Mazda CX-8: Premium position
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Mazda New Zealand’s first CX-8 medium SUV is not only a much-needed addition to its line-up but offers versatility for Kiwi buyers.
The CX-8 is priced from $53,495 for the two-wheel-drive GSX, $2500 extra for a four-wheel-drive of that spec, and $62,495 for the Limited model.
It sits physically and model-wise between the CX-5 and CX-9, and is powered by Mazda’s latest version of the SkyActiv diesel 2.2L engine, producing 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque.
No petrol version is available because the CX-8 was built for the domestic Japanese market where there are tax incentives for diesel vehicles.
For Mazda NZ, this vehicle comes at the right time, with at least 34 medium SUVs up for offer for Kiwi buyers.
It’s also proving a good year for Mazda with May being its best month on record and, in April, it lead the passenger segment thanks in part to the CX-5 outselling its competition and making up for 30 per cent of the brand’s sales.
The CX-8 is a genuine seven seater, although Mazda NZ is calling the CX-8 a five-plus-two seater. The third row lies flat in the large boot or you can engage the two extra seats by pulling on a handle.
The third row is easily accessed from the rear passenger doors via a lever of the second row seats that folds the seat back and slides the seat forward. I could enter and exit the third row without any effort and it can accommodate a person up to 1.75cm tall.
This makes it a great prospect for a family of four that has to add extra people during the weekend, or someone after something longer than a compact SUV when it comes to size accommodation.
Mazda NZ’s manager of product, Tim Nalden, says the CX-8 arrives “at a time when demand for SUV and crossover has never been stronger”.
He said though diesel sales had dropped away “we think it’s due for a revival”.
He told the media at this week’s Hampton Downs launch that the company expected to sell 1000 CX-8s in its first 12 months of sale here, with 55 per cent of take-up to be the Limited model.
Competition for the CX-8 includes the seven-seater Hyundai Santa Fe, the Kia Sorrento and “even the Audi Q7”, said Mazda NZ.
The company also disputed that the CX-8 would affect CX-5 and CX-9 sales, as “it pays its own way in the world”.
What makes this — and the rest of the Mazda fleet — stand out is the extensive list of standard features.
The standard safety features such as blind spot monitoring and head up display takes on the European brands.
That’s kudos to Mazda and a reason this Japanese manufacturer deserves its premium spot when it comes to new vehicle sales in New Zealand.
Mazda also describes it as “wagon-like” and expected it to be a popular fleet vehicle.
Appearance wise, it looks like a smaller CX-9 rather than a stretched CX-5, due to the long proportions.
Mazda NZ’s managing director, David Hodge, says the CX-8 will be a popular addition to the company’s award-winning SUV line-up.
“We believe it will appeal to private buyers but we also envisage fleets will find it an attractive proposition for those looking for an efficient and versatile vehicle that is equally at home around town or on the open road.”
Though I’m not sold on the exterior looks, I just had a two-hour drive programme following another CX-8, and I can praise Mazda on its interior.
It takes cues from the CX-9 when it comes to the driver area.
Mazda CX-9 design director Julien Montousse based this area on his own prototype personal submarine, the CODsub.
That look has influenced the future design of Mazda’s interior — it is driver-focused with all the controls needed sitting within easy reach of the driver, plus a more cocooned look and feel.
The interiors are refined thanks to the use of Nappa leather and real wood in the Limited model while the GSX gets metal-style insets.
The interior makes it a great place to sit during long drives with a two-hour loop from Hampton Downs to the countryside to the east.
The 2.2-litre diesel engine now has multiple injections of fuel in quick succession to increase power, while a two-stage turbo charger increases boost efficiency.
The torque from the diesel engine was evident as I drove through the quiet roads, with the CX-8 easily overtaking slower farm vehicles.
The CX-8 has the same suspension system as the CX-9 with the inclusion of G-vectoring control, meaning cornering is made easier and less effort needed from the driver.
Again the route proved this, the CX-8 taking the many corners on the winding roads with ease.
Talking to motoring industry colleagues this week after the event showed the diversity of customers for this vehicle.
Due to its 2000kg braked towing capacity, one said it would suit a colleague who towed his boat most weekends, while another with young kids thought it would be ideal for his family.