AA Driven COTY 2018: Why the Mazda CX-8 made the top 10
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As the demand for SUVs has grown, manufacturers have adapted to plug as many holes and fulfil the requirements of the consumer in as many ways as possible.
And Mazda is no different. Its SUV range was already a fairly comprehensive one entering 2018 — the entry-level CX-3 complemented by the mid-size CX-5 and large CX-9. But, for those wanting a foundation seven-seater option, the new CX-8 was a welcome option.
Launched in June, the CX-8 successfully combined a more accessible set of dimensions and a $53,495 starting sticker price (all-wheel drive models start at $55,995, while the upscale Limited range-topper sits at $62,496) with seven-seat practicality and a refined turbo-diesel engine.
But for many of the judges on the AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year panel, it’s Mazda’s distinctive “Kodo” design ethos that tops the CX-8’s list of best characteristics.
“Mazda has for many years based its design and engineering around a Japanese process known as “Jinba Ittai”, an appreciation of the synergy between a ceremonial Samurai archer and his horse,” explain the judges.
“In the CX-8, the first sign of feel-good is when you start its 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine, a refined, frugal unit delivering 140kW/450Nm and mated to a six-speed automatic.
“The CX-8 needs no more than six gears to return fuel use on trial of around 7 litres/100km.”
Click here to read the full Mazda CX-8 road test
Indeed, the CX-8 was one of the most comfortable and easy-going cars in the AACOTY line-up. Its interior quality and finish easily rivals European rivals — tasteful applications of piano black and matt-finish metal helping give the SUV a firmly premium feel.
On the road, plush suspension damping made for a relaxing drive. This is supported by an engine that’s almost silent, despite its diesel demeanour. Whereas some other SUVs lean towards more sporting suspension set-ups, the CX-8 sticks to the traditional luxury values of the genre.
This isn’t a “sporty” SUV, but it’s all the better for it.
As you would expect, the CX-8 comes with a comprehensive suite of safety technology. Autonomous Emergency Braking, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, and adaptive cruise control are standard across the range.
Among the more advanced features is the CX-8’s lane-keep assist. It does a stand-up job at keeping the SUV in the middle of its lane and forms a reasonable basis for a Level 2 autonomous system. Those disconcerted by the wheel’s shuffling movements underneath their fingertips, however, can simply turn it off.
The CX-5 — one of Mazda’s reliable sales heroes — has been a star of its segment for several years. And the CX-8 simply builds on this platform under many of the same principles; comfort, practicality, and style.
• As a finalist in the AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year award, the Mazda CX-8 is also a contender for the People’s Choice Award. Cast your vote by clicking here. Your entry could win an eight-night Fiji cruise for two.