AA Driven Car of the Year large SUV winner: Mazda CX-8, smooth operator
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Sometimes the world doesn't necessarily know what it wants until you put that thing in front of them. And the Mazda CX-8 — a 2018 AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year finalist — could be considered one such car.
It joined Mazda's SUV line-up last year, above the CX-3 and CX-5, and underneath the CX-9. In a sense, it seemed a curious edition next to the larger 'nine', given that both feature seven seats and on the surface seem similar in size. But, that hasn't stopped it from being a success and, ultimately, being crowned as our large SUV of the year segment winner.
The CX-8 faced formidable rivals in fellow class podium getters from Holden (the Acadia, a 2019 outright finalist) and Volvo (the plush XC90).
Somewhat ironically, the CX-8 slots neatly between the two. Priced at $53,490 it is a firm competitor with the $49,990 Acadia for those on a budget, but simultaneously the interior quality — particularly in regards to the leather and soft-touch surfaces — is comparable not only to the Volvo, but to most potential European rivals.
The nicely finished cabin is complemented by the CX-8's smooth on-road demeanour. It comes with a capable 2.2-litre twin-turbo diesel engine making 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque, effectively sliding it next to the capabilities of a V6 engine.
“The CX-8 has an exceptionally smooth six-speed automatic transmission, and the whole package is said to return fuel consumption figures of 6 litres per 100km travelled,” said former Driven editor and current COTY judge Tony Verdon during his CX-8 road test.
“So fuel economy would be another point score for the CX-8, providing in theory an exceptional fuel range of about 1200km from the 74-litre fuel tank.
“The six-speed automatic gearbox slides through the gears smoothly, and although the CX-8 doesn’t have the sheer grunt of the larger sibling, it has more than ample power, which is delivered without undue pressure on the engine.”
As we recently found out in the production of our 7-seat special edition buyer's guide, the large-SUV segment is brimming with high-quality competitors. The CX-8, Acadia, and XC90 are just the start, with relatively new entrants like the SEAT Tarraco and former COTY winning Skoda Kodiaq rubbing shoulders with established players like the Toyota Highlander and Hyundai Santa Fe.
All of which makes the CX-8's position at the top of the pile all the more impressive.