MAZDA CX-8

WELCOME BACKFLIP ON DIESEL-ONLY STRATEGY

TRENT GIUNCO

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

M AZDA is doing a lot of self-assessment of late. Plugging gaps in its range has almost become a sport for the venerable Japanese marque. The genre-bending CX-30 is one of the latest niche fillers, but the CX-8 really kicked it off in 2018. It’s bigger than a CX-5, but smaller than the COTY-winning CX-9.

However, the caveat was a single, diesel-only engine choice. Now Mazda has transplanted its 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine into the CX-8, and as a result, the seven-seat SUV with a tapered roofline now not only offers an alternative to turbodiesel propulsion, it also lowers the cost of admission to less than $40,000.

The entry price of $39,910 is for the Sport, one of two petrol variants added to the range in front-drive guise only. The other is the $46,590 Touring tested here. However, Mazda also elected to bolster the SkyActiv-D CX-8 offerings by introducing Touring, GT and Asaki all-wheel drive (AWD) grades. The topspec Asaki AWD lists at $65,440.

While the SkyActiv-G powertrain is new to the CX-8, it’s not a fresh engine. The 2.5-litre unit is used in the likes of the CX-5, CX-30 and 6. It produces 140kW at 6000rpm and 252Nm at 4000rpm. The former is the same as the 2.2-litre fourcylinder turbo-diesel, but the Newton count falls well short of the 450Nm on call in the oiler. Therefore the performance is not as lively, with the 0-100km/h sprint out of the school car park taking 10.9 seconds, 1.7sec slower than the FWD diesel.

So progress is more adequate than swift, and you have to give the accelerator a good old prod to get the 1782kg mass moving. While it’s a little strained under load at high revs, the sound emanating from under the bonnet is more rorty than thrashy. However, the CX-8 likes to drink petrol, with the combined consumption claim coming in at 8.1L/100km. In the real world we saw the trip computer hover around 9.7L/100km.

Dynamically, the CX-8 lives up to the standard set by Mazda’s SUV range. Based on a stretched CX-5 platform, the seven-seater displays decent body control, a composed ride quality, and steers with Mazda’s traditional engagement levels. Stretch its legs on the open road and the Touring is a plush and quiet cruiser, a trait aided by additional sound deadening as part of this 2020 update. Only the ageing six-speed auto spoils the quiet by kicking down over-eagerly in search of torque in hilly terrain.

Inside, not much has changed. It still feels premium and the design is ageing well, but the MZD Connect infotainment is overshadowed by the new system found in the CX-30 and 3. The 8.0-inch screen is touch enabled and offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while general ergonomics are sound. The head-up display is a highlight, as are the clear analogue gauges housed within the instrument cluster. The materials used throughout are top notch, while the Touring grade adds black leather and electrically operated front seats. LED foglights, keyless entry/start and parking sensors up front also come with the upgrade.

In the middle row, head- and legroom is generous (the CX-8 has the same 2930mm wheelbase as the CX-9), with the seats sliding forward and aft to accommodate taller thirdrow passengers. If you’re planning on using your seven-seater with all pews occupied most of the time, the longer and wider CX-9 is going to offer more room for all. There are cupholders in the back seats, but lower spec models misses out on the air vents and USB ports the middle row affords – you have to step up to GT or Asaki to gain that. The boot is 209L with all seats in place and 775L in five-seat mode.

Overall the CX-8 remains a polished and accomplished seven-seat SUV offering. While it isn’t as frugal at the bowser as its diesel counterpart, the petrol’s lower price of entry and the absence of perceived diesel drawbacks will appeal to plenty. And that, for Mazda, is worth all the navel-gazing.

TRENT GIUNCO

Model Mazda CX-8 Touring petrol FWD 

Engine 2488cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v  

Power 140kW @ 6000rpm 

Torque 252Nm @ 4000rpm 

Transmission 6-speed automatic 

Weight 1782kg 

0-100km/h 10.9sec (claimed) 

Economy 8.1L/100km 

Price $46,590 

On sale Now

PLUS

Comfort and cabin NVH levels; seating versatility; now cheaper

MINUS

Petrol engine’s thirst; no third-row air vents or USB ports

Size Game

WHERE DOES THE CX-8 FIT IN MAZDA’S EXTENSIVE SUV LINE-UP?

The seven-seat Mazda CX-8 sits on a stretched CX-5 platform. It’s 350mm longer than the 4550mm CX-5 and is the same width at 1840mm.However, its 2930mm wheelbase equals that of the larger CX-9 (which affords a spacious middle row), yet the CX-8 is 27mm lower to the ground and 175mm shorter. Essentially, the CX-8 slots in between the two as a best-of-both-worlds scenario.