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Mazda CX-8 2020 review: Sport petrol

The CX-8's smaller size means it's more usable and accessible for smaller families.

The Mazda CX-8 is a large seven-seat SUV, but it’s not quite as big as the Mazda CX-9. The smaller size means it feels a bit more usable and also a bit more accessible for smaller families.

Because you don’t have to have a huge family to want a huge car (you might just want more boot space!), this CX-8 makes it feel like that’s okay. 

I test drove the CX-8 Sport in petrol 2WD which costs $39,910, before on road costs. Quite good value to get such a big car at just under $40K.

It competes with cars like the Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, and VW Tiguan Allspace, and I drove it over seven days for this week’s family review. 

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✅ How does it look?

First up, it’s not as big and bulky as a typical large SUV. It's more streamlined, and looks very much like a CX-5 (Mazda’s five seat SUV) - which is good and bad.

Good because it’s a good looking car that still feels quite classic and modern, but bad because these cars are everywhere and it’s not the most unique thing to be driving around.

It’s a good looking car that still feels quite classic and modern. It’s a good looking car that still feels quite classic and modern.

Inside is designed well with a very slick, long dashboard that blends seamlessly into the centre console. The multimedia screen does look a little dated popping out of the dash and I think it could do with an update.

The centre console is one of the more unfussy designs with no unnecessary knobs and buttons, everything has a purpose and it’s functional. 

It’s not as big and bulky as a typical large SUV. It’s not as big and bulky as a typical large SUV.

This CX-8 Sport has fabric seats which are very smooth - long gone are the scratchy fabric seats of old. These look good and they’re comfortable.

The steering wheel and gearshift are covered in leather so you still get those touch points of luxe beneath your hands. All in all, you feel good driving this car. 

✅ How spacious is it?

While the CX-8 has a smaller exterior than the CX-9, the interior space still feels large and there was no issue with head room or leg room even for the taller members of my family in the front seat. 

The interior space feels large and there was no issue with head room or leg room. The interior space feels large and there was no issue with head room or leg room.

In the middle row, my two children, aged six and eight, had plenty of space to get comfortable and they popped their toys into the centre seat without arguing over room - a good sign.

You can also fit a third child seat in the middle, I did it with two boosters and a baby capsule. 

There is so much leg space in the second row and it also moves forward really easily so you can adjust the space as you need it. There is so much leg space in the second row and it also moves forward really easily so you can adjust the space as you need it.

There is so much leg space in the second row and it also moves forward really easily so you can adjust the space as you need it and give it to the third row if you want more leg space back there.

You’ve got a lot of space to play with and it’s doubtful you’ll need all the space that comes in the second row for kids. 

For me (at 161cm) to fit in the third row, I did move the second row forward, and once I did I was quite comfortable.

Because it’s adjustable, taller adults will fit back there, too, but will probably not want to be there for long trips. Still, it’s one of the more comfortable third rows.

When the two back seats are flipped down, there is 742L of boot space. When the two back seats are flipped down, there is 742L of boot space.

The boot is large. When the two back seats are flipped down, there is 742L of boot space - huge for a family of five or less.

It will easily swallow a double pram or sporting equipment. When the two back seats are in use, the space shrinks to 205L, and you’ll be able to fit a few grocery bags or school bags in there.

When the two back seats are in use, the space shrinks to 205L. When the two back seats are in use, the space shrinks to 205L.

✅ How does it drive?

There is something particularly easy about the CX-8 even in this Sport 2WD petrol spec.

With a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine, it gets up hills perfectly fine and also cruises nicely along highways. With a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine, it gets up hills perfectly fine and also cruises nicely along highways.

With a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine, it gets up hills perfectly fine and also cruises nicely along highways. There’s no real heavy pull or lag which you can often get with bigger engines and bigger cars.

This one almost drives like the CX-5. If you do want diesel (which uses less fuel and apparently has more grunt than this petrol version) or AWD, you can opt for that one in the range. 

It handles nicely and feels quite agile for a seven-seat vehicle. Parking is good, once you accommodate the length, there is a wide reverse parking camera with guidelines to help direct you when reversing. 

✅ How easy is it to use every day?

The CX-8 Sport is the entry-model in a range of four, and as such there’s not much in the way of automation. Everything is manual yet quite easy to use.

So, the front seats are manually adjustable and there is no power operated tailgate but you’re saving money on the final price which is a good thing.

There is no power operated tailgate but you’re saving money on the final price which is a good thing.  There is no power operated tailgate but you’re saving money on the final price which is a good thing. 

There are two cupholders in the front, a large tray for keys and a phone, a large centre storage bin and bottle holders in all four doors.

Second row passengers get two cupholders in the centre armrest and their own climate control, plus pockets on the back of the front seats.

Third row passengers don’t get any extra air vents but they do get a cupholder each along with an extra storage hole. 

✅ What’s the tech like?

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay come standard and you easily plug your phone into one of the USB points for instant access to your phone’s main apps via the multimedia system.

The screen works as a touchscreen only when the car is in park. The screen works as a touchscreen only when the car is in park.

The screen works as a touchscreen only when the car is in park. When you’re driving the car, it’s controlled by a knob down on the centre console - which is fine, but not ideal. Touchscreens are much easier to use. 

The sound is good, so turn your favourite songs up for an instant stress buster.

✅ How safe is it?

The safety is good across the range in the CX-8 with advanced safety coming standard. You’ll find rear cross traffic alert, auto emergency braking and a lane keep assist system.

The CX-8 scored the maximum five ANCAP stars when it was tested in 2018.  The CX-8 scored the maximum five ANCAP stars when it was tested in 2018. 

There are six airbags throughout the car and you’ll get top tether points across the second row (three) and third row (two) seats for securing baby capsules/child seats. Plus, there are ISOFIX anchors in the second row's two outer positions. 

The CX-8 scored the maximum five ANCAP stars when it was tested in 2018. 

✅ How much does it cost to own?


The Wrap

The Mazda CX-8 Sport 2WD is a great car with enough space for those with five kids, but also great for smaller families, like my family of four. I particularly enjoyed having a large boot and also appreciated the two spare seats in the back - just in case we wanted to use them. 

It drives really well and it doesn’t feel too big, plus it has good safety and technology. I gave it a family rating of 7.9 out of 10 and my kids gave it an eight, they love sitting right in the back row, far away from the parents.

Likes

Smooth drive
Large boot
Interior space

Dislikes

Dated multimedia screen
Fuel consumption
Third row tight for adults

Scores

Nedahl:

4

The Kids:

4

$43,910

Based on new car retail price

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