- Very comfortable and quiet
- Excellent quality interior
- Efficient and grunty engine
- A lot of coin for essentially a 7-seat CX-5
- Middle row of seats is slow and doesn't fold
- A similar CX-9 isn't much more money
The Mazda CX-8 is a curious car. Launched a few years ago into the Australian market as a diesel-powered substitute for the slightly larger (and popular) CX-9, the CX-8 has had a few revisions since – new grades were added, along with a naturally aspirated petrol engine that you can read about here. In the most recent change for the 2021 model year, Mazda added a new Asaki LE model to the top of the range with six seats and a $70,000+ drive away price. So what’s the 2021 Mazda CX-8 Asaki LE like? Let’s find out.
Price & Equipment: 7/10
Priced from $71,990 drive away, the CX-8 Asaki LE is at the top of the CX-8 range. It’s equipped with 19-inch alloy wheels, LED lighting, auto lights and wipers, Nappa leather upholstery, electrically adjustable (with driver’s memory), heated and ventilated front and middle row seats with a second row centre console, a heated steering wheel, tri-zone climate control, keyless entry and start with an electric tailgate, heated and auto-folding mirrors, roof rails, a 10.25-inch infotainment screen with satellite navigation, digital radio, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 273-watt 10-speaker Bose sound system, wireless phone charging and a sunroof.
Safety kit on the CX-8 range is excellent. Standard kit includes six airbags, auto emergency braking (AEB) in both forward and reverse, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, driver attention alert, speed sign recognition, tyre pressure monitoring, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, Matrix headlights, a 360-degree parking camera, front and rear parking sensors, tyre pressure monitoring, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and a heads-up display.
Colour options include our test car’s ‘Soul Red Crystal’, ‘Polymetal Grey’ and ‘Machine Grey’ for $495 extra and no-cost options include ‘Titanium Flash’ (bronze), ‘Deep Crystal Blue’ (navy), ‘Jet Black’, ‘Platinum Quartz’ (gold) and ‘Snowflake White Pearl’. The LE offers two Nappa leather interior options: ‘Pure White’ or the ‘Chroma Brown’ of our test car.
Excluding the six-seat layout, the Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander diesel and Kia Sorento GT-Line diesel are the closest competitors to the CX-8 Asaki – ironically, they’re the same car underneath. Both cars are priced around the CX-8 Asaki ($69,490 drive away) – the Kia is $67,290 drive away and the Hyundai is $70,571 drive away.
Both cars don’t offer features that are standard on the Mazda, such as Matrix headlights, tri-zone climate control and third-row curtain airbags, but do feature larger 20-inch wheels, lane trace assist, safe exit warning, digital dials, a panoramic roof, satellite navigation with live traffic updates and remote start and remote parking functionally. In our book, the South Korean cousins are better value than the Mazda – especially the Kia Sorento.
Six-seat LE aside, the CX-8 Asaki starts to get expensive. $3,500 less ($61,985 drive away or $65,985 with all-wheel drive) gets you the CX-8 GT, which removes some of the top-spec tinsel from the CX-8, though it’s still well equipped. You lose Matrix headlights, the 360-degree parking camera, Nappa leather upholstery and chrome exterior and interior detailing. But you still get the leather, heated seats, a power tailgate, a sunroof and wireless phone charging.
Performance & Economy: 8/10
The sole engine option for the Asaki LE variant in the CX-8 range is Mazda’s excellent 2.2-litre twin-turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine that’s matched to a six-speed automatic transmission and is all-wheel drive in this spec. This particular diesel engine is our favourite from Mazda – at least until the rumoured six-cylinder units arrive next year – as it’s potent but can also be pretty frugal, even in a big family bus such as the CX-8. Mazda claims a 9.6-second 0-100km/h sprint, so it’s not the quickest, but its torque hits nice and early in the rev range.
Producing 140kW of power (@4,500rpm) and 450Nm of torque (@2,000rpm), the 2.2L diesel in the CX-8 offers similar outputs to its South Korean rivals, which use the same 148kW/440Nm 2.2-litre diesel engine – though those cars use an eight-speed auto, which is something we’d like to see Mazda adopt. Not that there’s anything wrong with Mazda’s auto – it’s well tuned, intuitive and entirely predictable, we’d just like to see more ratios to help drivability.
Mazda claims that the CX-8 Asaki LE will use just 6.0L/100km on a combined cycle, and we achieved 7.2L/100km in a mix of driving, which is pretty economical for such a large car. Featuring a 74-litre fuel tank, we’d achieve more than 1,000km to a tank – use the car more for highway trips and you’ll get potentially around 1,300km. We achieved similar consumption in both the Santa Fe and Sorento. If you’re comparing the CX-8 to the CX-9, keep in mind that our fuel use in the CX-8 is around 5L/100km superior to the thirstier CX-9.
Ride & Handling: 8/10
Based on the same platform as the smaller CX-5 – but with a 230mm-longer wheelbase – the CX-8 drives well. The ride in particular is pretty comfortable with a nice and controlled feeling, though it can be a touch fidgety thanks to the large 19-inch wheels. The steering is nice as well with good feel through the wheel, though not perfect thanks to a slightly heavy feel that’s typical of the Mazda brand – the lighter steering in the Santa Fe feels more fluid as a result.
The CX-8 doesn’t feel as light or as dynamic as the Santa Fe and that’s likely because of the CX-8’s extra 130mm of length and extra 35kg of weight. Instead, it’s a better cruiser and would easily do Sydney to Melbourne in a day. The CX-8 is quieter than the Santa Fe at all speeds, with remarkably low wind and road noise levels – at highway speeds, the CX-8 is a truly serene place to spend time. The CX-8’s visibility isn’t bad either with reasonably large windows and mirrors.
Interior & Practicality: 8/10
Anybody who’s spent time in the smaller CX-5 will find the interior of the 2021 Mazda CX-8 Asaki LE very familiar as aside from a few trim differences, they are identical from the B-pillar forward – the dashboard, screens, steering wheel, door panels, etc are the same. This means that the CX-8 quality is excellent with very liberal use of soft touch materials, lovely Nappa leather upholstery for the seats and a real feeling of quality throughout the cabin.
It’s a practical cabin too, with two cupholders in the centre console, a huge centre box, reasonable door bins and a nicely sized glovebox. A new addition for 2021 is a wireless charging pad in the centre console as well.
The 10.25-inch centre screen uses Mazda’s new ‘Mazda Connect’ system that can take some time getting used to as it’s controlled solely by a click wheel and not by touch, but it’s intuitive and the screen quality is excellent. Particularly excellent is the 360-degree parking camera, which is very clear and the 12-speaker Bose sound system is also great with impressive clarity and bass.
From the B-pillar rearwards, the CX-8 is pretty much a CX-9, albeit it not as wide. In this new Asaki LE model, just six seats in total are on offer – the middle seat in the middle row is now a huge centre console (which appears to be the same as the one at the front) with cupholders and an under-storage area. The middle row seats are electrically adjustable, as well as both heated and cooled and they’re very comfortable too – though we’re not sure about how practical for families they are as they are very slow and cumbersome to use. On top of that – one of the main reasons why people buy SUVs – is that they don’t fold at all, rather they just move forward.
The third row of the CX-8 – once you’re back there – is fine for people up to around six-feet tall. There are also cup holders and USB ports for the rearmost row, though no air vents, which is annoying. Unlike the Santa Fe and Sorento though, the curtain airbags do extend to the third row.
Bootspace in the CX-8 is pretty good at 209-litres behind the third row, and 775L with the third row folded – which is a very easy one-step process. The boot has a hidden floor, as well as a few hooks and a space saver spare wheel. Unfortunately, the second row of seats does not fold, merely just tilts and slides forward towards the front seats – the appeal of the ‘captain’s chairs’ second row is obvious for limo drivers, but for families and trips to Ikea? Much less so.
Service & Warranty: 7/10
Like other Mazda products, the 2021 Mazda CX-8 Asaki LE comes with a five-year/unlimited km warranty with five years of roadside assistance. Its service intervals are a short 10,000km/yearly and it costs $2,215 over five years/50,000km to service ($443 per service) – those doing more driving should be warned that the cost will increase.
The Hyundai Santa Fe costs slightly more at $2,295 over the same time period – but its longer intervals allow for a higher 75,000km total over that time. The Kia Sorento has the same intervals and costs $2,393 over the same five years – slightly more, though the Kia has a longer seven year warranty, if that matters to you.
The 2021 Mazda CX-8 Asaki LE DiscoverAuto Rating: 7.6/10
As we said above, the 2021 Mazda CX-8 Asaki LE is a curious car. While some may label it simply a seven-seat CX-5 – and in a lot of ways, it is – it does feel more luxurious in this top-spec Asaki LE model, no doubt helped by the captain’s chairs in the middle row. It’s a genuinely luxurious car to sit in and drive, with excellent quality, solid driving dynamics, a great turbo diesel drivetrain and a very comfortable driving experience.
It’s not perfect though. It’s well equipped but quite expensive, it’s not particularly fun behind the wheel, it’s got short service intervals and the middle row of seats – the whole point of this LE grade – are comfortable but for anybody who isn’t a limo driver, largely pointless as they’re very slow to use and they don’t fold to increase practicality. And then there’s the larger CX-9, which represents better value for money and feels a touch more luxurious on the inside. As a result, there’s a lot to like about the CX-8, but we recommend doing your research before committing to it.