Mazda CX-8 road test: the same, but different
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Mazda offers two large SUVs that, on the surface at least, are almost identical twins: the CX-8 and the slightly larger CX-9.
They are such close siblings that many in the industry wonder why Mazda New Zealand offers them both in this market.
Both models have seven seats, and from the outside, are almost indistinguishable from one another.
The most obvious difference is the CX-8 is powered by a diesel engine, whereas the CX-9 is petrol-powered.
The CX-9 is marginally longer, although both models are built on the same platform.
That Mazda New Zealand is a savvy industry operator is not in doubt — it has been among industry leaders capitalising on the huge and accelerating swing from sedans to SUVs during the past decade.
Mazda’s medium-sized CX-5 is considered to be the benchmark by which all mainstream mid-range SUVs are measured. It is the top-selling SUV in its class.
Part of the answer to the conundrum could be Mazda’s need to appeal both to buyers of larger vehicles in the United States, and the virtual disappearance of the once-popular people-movers internationally.
Both large Mazda SUVs come well-specced and, as you would expect, are pleasant to drive.
Mazda New Zealand says the CX-8 is more a 5+2 seater rather than a full seven-seater. The third row of two seats is designed for people up to 175cm.
So the family wanting a large diesel-powered SUV with only occasional use for the rear third row, should opt for the CX-8, whereas those wanting a petrol-powered large SUV with a full-sized third row of seats should choose the larger, longer and more powerful vehicle.
The CX-8 is the most recent addition to Mazda New Zealand’s range, having been introduced in June.
The CX-8 is the same width as the popular medium-sized CX-5 but is 350mm longer. It has 775 litres of boot space with the third row of seats folded down, compared with 455 litres in the mid-sized CX-5.
It is powered by a 2.2 litre twin turbo diesel engine, which creates 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque. It has a towing capacity of up to 2000kg, which helps explain why it is likely to find a ready market in this country. This compares with a V6 engine in the larger vehicle.
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. 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 test model was the luxuriously appointed leather-seated all-wheel-drive Limited model, which sells for $62,496. This is $2500 less than the equivalent CX-9 model, so more points on the ledger for the CX-8.
The CX-8 base model range starts at $53,490 plus on-road costsand the cheapest CX-9 costs from $54,995 plus on-road costs.
The top-of-the-line CX-8 AWD Limited model includes 19-inch wheels, a powered tailgate, powered-operated front seats, a Bose stereo system and adaptive LED headlights.
There is also a large, clear heads up display unit, smart key, reversing camera and sensors, an integrated sat nav system, an AEB blind spot warning system, traffic sign recognition feature, and adaptive cruise control.
There is plenty of chrome finishing on the steering wheel, dashboard and central console. The cabin is well designed and feels solid, and the few buttons that remain, are solid and practical — especially the audio volume control.
The electronic handbrake is particularly conveniently placed, on the central console, immediately beside the driver.
The infotainment system can be accessed through the commander dial on the centre console.
Driving the CX-8, you don’t get the feel of being in a large vehicle, and the handling is excellent, considering it is a large high-riding SUV.
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.
Some of the driver assistance features take a while to get used to, with the lane assist function quite interventionist, but it doesn’t take long for the driver to understand how it works.
Mazda CX-8 Limited AWD
Pros: Well-appointed, smooth functioning and economic large SUV
Cons: Third row of seats for occasional use rather than long journeys