18 October 2018
Ross Kiddie | The Star (Christchurch)
I GOT talking to the regional manager of Star Media the other day.
Steve McCaughan is a car enthusiast and we got into a conversation about rising fuel prices and we were weighing up the options of diesel against petrol.
Mr McCaughan's daily driver is a diesel-fed Volvo XC90, and he said that even though he travels a lot of kilometres in a year, by the time you take into account road user charges it works out only slightly cheaper to use diesel.
I agreed, but also argued that you get an involving driving experience with diesel, the mid-range torque that the modern diesels develop provides much satisfaction.
The subject of this evaluation is Mazda's CX-8, a large, seven-seat crossover/ sport utility vehicle which has just been released on the New Zealand market, and the reason for my introduction is that the CX-8 is a diesel-only model.
That's not unusual, in the last couple of years there have been several new diesel-only models launched.
and in an age where the advantages are fast being eroded, there is still a healthy market for diesel, and Mazda will capitalise on that.
The CX-8 lands here in three specification variations; it starts at $53,495 (two-wheel-drive) and ends at $62,495 for a Limited four-wheel-drive.
It was the latter that I had on test and I immediately formed a bond with it. As you would expect from Mazda, it is beautifullybuilt and feels just right when you are seated and when it drives, there is an involving feel, and as a vehicle it reeks of quality, it is also a car which is highspecced and intuitive to become familiar with.
The CX-8 shares a lot of hardware and software that is fitted right across the Mazda range, it is user-friendly and spacious, occupant comfort has been a high manufacturing priority.
It is also an easy to vehicle to access, wide rearopening doors means getting in and out of the third row of seats isn't restricted.
Along with all of the usual features you'd expect in an SUV of this stature, the CX-8 also has a high safety ingredient. The i-Activesense suite of safety technologies includes the latest generation features to come out of the Mazda development process.
Under the bonnet sits a 2.2-litre, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine. It drives through a traditional six-speed automatic gearbox, and while that doesn't seem out of the ordinary, the thing is that the driveline is spectacular in its simplicity, it gets about its business cleanly and effectively.
Mazda rates the CX-8 with 140kW and 450Nm.
In traditional diesel form it develops maximum torque very low down at just 2000rpm, which relates to a strong throttle pedal feel.
As mentioned, that burst through the mid-range is quite exciting, the CX-8 is quick (80km/h to 120km/h in 5sec and 8.9sec to make 100km/h from a standstill) and it delivers its verve without complaint. The engine works tirelessly with subdued sound right across the rev band, and the entire vehicle is superbly quiet at all speeds.
Mazda also claims a sixlitre per 100km (47mpg) combined cycle fuel usage rating. That's a good figure for a heavy vehicle (1840kg). At 100km/h on the highway the engine is turning over at just 2000rpm, returning a 5l/100km (56mpg) instantaneous figure. At the conclusion of my evaluation the CX-8 was showing an average of just 7l/100km (41mpg), which I thought was spectacular given that included acceleration testing and a couple of acrosstown journeys.
I also drove my usual highway loop taking in the great roads around Hororota, long sweeping corners, and the occasional tight section.
The CX-8 is superbly quiet and smooth at open road speed, and has controlled balance over the suspension. It is tall at over 1.7m, but there is little body lean in a corner, and the suspension soaks up uneven surfaces with absorbent bump and rebound. Of course, each axle is located by a fully independent suspension set-up and that complexity provides surety.
With 200mm of ground clearance the CX-8 has a little more ability than the average cross-country vehicle. It's not a true offroader, but it is at home on uneven tracks, the long travel suspension adapts to broken surfaces and grip goes down well through huge 19in Toyo tyres (225/55).
The CX-8 sits neatly between CX-5 and CX-9 in the Mazda line-up, but it is there to offer an alternative for those brave enough to take the diesel plunge, those who do will find it very worthwhile.
If you are a high-mileage vehicle user and you need a large wagon, the CX-8 answers that criteria. It's a pleasure to drive and its bulk is far from a burden.
It is also fuel-friendly that will pay its way over time.