29 November 2018
The Star (Dunedin), Dunedin
Mazda have added even greater depth to their already appealing range of SUVs with the arrival of the CX8, that slots neatly between the popular midsized CX5, and full size CX9.
Pricing for the CX8 starts at $53,495 for the GSX (2WD) and climbs to $62,495 for the Limited (AWD) that made its way into my hands for this road test. Sandwiched between this pair is an AWD version of the GSX that retails for $55,995.
While its big brother the CX9 is propelled by a 2.5-litre turbo petrol engine, the CX8 takes a different power path, deploying the latest version of Mazda's SKYACTIV-D 2.2L turbo diesel. The new engine muscles up with 450Nm of torque and peak power of 140kW. In real world driving this high-energy turbo diesel feels more than the equal of the 2.5-litre turbo petrol found in the larger CX9.
Low-speed throttle response and pulling power is excellent, with the engine's 450Nm of torque really giving things a nudge when it comes out to play from well under 2000rpm.
The CX8 is a fairly hefty 7-seat SUV, but this outstanding turbo diesel makes light work of hauling it around, and does so with genuine verve, and shows plenty of stamina on long hill climbs under load.
The same well-proven six-speed automatic is smooth and in some cases is better than some competitors with eight and nine speed autos.
Mazda designers have developed an enviable reputation for creating roomy cabins that are big on comfort.
Passengers are pampered by a threezone climate control air-conditioning system, with a separate control for the rear of the cabin and vents below the second row for refreshing third-row passengers. Adding a touch of class is Nappa leather and real wood trim.
There's a clean uncluttered look and feel about the instrument design and layout that incorporates Mazda Connect "infotainment" system and driver-assist technologies. Getting in and out of the rear cabin is easy thanks to a wide door that opens to 80 degrees.
On cold mornings, owners will likely warm to the Limited's heated steering wheel, while a grunty 10-speaker Bose premium audio system will strike a positive chord with music lovers. Other notable features include Active Driving headup display, automatic powerfold exterior mirrors and vehicle-speed sensing door locks.
There is an impressive suite of safety technology on offer with Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Smart City Brake Support.
Mazda produces some of the best handling mainstream vehicles on our market and leading the way are the likes of the magical MX5 coupe and thoroughly competent Mazda 6 and Mazda 3. Much of this handling DNA is evident in the CX8. For a big vehicle body roll like the CX9 is neatly contained if you crank up the pace through sweeping curves and tight corners, and testament to the well-organised and thoughtfully tuned suspension.
All-Wheel Drive adds even more degrees of grip that owners will appreciate when traversing our demanding roads and driving in our equally challenging weather.
Communicative and nicely weighted steering is a plus and confirms forme the CX8's status as one the better riding and handling SUVs in its class, and class is something this vehicle exudes on most fronts.
^ ... one of the better riding and handling SUVs in its class, and class is something this vehicle exudes on most fronts.'