- Exceptionally quiet and refined
- Quality interior
- Roomy interior for the first two rows
- No power tailgate
- Exposed cargo area with no cover
- Shaky value compared to more powerful and substantial CX-9
While it might be smaller than the excellent Mazda CX-9 we recently drove, the petrol 2020 CX-8 Touring tested here is a compelling proposition for those after an extra pair of seats over a standard SUV. Based on the CX-5, the CX-8 is perfect for urban commuting in that it doesn’t feel bulky around town, whilst still being able to accommodate two additional occupants in the third row.
Granted, the CX-8 might look slightly too narrow and ungainly as it is basically a stretched CX-5 with an extra row of seats, but it offers decent value for money, broadening its appeal to many. As an SUV for families who only need to occasionally use the third row of seats, the CX-8 deserves to be considered, sitting firmly between the CX-5 and CX-9 in the Mazda lineup.
Price & Specs: 7.5/10
The $39,910 (plus on-road costs) CX-8 Sport kicks off the CX-8 range whilst the CX-8 Touring tested here is priced from $46,590 before on-road costs, gaining a myriad of features over the base Sport such as leather seats and front parking sensors. The base CX-8 Sport petrol competes with other smaller seven-seat rivals such as the Honda CR-V VTi-L which is priced at $38,990, and also manages to be $580 cheaper than the Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace Comfortline.
Standard equipment levels on the Mazda CX-8 Touring are strong with 17-inch alloy wheels, auto wipers, automatic LED headlights and fog lamps, along with keyless entry. Inside you’ll find leather seats which are heated and electrically operated up front, tri-zone climate control, an 8-inch screen running Mazda’s older ‘MZD Connect’ system with satellite navigation, digital radio as well as wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A heads up display for the driver is also included as standard, projecting information such as the car’s speed and nav directions conveniently onto the windscreen.
Not all is rosy however on the spec sheet for the Mazda CX-8. For a large SUV costing north of $40,000, we would like to however see a powered tailgate, whilst the lack of any sort of cover or security blind for the luggage compartment is a bizarre omission meaning that everything in the boot remains constantly exposed to prying eyes.
Safety has always been a Mazda strong point and all CX-8s come with driver-assist systems such as autonomous emergency braking that operates at both low and high speed, night-time pedestrian detection as well as active cruise control. A reversing camera, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert are all present and accounted for.
The intelligent speed assist system is perhaps the most innovative as it can “read” road signs and alert the driver should a posted speed limit be exceeded or a stop sign missed. Six airbags come as standard, including curtain airbags for all three rows of seats allowing the Mazda CX-8 to earn a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Performance & Economy: 6.0/10
Under the bonnet of the CX-8 sits Mazda’s familiar ‘Skyactiv-G’ 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine that appears on other Mazda models as well, such as the the Mazda 3. With no turbocharger in sight, the engine features a high 13:1 compression ratio along with direct injection and produces 140kW at 6000rpm and 252Nm at 4000rpm. As with most Mazdas, you won’t need to use premium fuel as the engine runs just fine on 91 RON.
The engine remains relatively quiet around town, but feels gruff and strained under load. Should you ask the CX-8 to overtake quickly, you’ll be met with mild disappointment and an earful of noise. The lack of turbocharging in a heavy car such as this becomes apparent very quickly with the engine needing a ton of revs to get the CX-8 moving quickly. Quite frankly, very little happens when you call on the CX-8 to accelerate quickly, which is no doubt due to the car’s heavier weight over a CX-5. Performance is therefore best described as adequate, but nothing more. At least the old school six-speed torque converter automatic is smooth and intuitive when shifting and offers none of the trademark dual-clutch indecisiveness found in some competitors.
The need to rev the engine hard also leaves its mark of the CX-8’s fuel consumption. During a mix of urban and freeway driving, we were able to average around 10L/100km, which is almost 2L/100km more than the official combined average fuel consumption use figure of 8.1L/100km. Not a terrible result but turbocharged rivals would ultimately prove both more frugal at the bowser and offer better performance.
Ride & Handling: 7.5/10
Mazda has always traditionally made cars which will surprise and delight keener drivers and this holds true for its larger, less sport-orientated SUVs too. The Mazda CX-8 is blessed with light yet feelsome steering which makes weaving in and out of traffic easy. Even with all seven seats filled, the CX-8 handles faithfully with some gentle roll through corners, with decent grip from the 17-inch wheels wrapped in Yokohama rubber. Sadly, it fails to feel as planted as the larger (and wider) CX-9, whilst also not feeling as nimble as the shorter wheelbase CX-5 on which the chassis is based. Most punters shouldn’t worry about the handling however as the CX-8 is going to be seldom hustled along a country back road.
Buyers will however enjoy the smooth and supple ride, along with the CX-8’s exceptional refinement. The Mazda CX-8 is simply so cosseting, so beautifully hushed at speed, that most passengers will be sound asleep in no time. The ride deals with large bumps and rough roads with ease, pummelling road imperfections into oblivion. Mazda has also worked hard on the door seals, sound insulation and window glass to cut as many noise paths as possible. We noticed that the side windows are made of dual sheets of glass which no doubts aids in keeping the cabin hushed.
Interior & Practicality: 7.5/10
Slipping inside the CX-8, you’ll be welcomed by an interior that screams quality. From the soft leather seats, the padded armrests and dash, the Mazda CX-8 feels classy inside, if a tad dated in 2020. It might not have the sheer sleek elegance of the latest Mazda 3 and CX-30, but all controls are logically laid out and the instruments are legible. The driving position is nice and high, giving a commanding view of the road, whilst all major controls fall easily to hand. Up front, the CX-8 has decent door bins and cubbies dotted around the front to leave your keys, phone and wallet in.
The infotainment is controlled by a rotary controller on the centre console and an 8.0-inch colour touch screen, running the MZD Connect system. The screen’s touch capability can only be used when stationary which can prove to be annoying to some. MZD Connect now feels a generation or two behind the class leader and even the newer system seen in the CX-30 which is far faster to respond and offers a higher resolution screen. The Mazda CX-8 reversing camera looks like a mid 2000s webcam, and is laggy and slow to respond. Luckily, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are on offer and work intuitively.
Inside, the seats are laid out in a 2-3-2 fashion going front to back. Getting into the rear seats is super easy with rear doors which open all the way to 90 degrees. Two passengers in the second-row bench seat will be met with plenty of head, knee and leg space. Three passengers in the second will feel the squeeze of the CX-8’s narrower body. There are door and seat-back pockets, adjustable air-con vents, a centre armrest with two USB ports as well as halogen reading lights.
The second-row seat can slide fore-aft, allowing the third row to either have more or less leg room. Getting into the third row is not too much of a pain as the second row folds and slides forwards to help with egress. Having said this, the third row is very cramped and is best left to children.
Boot space is generous for the class, as with all three seat rows in place, the boot will still have a capacity of 242 litres.
Boot space expands to 775 litres with the third row folded out of the way, the boot expands to a cavernous 775 litres and with row two folded flat, the CX-8 will swallow an impressive 1727 litres.
Running Costs & Warranty: 6.0/10
The Mazda CX-8 comes from the factory with a five-year, unlimited warranty which is the industry average there days. Servicing must be done according to a 10,000km/12 month service schedule. Sadly, for most people, this will mean that the CX-8 will have to see its Mazda dealer once more often than once a year. Five years or just 50,000km of servicing will cost $1,737.
Servicing a Kia Sorento diesel to five years costs $2,398 ($479 per service) though that’s to 75,000km – 25,000 more than the Mazda. A Hyundai Santa Fe diesel comes in at $2,239 ($447 per service) though like the Kia, that’s to 75,000km. A five year/75,000km service pack costs just $1,700 on a Skoda Kodiaq ($340 per service).
2020 Mazda CX-8 Touring Petrol DiscoverAuto rating: 6.9/10
The Mazda CX-8 Touring is fits the brief perfectly of a dependable, well made people mover hiding under the stretched body of a Mazda CX-5. Whilst we are still big fans of the more substantial feeling CX-9, along with its extra width and engineering polish, we can see the CX-8 winning favour with families wanting a larger boot than most mid-size SUVs and two extra seats just in case they need to be used. The fact that it doesn’t feel all that cumbersome perhaps adds to its appeal as a solid family hauler for the suburbs. it deserves to be on your family’s shopping list together with its larger brother the CX-9.