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Mazda CX-8 Sport 2WD 2019 review

EXPERT RATING
7.9
The CX-8s is shoe-horned between Mazda's all-conquering CX-5 and its stylish CX-9. It's a bit smaller than the brand's largest SUV, but still manages to carry up to seven in comfort. Only catch is that it has to be a diesel.

One of the brilliant things about my job is people ask me which car they should buy. One of the funniest things about my job is when those people ask, they've often got their hearts set on a seven-seat SUV, regardless of the number of children in their family. Or indeed, the complete absence of children in their family.

The reasons I give to go in another direction are numerous; why spend the extra money? Why have a five-metre car for the mythical lift to soccer for the neighbour's kids? In short, most people don't need seven seats and never will.

I think the Mazda CX-8 is the first seven-seat SUV I will not try and talk people away from even if they don't need seven seats. Because, as it turns out, it's really quite good and actually not that big.

Mazda CX-8 2019: SPORT (FWD) (5YR)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.2L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency5.7L/100km
Seating7 seats
Price from$42,490

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

The three-car CX-8 range starts with the front-wheel-drive Sport, then an all-wheel-drive version, and a range-topping Asaki. My car for the week was the front-wheel-drive Sport, which arrives at $43,410.

You get 17-inch alloys, a six-speaker stereo with DAB, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, three-zone climate control, cloth trim, sat nav, reversing camera, huge safety package, active cruise control, rear parking sensors and a space-saver spare.

The Sport variant of the CX-8 wears 17-inch alloy wheels. The Sport variant of the CX-8 wears 17-inch alloy wheels.

After a long wait, Mazda's MZD Connect system now features both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 7.0-inch screen can be operated by touch when the car is stationary, and by using the rotary dial once you're underway.

The 7.0-inch multimedia screen now features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 7.0-inch multimedia screen now features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

I dare you to pick the CX-8 out of a line-up. Unless it's right next to its CX-5 sibling and they're in profile, you just can't tell. That's no bad thing; it means both cars are very attractive. But both need big wheels to look their best, and in this Sport spec they're too small... if you're worried about that sort of thing.

The CX-8 is a very attractive car. The CX-8 is a very attractive car.

Inside, again, it's pretty difficult to separate the two with the obvious exception of the third row. Mazda interiors are beautifully made, and over the years have been cleared of fiddly buttons, switches and lights. It's a particularly thoughtful, if dark and colourless interior.

Mazda interiors are beautifully made, but this one is dark and colourless. Mazda interiors are beautifully made, but this one is dark and colourless.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

The CX-8 interior is much bigger than the CX-5 and not that much smaller than the CX-9, which is a bit odd. But there you go. 

Front-row passengers have a deep central console bin (with USB and 12V power), two cupholders and a tray under the centre stack. All four doors have a bottle holder.

Rear seat occupants have two cupholders in the centre armrest and a handy storage tray with two USB ports. There's also an Audi-like rear climate-control panel, but third row occupants miss out on that. They don't miss out on cupholders, though (there's a grand total of six), and also have somewhere to put phones and other detritus. The boot also has a 12V power outlet.

In the back is an Audi-like rear climate-control panel. In the back is an Audi-like rear climate-control panel.

With all seats in place, Mazda says you have 209 litres of storage with a further 33 litres underneath. That seems... conservative to me. Stow the third row and you have 742 litres, which is huge and wagon-like. Mazda doesn't offer a total figure with all seats folded, but it's bound to be north of 1000 litres.

  • With all seats in play, boot space is rated at 209 litres. With all seats in play, boot space is rated at 209 litres.
  • Fold the third row down and that number grows to 742 litres. Fold the third row down and that number grows to 742 litres.
  • Mazda doesn't offer a total figure with all seats folded, but it's bound to be north of 1000 litres. Mazda doesn't offer a total figure with all seats folded, but it's bound to be north of 1000 litres.
  • There's a further 33 litres of storage under the boot floor. There's a further 33 litres of storage under the boot floor.

The third row is reasonably easy to access. The middle row seats flip forward and slide, creating a space for kids to slip into the final row. I was able to sit down and pull the second row towards me, and with it all the way back, I fit. When I say fit, I mean like a rubber glove one size too small, but I can get in. But the generous amount of sliding distance available in the middle row means I can be comfortable in a knees-in-my-face kind of way for a short trip.

The sliding second row makes it easier for people to get into the rear seats. The sliding second row makes it easier for people to get into the rear seats.

The third row seats are also easy to operate. You just pull them up with one hand and lock the headrest in place. Another pull of the fabric tape, the headrest drops and you push it back into place. It doesn't leave a seamless boot floor, though, so things might go missing in the gaps.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

As with the rest of the Mazda range, the company seems to have made too many SkyActiv badges so has slapped them on not just the engine but also the transmission. This entry level machine is powered by Mazda's 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder with 140kW and 450Nm to move its 1840kg kerb weight

The 2.2-litre turbo-diesel makes 140kW/450Nm. The 2.2-litre turbo-diesel makes 140kW/450Nm.

All that power and torque is sent to the road via a six-speed automatic that pushes grunt to the front wheels only. Its 0-100km/h seems a bit slow at 9.5 seconds, but there you have it.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Mazda claims the CX-8 will burn diesel at a rate of 5.7L/100km, aided by stop-start and the fact it's a diesel.

I got 8.5/100km in traffic and suburbia and a bit of highway running, which really isn't terrible given how much stuff and how many people this car will haul around.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

Like its looks, the CX-8 is very difficult to separate from the CX-5 on the road. I was expecting more of a CX-9 feel, but the 8 is subtly softer than either of them. There's a bit more body roll and a less firm ride, which just makes it a bit more of a relaxed place to be.

Rear-seat passengers won't be bounced around by bumps, either, and that's probably helped along by the Sport's higher-profile tyres.

I didn't really miss all-wheel drive around the city. The CX-9's petrol engine is always more than happy to light up the front tyres when you accelerate out of a corner or look at the loud pedal in the wet. The softer torque delivery of the diesel in the CX-8 means far less spinning and chirping, so the lack of four-wheel drive wasn't really an issue.

Like the other CXs, though, it steers really nicely, with a sensibly weighted and geared rack. You won't be twirling your hands and arms around to park and the response to inputs is unusually snappy for this kind of car. I like it.

I also like the spec level; the CX-8 isn't missing much at all, other than perhaps vents for the third row. There's a lot of tech, too.

I wasn't particularly enamoured with the spongy feel of the brake pedal. The car always stopped, no dramas, but it felt a bit dodgy under the foot.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   9/10

As with most Mazdas, the CX-8 is fully loaded with safety gear. Along with six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, you get blind spot monitoring, forward and reverse AEB, rear cross-traffic alert, auto high beam, lane departure warning, forward obstruction warning and traffic sign recognition.

You also get four top-tether restraints (two in the middle row, two in the third) and two ISOFIX points in the middle row. Those third row top-tether points are, in my experience, rare.

The CX-8 scored five ANCAP stars in 2018.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

Mazda offers a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Mazda now throws in what they call Premium Roadside assist (as at 1 April 2019), but it's not clear for how long that lasts.

Capped-price servicing covers the first five services. Mazda wants to see you every 12 months (good) or 10,000km (not so good). The first, third and fifth services are $325, while the second and fourth are $397, meaning a total cost of $1769. Given the average yearly mileage of Australians, that's really only going to cover three-and-a-bit years.

Verdict

There are other, cheaper seven-seat SUVs but they're not as attractive or as good to drive. And most of them are bigger, with the less-than-stellar Mitsubishi Outlander the only one I can think of as a smaller car.

The only other seven-seater I would recommend for those who don't really need one doesn't exist anymore (the Kia Rondo, though that wasn't strictly an SUV, which is what people now want). The CX-8 looks great, is good value for money and if you can live with diesel, it's cheap to own and run, too.

Does the CX-8 make sense? Does it lure you up from the CX-5 or down from the CX-9? Let us know in the comments.

Pricing Guides

$52,540
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$42,490
Highest Price
$62,590

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
ASAKI (AWD) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $62,590 2019 Mazda CX-8 2019 ASAKI (AWD) Pricing and Specs
ASAKI (AWD) (5YR) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $61,490 2019 Mazda CX-8 2019 ASAKI (AWD) (5YR) Pricing and Specs
SPORT (AWD) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $47,410 2019 Mazda CX-8 2019 SPORT (AWD) Pricing and Specs
SPORT (AWD) (5YR) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $46,490 2019 Mazda CX-8 2019 SPORT (AWD) (5YR) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.9
Price and features8
Design8
Practicality8
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption7
Driving8
Safety9
Ownership7
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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