2018 Mazda CX-8 Sport FWD
Road Test Review
(4 / 5)
Does the Mazda CX-5 have third row seating? Well, it appears so looking at the car above. But there are two ways of looking at this new SUV. It’s called the Mazda CX-8 and you can view it as a stretched CX-5 with two extra seats in the back. Or you can look at it as a diesel version of the CX-9.
To do the latter would be a mistake. The all-new CX-8 isn’t just a CX-9 tarted up in different clothes and with an oil-burner under the bonnet. Instead, it’s a stretched version of the CX-5.
And that’s no bad thing. We love the CX-5 and its dominant quality is its quality.
The CX-5’s build is far superior to anything in its category and puts it almost into luxury crossover territory. So does the CX-8 have the same blessing? Definitely.
The CX-8’s cabin features the same nicely grained plastics that are soft to the touch. The build quality is also similar, and you’ll swear it’s actually the CX-5 interior in a different car. And that’s because, basically, it is.
That means that you’ll find the Mazda Connect infotainment with its rotary selector and full-color screen. The layout is easy to get used to and as standard there’s satellite navigation, DAB, Bluetooth and plenty of USB ports.
The stereo is reasonable for this price point and doesn’t distort when cranked up, however it’s best to leave the bass off its highest setting as it can get a little boomy; though some people will undoubtedly like that sort of thing.
Where the CX-8 does feel quite different, is how the seats have been presented. There’s nothing wrong with the padding, it’s more what the seats are covered in. The fabric has a very long grain and feels very strange. While the outer sections are swathed in a low-cost cloth (which is at odds with Mazda’s push for high-end looks) the centers of the seats get this strange material.
You could, of course, opt for the Asaki spec so that you get leather seats instead (which are heated, too) but you’ll pay handsomely for the privilege.
The Sport spec we have on test is around $19,000 cheaper than the Asaki model. That is as far from value-for-money as you can get. And the Sport has so much included tech that most buyers probably won’t even care that the base model is front-wheel-drive.
Of course, the CX-8 is safe, too. You get AEB with forward crash warning, blind-spot warning, speed limiter, radar-based cruise control, lane keep assistant and a stack of airbags.
The heads-up display is also comprehensive, showing you your speed, what the limit is and whether you’re following a car too closely.
But what you really want to know is whether it’s worth paying the price premium on top of the CX-5 for those third-row seats, right?
You can’t argue with the convenience of having them ready to at a moment’s notice. And even when the sixth and seventh seats are in place you get 209 liters of cargo space but drop them and it unveils a huge storage area of 742 liters. That’s decent space for loading up. But then, it’s a much larger back end than its cheaper sibling.
The only thing is, while it’s handy having the third row, it’s not really suitable for adults. Someone who is six-feet or over is going to have big problems getting in and out.
The main issue is the lack of headroom, so smaller teenagers will be fine. But those with long legs will need the second row slid forward – thankfully the second row is on rails. But of course, passengers in the second row will find that a lot tighter.
Open the hood and you’ll find a turbodiesel engine, rather than the turbocharged gasoline motor found in the Mazda CX-9. The diesel has two turbos and makes 140 kW and 450 Nm of torque from its 2.2-liter four-cylinder.
Making the most of that power and torque is Mazda’s SkyActive automatic, which has been fettled to more specifically match with this engine.
Evidence of its recalibration is the length of time it takes to change out of second and third, where it likes to extend the revs for a while. Thanks to some extra weight, it uses those gears to wind up the torque a bit more. Thankfully, the gearshifts are very smooth and it’s quite nice to drive around the city, even with the longer second and third ratios.
Fuel economy is pretty good, too – using 7.4-litres/100km is quite acceptable from a three-row crossover.
Turn into a corner and you’ll find the steering has a beautiful heft, though it’s not quite as urgent as the CX-5, but it’s still lively enough so you don’t feel like it’s numb. Of course, it’s quite heavy – 1840 kg – so you can’t hit the Nurburgring with it, but it’s happy enough in the corners.
We have to say that the ride is absolutely lovely, thanks to being smaller wheels than so many seven-seaters. The 17-inch wheels offer good refinement and suspension balance.
But with the absolutely brilliant CX-9 on offer, which is a tad more expensive, the CX-8’s middle ground between the CX-5 and CX-9 is probably about right.
If you absolutely have to have a diesel, this is the vehicle for you, but if it was us, we’d pay a fraction more and get the more spacious CX-9 instead.