The system seamlessly integrates with your smartphone too via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.


Space for all

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You do lose some sitting space with the six-seater option as the centre console is fixed in place, but what you gain is a lot more functionality.


The only gripe I have is the ingress-egress speed of 3rd row passengers. As the 2nd row seats are fully electric, it does take some time for the seat to fully shift into place.


This is especially annoying when you are trying to drop passengers off.

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I can already imagine angry impatient drivers honking at you whilst you desperately try to get the seat back into position at an MRT drop-off point.

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Even with all seats up, the 209-litre boot is still big enough to be able to take in your weekly groceries shop. Knock the 3rd row seats down, and you get a copious loading area that can easily engulf a few full sized suitcases or golf bags.


This variant even comes with a kick sensor and electric tailgate, making it seamless to load items even with full hands.


Dignified, refined drive

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The renowned Skyactiv-G 2.5-litre engine residing in the CX-8 churns out a respectable 195bhp and 258Nm of torque, and is butter smooth throughout the rev range. It doesn’t provide brute amounts of power, but instead delivers it gently to accentuate a comfortable ride.


The six-speed automatic with manual override feeds power nicely, and the CX-8 is responsive when you need it to. Although I suspect most people who buy this car wouldn’t even bother shifting gears manually, and Mazda predicted this too, citing the lack of paddle shifters.

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On the other hand, should you want to take it up a notch the CX-8 has a surprisingly pleasant exhaust note. You’ll hear it loud and clear as the engine tries to propel all 1.8 tonnes of metal in 10.7 seconds for the century sprint.


My test drive with the CX-8 yielded a fuel consumption figure of 10.2km/L, and that is with a bit of enthusiastic throttle pressing.


Not bad, but not something you can gloat to your friends about.Mazda focused a lot of their efforts on the suspension setup when improving the CX-8, and it is definitely noticeable. The car glides over bumps in the road, and the ride quality is superb.


Instead of intrusive and boisterous safety alarms some cars tend to have, the CX-8’s safety features work as intended without giving you a jump scare each time you change lanes without signalling.

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Adaptive cruise control works like a charm, and its a simple affair to operate.


Its lane keep assist system guides you back into your designated lane without fuss, and the blind-spot monitoring system gently reminds you of traffic either through calm beeps, or via a graphic on the heads-up display.


It almost feels like a butler who is with you in the car. Professional, calm, and will only speak to you in polite soft tones. This is a car not meant to be rushed, but rather a car that guides you to your destination with poise.


Bang for your buck

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Coming in at $232,888 at the time of writing for the top-tier model, it really puts the CX-8 at a competitive edge over some of its seven-seater competition. Cars like the Mercedes GLB come to mind at a similar price range, and that doesn’t even come close in terms of both space and features.


While driving this thing is a reasonably simple affair, I would actually prefer to sit in the back. Rear occupants, especially in the 2nd row, are pampered with features.


Combine that with fantastic legroom and ample amounts of headroom, and you get a winning package for long road trips.

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If you are looking for a car that can transport your entire family in comfort and be able to eat up the miles without much hesitation, this is a good candidate.


Sure, it doesn’t have a prolific badge as do some of its European competition. But, it can certainly stand toe to toe with them.


Now the question is, will you opt for the six or seven-seater?


(Prices are accurate as of time of writing)


Specs








Price

$232,888 (inclusive of COE)


VES Banding: C1

Performance

Engine: 2.5-litre Skyactiv-G DOHC inline four-cylinder, petrol


Power: 195 bhp


Torque: 258 Nm


Fuel Consumption: 12.3 km/L (official) / 10.2 km/l (recorded)


0-100km/h: 10.7 seconds


Transmission: Six-speed Skyactiv-Drive automatic, Front-Wheel-Drive


Brakes: Ventilated Discs (front), Discs (rear)


Suspension: MacPherson (front) / Multi-link (rear)

Measurements

Dimensions (LxWxH): 4,900 mm x 2,115 mm x 1,725 mm


Wheelbase: 2,930 mm


Kerb Weight: 1,815 kg


Fuel Tank Capacity: 72 litres


Boot Capacity: 209 litres (seats up), 775 litres (3rd row folded)


Tyres: 225/55 R19

Features

Adaptive LED headlights


Apple CarPlay & Android Auto


Advanced Keyless Entry


Auto Door Lock & Walk Away Lock


Electric Seats


Front & Rear LED Turning Indicators


Hands-free Electric Tailgate


Intelligent Cruise Control


Nappa Leather


10-speaker Bose Sound System


360-degree View Monitor


ALSO READ: A day out with the new Audi RS3 Sportback & Sedan


This article was first published in Motorist.

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