The sights and sounds of Whāngārei with the Mazda CX-8
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We’re advised to be early for the Whāngārei Growers’ Market; so we decide 8am last Saturday is a good time, expecting there to be smaller autumn numbers than the summer crowds.
And for most of the stalls’ offering — newly dug veges with traces of soil still clinging to them, smoked bacon and salami, honey, jams and chutneys, ripe camembert and aged gouda — we’re happy with our timing.
But we miss out on the free-range eggs and crowd-pleaser pesto. For those, you do need to set the alarm to arrive at 6am.
Never mind, we’re happy to fill our reusable bags with fresh fruit and veges, cheeses and honey knowing we have plenty of space and then some more in our weekend drive, a seven-seater AWD Mazda CX-8 in stunning Soul Red Crystal.
Our park near the council building is across the road from the markets so, once we’re finished shopping, we leave our bags in the boot and have breakfast at Bob’s Cafe just around the corner, knowing we don’t have to feed the meter as weekend parking is free in Whāngārei.
This diesel-powered SUV also happens to be the winner of 2018 AA/Driven/COTY Large SUV-Best in Class, another reason we’re keen to see what appeals to the hard-to-impress judges.
It certainly looks smart. When we send brag pics to family, we receive complimentary comments on its looks. You’d happily park this smart-looking vehicle near the CEO’s six-figure car in the office park, but it has a handsome functionality about it too, and easily transitions from corporate life to workhorse. Baby buggies, a family’s worth of luggage or golf clubs easily fit in the boot.
We collect the CX-8 from Mt Wellington, then wait patiently in slow-moving motorway traffic to head north on a Friday morning. Even at higher speeds the diesel engine is quiet as this six-speed automatic delivers 140kW/450Nm.
My co-pilot husband tries some control options, helpfully giving me a beeping warning should I go a kilometre over the speed limit. That sounds is turned off pronto but Lane Keep Assist stays on, and I tap in three bars on my seat warmer for a toasty ride.
Though we have Bluetooth capacity, we’re happy to surf radio channels.
It’s also reassuring knowing we have safety features such as blind spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic alert and Autonomous Emergency Braking should we need it.
Fortunately, we don’t have cause to try most of those, but motorway driving activates the blind spot monitoring a couple of times.
Our trip includes the winding roads on S16 between Helensville and Wellsford, the Brynderwyns’ twists and turns, and more hills on a diversion between Waiwera and Orewa on the return trip. Cornering is painless, with power on tap when needed and suspension damping keeping the ride comfortable.
For a larger vehicle, we have a good sense of the SUV’s dimensions, and always feel fully aware of placement on the road. Economical too, with us nudging close to the quoted fuel use of 6L/100km.
We still have well over half a tank once we’re back in Auckland.
- The AWD Mazda CX-8 starts at $55,995.