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Mazda CX-8 2021 review: Asaki LE six-seat AWD diesel

Top of the range Mazda CX-8 Asaki LE - how does it perform as a family car?

The 2021 Mazda CX-8 range has a wide variety of differences, and this week I tested the top Asaki LE model as a family car.

With lots of bells and whistles inside, is it worth $30,000 more than the base CX-8? It really depends on what you want from a car, but there's certainly lots of comfort, and a lot to like. 

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What does it look like?

The exterior of the CX-8 follows the look of all the new Mazda SUV’s with its streamlined, low-key profile, plus top-end touches such as 19-inch alloy wheels, and sleek headlights.

Very different from the complex LED arrangements you see on other large SUVs. The double exhaust pipes on each side of the rear give it a real sporty edge.

The exterior of the CX-8 follows the look of all the new Mazda SUV’s with its streamlined, low-key profile. The exterior of the CX-8 follows the look of all the new Mazda SUV’s with its streamlined, low-key profile.

The wow factor of this car isn’t the exterior, though. It’s the inside that matters.

The Asaki LE goes all out for comfort and luxury in the interior. The seats are a high-quality red leather, full of fancy stitching and trims, that are soft to touch, but firm and supportive to sit in.

The seats have multiple electric adjustments, in the front and middle rows, meaning you can set you seat up just how you like.

There is a decent sunroof, and the stereo is also really rocking with a 10-speaker Bose system. It passed my '90s hard rock test with flying colours.

The double exhaust pipes on each side of the rear give it a real sporty edge. The double exhaust pipes on each side of the rear give it a real sporty edge.

The second row in this six-seater is where the real difference lies. The middle row seats are basically lounge chairs, or at the least smart business-class-style comfort.

There is a third zone of climate control for the middle passengers, loads of room, and you really could road-trip in style back there.

The third row continues with the comfort levels and luxury touches, with decent legroom, but the headroom is low for taller passengers. There are also cupholders and charging ports, but no air vents or controls.

How does it drive?

The CX-8 is a bit of a Tardis. It feels spacious inside, yet on the road it is smaller than it feels, making it easy to park and manoeuvre in the city and suburbs.

The leather steering wheel has a nice solid feel to it making me feel very much in control. The leather steering wheel has a nice solid feel to it making me feel very much in control.

This model is a diesel, so it was never going to be the quietest car on the road, and the noise inside is noticeable.

The leather steering wheel has a nice solid feel to it making me feel very much in control. And the engine is certainly powerful, and responsive when you need it to be, getting across intersections in the city, or on the open road.

How spacious is it?

On the storage front the front centre storage bin has a double flip opening and cushy padded top, there are decent cup-holders in between, and a non-slip charging mat for your phone in the front. 

On the storage front the front centre storage bin has a double flip opening and cushy padded top. On the storage front the front centre storage bin has a double flip opening and cushy padded top.

There are also bottle holders in the door plus extra storage pockets.

The middle row has the same middle console as the front with the split top lid, cupholders and charging ports, plus bottle holders in the doors and deep pockets in the back of the seats.

The middle row seats are basically lounge chairs. The middle row seats are basically lounge chairs.

Space in the boot is compromised with the third row of seats in use, fitting only about 200L. But with those seats folded down it’s nearly 800L, though that does only leave you with four seats in the car.

Having six seats rather than seven in a car of this size has some pros and cons. The middle row is really designed for older kids or grandparents, with little ones relegated to the third row.

The third row has decent legroom, but the headroom is low for taller passengers. The third row has decent legroom, but the headroom is low for taller passengers.

If you’ve got younger children, and usually a couple of their friends as well, some families may miss the option of the seven seats.

How easy is it to use every day?

Keyless entry and start means getting going is simple.

The surround-parking sensors mean you are assisted every which way when parking. With multiple cameras and alert systems parking is made as simple as possible for a large SUV.

Space in the boot is compromised with the third row of seats in use, fitting only about 200L. Space in the boot is compromised with the third row of seats in use, fitting only about 200L.

Getting kids in and out of the middle seat is really easy, being just the right height to clip little ones into a seat, yet not so high that slightly bigger ones can't jump down themselves.

The only downfall, as with most cars with three rows, is once you have kids car seats installed in the middle row, it makes getting in the back row more difficult.

Even without the car seats the electronics to move the middle seat back to get into the third row is extremely slow.

Kids aren't known for their patience, so this would be the one instance where a manual adjustment might have been better.

How safe is it?

The CX-8 scores the maximum five stars in the ANCAP safety ratings, last tested in 2018.

There is a decent list of safety features, including Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) - with city and highway speed front AEB, plus slow speed AEB in the rear - which is a rarity.

Lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring plus parking sensors and cameras on the back, sides, and front.

But far and away my favourite safety feature is the inclusion of airbags for all three rows. Not something you get in all three-row vehicles.

There is the option of installing kids cars seats using top tethers or ISOFIX connectors in the middle two seats, or via top tether in the third row.

I installed my kids seats in the middle row, and jumping in and out of the third seat to connect the tether attachments is a little tricky, because once a seat is installed in the middle row, you can't flip that seat forward to step in and out.

What’s the tech like?

The digital display screen is more than 10 inches, and is navigated via a dial switch right at hand level, which takes some adjustment if you are used to a touchscreen. 

The native tech is really solid, with decent sat nav and easy to tune radio. You can connect via Bluetooth for basic phone functionality, or plug your phone in for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Frustrating that even in this snazzy model it’s not wireless.

You can connect via Bluetooth for basic phone functionality, or plug your phone in for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. You can connect via Bluetooth for basic phone functionality, or plug your phone in for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

How much does it cost to own?

This model is priced at $69,920, plus on road costs and extras. Mazda offers a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, with scheduled capped-price servicing every 12 months or 10,000 kilometres, a fairly standard offering.

Mazda lists service pricing out to 16 years/160,000km on its website, and the average annual charge over the first five years is $378.

The official combined fuel consumption is 6.0L/100km, but my drive around the suburbs and city commute averaged 9.0L/100km.


The Wrap

The Asaki LE is an easy, luxurious car to drive, that really looks after the passengers in the middle row. 

Nearly $70K for this Asaki LE model CX-8 is a lot, $30K more than the base model, but it does feel very high-end inside. So, I’m scoring it 8/10, and the kids gave it 9/10 having felt like royalty for a week.

Likes

Middle row comfort
Luxury touches
Parking assistance with camera and alerts from most angles

Dislikes

Access to the third row
Boot space with third row in use
No wireless connection for Apple CarPlay/Android Auto

Scores

Kate:

4

The Kids:

4.5

$69,290

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.