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Mazda’s new CX-8 fills a niche by delivering the company’s only diesel seven-seater to the Australian market.
Report by Greg Hill
High safety standards and equipment levels across the range.
Responsive and comfortable when cruising on the highway.
Space – for adults – is not abundant in second and third rows.
Yet another SUV has joined Mazda’s already impressive Australian line-up. The CX-8 diesel seven-seat wagon slips into the range between the top selling CX-5 and the CX-9 turbo-petrol model, combining appealing aspects from both these vehicles.
As Mazda Australia’s only seven-seat diesel wagon, the CX-8 is aimed at the buyer with a growing family. It has the same wheelbase as the CX-9 but overall length is marginally less, while the width is the same as the CX-5. The 2.2-litre SKYACTIV-D engine and six-speed SKYACTIV automatic transmission also come from the recently upgraded CX-5.
Mazda expects the front-wheel-drive Sport model will account for around 60 per cent of sales.
In the three-model range, even the entry-level, front-wheel-drive Sport version at $42,490 plus on-road costs has the look and feel of a premium model, with high-quality trim materials and a generous list of standard features that are often reserved for top-of-the-line models, such as a head-up display, three-zone climate control and LED headlights.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are coming later in the year but are available as a retro fit (at a cost) for the early versions. Safety features are also comprehensive across the range, including emergency braking, blind-spot, lane-departure and lane-change assistance, and rear cross-traffic alert.
Mazda expects the front-wheel-drive Sport model will account for around 60 per cent of sales, but for those who want the extra traction of on-demand all-wheel-drive, it is a $4000 step up to the similarly equipped Sport AWD version.
Then there’s a massive $15,000 jump to the range-topping Asaki AWD at $61,490 plus on-road costs. As there are no fundamental mechanical differences between the Asaki and Sport AWD models, the extra spend basically delivers cosmetic and convenience features, including bigger wheels, powered tailgate, adaptive LED headlights, leather trim, power adjustable front seats, heated front and second row outer seats, a 360-degree view monitor and advanced keyless entry.
The CX-8’s extra length over the CX-5 provides enough space for a third row where access, although a bit awkward, is still better than most. There’s adequate leg room for two adults to sit in reasonable comfort but head room isn’t abundant. The second-row seats slide, allowing for some compromises if needed. There’s not much luggage space when all seats are occupied.
When they’re not, split-folding of the second and third rows provides plenty of versatility. Fitting three adults across the second row is a squeeze. The two outer seats are well shaped and comfortable with plenty of space, but the middle seat is not much more than a token effort.
The CX-8 always felt responsive and cruised comfortably.
The CX-8 is a relaxed and easy car to drive over long distances. The front seats provide good support, while the familiar Mazda dash layout is clear and functional. The engine has to haul approximately 200 kilograms more than in the CX-5 but with 140kW and, importantly, a strong 450Nm of torque, it has no problems coping with normal conditions. Initial acceleration might not be as spritely as the CX-5 but on a lengthy drive over a variety of town and rural roads, the CX-8 always felt responsive and cruised comfortably.
Lower fuel consumption, not only over its CX-9 petrol stablemate but also some similar-sized diesel competitors such as Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento, add to the CX-8’s appeal. Official consumption is a pleasing 5.7L/100km for the two-wheel-drive version and 6.0L/100km in AWD form. Diesel engine noise is evident at times but overall the cabin is relatively quiet.
Mazda Australia has retained the Japanese suspension settings which deliver a soft, compliant ride, making the CX-8 a very relaxed and comfortable cruiser. Some body movement is noticeable and you are aware of the vehicle’s size and weight when hurrying along on winding country roads, but generally the ride is well controlled, the steering has a good feel and the handling is secure.
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