Mazda CX-5 VS Mazda CX-8
- Gorgeous styling
- Interior fit and finish
- Added off-road capability
- Road noise still too high
- Firm ride
- No hybrid options
- Good value for money
- Practical space
- Smooth diesel engine
- Higher grades get very expensive
- Six-seat option only available on one variant
- Petrol engine needs more pep
Mazda’s CX-5 has long reigned as Australia’s favourite mid-size SUV, but 2020 is likely the year it loses that title to the much-improved, new-generation Toyota RAV4.
To try and keep up with fresher competition though, Mazda has introduced rolling updates to the popular CX-5, including a new off-road mode for all-wheel drive (AWD) variants that better equips the stylish SUV for rough terrain.
Pairing its new capabilities with the same high-calibre interior fit and finish as before, as well as a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, means the new CX-5 is the arguably the most complete package it has ever been, but is it still good enough for your consideration in 2020?
|Engine Type||2.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Everybody wants an SUV these days, so to cater to a quickly growing and diverse audience, car brands need to offer more than just the usual small, medium and large varieties.
It’s a neat trick that Mazda pulls off, but are there any compromises to packaging, quality, value or comfort as a result? We spent some time in the new 2021 CX-8 Touring SP to find out.
|Engine Type||2.2L turbo|
The latest round of spec enhancements don’t add too much to the already-winning formula, but the Off-Road Traction Assist function is a nice box-ticker for buyers worried about the CX-5’s sure footedness.
Class leading safety and catwalk-worthy styling remain strong attributes, but buyers will have to forgo a little comfort and no electrified engine options.
We love that crucial safety systems are fitted to all grades of the CX-5, meaning even the base Maxx variant is a compelling buy.
If we had to pick though, we'd go for the AWD 2.5-litre Touring for $40,980, which is loaded with nice creature comforts such as a head-up display and keyless entry for a price that doesn't break the bank.
The mid-size SUV field is as strong as it has ever been however, with the battleground set to heat up even more thanks to new and refreshed entrants arriving in the near future, meaning the CX-5 might soon need a big leap forward instead of just iterating to remain ahead of the pack.
For now though, the Mazda CX-5 still has the substance to back up its style, even three years on from the market launch of its latest form, though only just.
Mazda’s updated CX-8 doesn’t really change much from the previous model, but it didn’t really need to fix what wasn’t broken.
The added Touring SP grade offers another choice for buyers who might be after some more upmarket features without the usual associated costs, while the Asaki LE’s captain’s chairs are genuinely a great feature.
The practical space and handsome looks are also big points in its favour, and even if the petrol engine can run out of huff towards the top end, the CX-8 remains a solid choice for those after a family hauler.
The first of Mazda’s models to adopt its latest design language, the second-generation Mazda CX-5 hit Australian showrooms in 2017 and has remained largely the same since.
That’s no bad thing mind you, as the CX-5’s smooth panels, sharp edges and subtle creases embrace a more timeless and classic design philosophy relative to the dated design elements of its rivals.
Every touch point inside the CX-5 feels top-notch, including the steering wheel, door trims and seats, while buyers can also personalise the interior with colours such as black, white and brown.
Our top-spec Akera test vehicle came fitted as standard with nappa leather, which feels ultra-luxe and premium.
The interior is laid out with a clean and crisp design, with all controls well placed, and large swathes of black surfaces broken up with textured materials.
We don’t have much to complain about in with the CX-5’s design, inside or out, but at the risk of nit-picking, we’d say the multimedia screen is starting to look dated, especially when stacked up against the well-designed unit of the Mazda3 and CX-30.
The CX-8 clearly belongs in the Mazda SUV family, wearing the same understated yet elegant design language found on the smaller CX-5 and larger CX-9.
In fact, the CX-8 can be a little hard to differentiate from either of its siblings from a distance, so if you like what Mazda has done with its crossovers, you’ll like the look of the CX-8.
Personally, I like the styling of the CX-8, with its sleek headlights and taillights adding a bit of aggression to the aesthetic, while the chrome-trim found on the grille and window surrounds adds a touch of class.
The 19-inch wheels found in the more expensive grades do look much better than the 17-inch units on the Sport and Touring, however, and fill the wheel arches much better.
Our Touring SP also sports a number of blacked-out elements on the exterior to set it apart, including around the grille, the windows and the wheels.
We think it looks great, especially when contrasting against our test car’s Polymetal Grey colour, but we will point out that higher grades like the GT and Asaki nab a new grille that looks much more upmarket than the one fitted here.
It’s not just the outside that will be familiar to Mazda customers, as the interior mirrors much of the CX-5 and CX-8 as well.
Everything is laid out in a clear and easy to use fashion, and controls and ergonomics are spot on for the driver.
The Touring SP scores a number of nice touches on the inside, too, including suede accents and red-stitched highlights that do a lot to elevate the standard black-cloth interior.
Out test car is also fitted with an 8.0-inch multimedia system, but having experienced the larger 10.25-inch unit of higher grades recently, the bigger version is a vast improvement in terms of looks.
Overall, the CX-8 plays it a little safe with design, but it still looks distinct and upmarket, like all Mazda SUVs.
Measuring 4550mm long, 1840mm wide and 1680mm tall, the CX-5 is slightly shorter than the likes of the Toyota RAV4, Nissan X-Trail and Hyundai Tucson, but its generous 2700mm wheelbase is larger than most of its peers.
Which means interior room in the CX-5 is excellent, especially in the front seats, where there is plenty of head, shoulder and legroom.
The fantastic driving position in particular has to be called out, as our CX-5 test car serves up an electronically adjustable seat and steering column that let us get in just the right place for our hands and legs.
Mazda’s driver-focused philosophy applies to all its models, and the CX-5 family hauler is no exception.
Rear seat room, while adequate, will just about fit three adults sitting abreast, but a full row of children or even teenagers shouldn’t be a problem.
Keep in mind though that second-row legroom can be compromised for taller passengers, but there is plenty of headroom.
Amenities in the second-row also include air vents and, in our top-spec grade, heated pews and two USB sockets, the latter found in the fold-down armrest that also houses two cupholders.
As for the boot, the CX-5 will also swallow 442 litres of volume with all seats in place, extending to 1342L with the pews stowed.
In real world terms, that means the CX-5 will easily cart around a family of five with the weekly groceries and folded stroller in tow, but it is noticeably smaller than the 580L/1690L capacity.
We will also point out that we couldn’t find any bag hooks in the back of our test car, though there were handy seat-folding tabs that could stow just the centre seat or each of the outbound pews with just a simple pull.
Storage throughout the cabin is also just OK, with a shallow glovebox and small storage tray below the climate controls.
The centre storage cubby however, is sizeable, and comes with a tray to keep items like a phone or wallet close to the surface to prevent you having to reach in a fish them out.
Door pockets also offer decent storage up front, but rear passengers will only be able to fit a water bottle in their doors.
Measuring 4900mm long, 1840mm wide, 1725mm tall and with a 2930mm wheelbase, the CX-8 is classified as a large SUV, but its width is actually the same as a one-size-smaller CX-5.
The length is closer to a CX-9, while the wheelbase is identical to its larger sibling, which means the CX-8 offers the practicality and space of a seven seater, but is easier to manoeuvre around town.
From the front seats, the cabin feels light and airy, thanks to a large glasshouse, while storage options extend to large door bins, a deep centre-storage cubby, two cupholders and a small tray for your phone/wallet.
The second-row seats also offer plenty of room for adults and will even slide forward and recline to get into the perfect position.
There is plenty of head and legroom, even for those sitting in the middle seat, but shoulder room can be a little compromised.
For those that seldom use the second-row middle seat, the Asaki LE features two captains’ chairs that are much more comfortable for adults, and even features ISOFIX and top-tether points for child seats.
In the second row, there are small door bins, a fold-down armrest with cupholders and air vents with climate controls, while the Asaki LE scores its own unique centre console with functions for seat heating.
The second-row doors are also a bit bigger than a CX-5, making ingress/egress to the third row a little easier, but it also means it can be trickier to get in and out of tighter parking spaces.
But if you are considering a CX-8, it’s probably because there is a third row of seats, and they are just what you’d expect.
It’s a little cramped in seats six and seven for my six-foot-tall frame, but there is decent legroom if the second-road seats scooch up a little.
Children shouldn’t have a problem being comfortable back there though, but charging points are only available on higher grades.
The boot of the CX-8 can swallow a decent amount of volume with all seats in place (209L), enough for a medium-sized suitcase and more than enough for some groceries or school bags.
Fold the third-row flat and that expands to 775L, making it easier to haul a whole family's luggage for a holiday.
Tucked underneath the boot is also a space-saver spare wheel for a little peace of mind on long road trips.
Price and features
Though Mazda has slightly increased the pricing of its CX-5 for the 2020 model year, there's still a wide selection of grades available from $30,980, before on-road costs, to $51,330.
Our test car, the AWD Akera grade paired with a 2.5-litre turbo-petrol engine, is priced at $50,830, making it the second-most expensive variant available.
Standard features across the range include an 8.0-inch multimedia display, 17-inch wheels and push-button start, but our test car was also kitted out with dual-zone climate control, satellite navigation, a powered tailgate, head-up display, leather interior and power-adjustable mirrors.
However, it’s the huge array of standard safety equipment that stands the CX-5 apart.
All CX-5s, including the entry-level Maxx, are fitted with features such as adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking, which are sometimes relegated to higher grades or options in competitor SUVs.
The Akera grade also gains 19-inch alloy wheels, ambient interior lighting, heated and cooled front seats and heated rear seats, as well as a frameless rearview mirror, heated steering wheel and woodgrain interior panels, It’s these small details that elevate the CX-5 from its peers.
There’s equipment here that is rarely seen in anything outside models from the big three German brands, and though a Mazda badge doesn’t quite hold that level of cache, the CX-5 is also not priced quite as highly as a BMW, Mercedes or Audi, either.
Whether you agree with Mazda Australia’s decision to push some models upmarket with higher price points and more equipment, there's no denying the blend of luxe and value presented in the CX-5.
Mazda’s CX-8 has changed a lot since it was first introduced to local showrooms in mid-2018.
Back then, it was a diesel-only range, available in two grades, but now Mazda Australia offers the CX-8 across five trim levels, two engine choices and front- or all-wheel drive, for a total of 11 variants.
Opening the range is the Sport grade, available in petrol front-drive and diesel all-wheel-drive forms for $39,990 before on-road costs for the petrol and $46,990 for the diesel AWD.
The Touring is also available in petrol FWD and diesel AWD versions, priced at $46,790 and $53,790, while new for 2021 is the Touring SP, which builds on the second-to-bottom grade for an extra $1000.
Meanwhile, the GT trim is a diesel-only affair, in front ($59,290) and all-wheel-drive ($64,290) flavours.
The diesel-only Asaki tops the CX-8 line-up, in FWD ($62,790) and AWD ($66,790), but Mazda has also introduced the new Asaki LE range-topper that bumps up pricing to $69,920.
We’ll dig into the engine specs a bit further down, but standard equipment is impressive, thanks to the likes of tri-zone climate control, a head-up display, and an 8.0-inch multimedia system with satellite navigation, digital radio and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto support.
Less impressive on the base Sport grade are the 17-inch wheels and black-cloth interior, but a sub-$40,000 seven-seat SUV needs to make compromises somewhere.
Stepping up to the Touring adds more upmarket features such as keyless entry, push-button start, power-adjustable front seats, heated front seats and leather interior.
Our test car, the Touring SP, differs thanks to red-contrast stitching for the interior, suede accents for the seats and dashboard, and heated rear seats, as well as blacked-out exterior elements (more on that below).
The GT grade scores a larger 10.25-inch multimedia system, wireless smartphone charger, powered tailgate, wood interior trim, sunroof, 10-speaker Bose sound system and steering wheel paddle shifters.
Finally, the Asaki nabs a 7.0-inch driver display, Nappa leather interior, cooled front seats and a heated steering wheel, while the Asaki LE swaps out the second-row bench seat for two heated captain’s chairs and a bespoke centre console with cupholders and USB ports.
No matter how you slice it, this is an impressive equipment list, on any grade you go for, but we will point out that prices are up this year (from $80-$1350) across the line-up.
Engine & trans
We’ve tested this engine before, and while nothing has changed on the powertrain front, we’re still big fans of this mill’s effortless oomph.
As one of the most potent petrol engines you can get in the mainstream mid-size SUV class, coming away from the line is expectedly brisk and the engine will enable a zero to 100km/h in an almost-hot-hatch-bothering 7.7 seconds.
Overtaking at freeway speeds is also easy, with the smart-shifting automatic transmission smoothly kicking down a cog for some extra shove.
Speaking of, peak torque is available from 2000rpm, making the CX-5 a delight to drive at slower speeds instead of a slow-moving bothersome chore.
However, we reckon the six-speed auto need another gear for freeway driving, just to keep revs and engine down a little more.
If the flagship 2.5-litre turbo-petrol engine isn’t your speed, there are other powertrains available in the CX-5 range, including a base 115kW/200Nm 2.0-litre petrol unit that is paired to a six-speed manual gearbox and an automatic-transmission-only 140kW/252Nm 2.5-litre petrol.
Diesel is also offered in the CX-5 range, an increasingly rare occurrence as the Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape and Subaru Forester are no long offered with oil-burning options, and in Mazda’s case is a 140kW/450Nm 2.2-litre twin-turbo unit.
However, unlike the three aforementioned mid-size SUV competitors, Mazda does not offer its CX-5 with any sort of electrified powertrain.
One could argue that in 2020, Australia is yet to fully embrace the electric vehicle future, but for those wanting the latest in hybrid or plug-in powertrain technology, the CX-5 does not yet have an answer (like most competitors).
Our Touring SP petrol is powered by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which drives the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.
The petrol engine outputs 140kW at 6000rpm and 252Nm at 4000rpm for a zero-to-100km/h run in a lethargic 10.9 seconds.
And depending on configuration, FWD or AWD, the oil-burning CX-8 can reach triple-digit speeds in as little as 9.6s.
A third-row of seats is not light, of course, with our Touring SP grade tipping the scales at just under 1800kg, while the Asaki LE weighs in at a positively porky 1977kg.
Official fuel consumption figures of the 2.5-litre turbo-petrol CX-5 peg it at 8.2 litres per 100km, but with our short stint in the car we managed 9.8L/100km.
To be fair, our driving consisted mainly of inner-city suburban streets and a brief stretch of highway driving, as well as some hard acceleration.
For those looking for a more frugal CX-5 though, the diesel engine is also available that will sip just 5.7L/100km, while the 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre petrol units are also less thirsty at 6.9 and 7.4L/100km respectively.
Again, a petrol-hybrid option here would help lower fuel-consumption even more, so if stretching your dollar further at the bowser is a concern, you may want to look elsewhere.
The CX-8 in front-drive petrol form will return an official fuel-consumption figure of 8.1 litres per 100km, while opting for a diesel will lower that to 5.9L and 6.0L/100km for front and all-wheel-drive versions.
In my brief time with the Touring SP petrol, I averaged 9.4L/100km, mostly due to remaining in the inner-city and lugging around baby paraphernalia like a pram and car seat. Oh, and a baby.
The start-stop engine technology does help keep consumption down, but the near two-tonne kerb weight (1799-1978kg) doesn’t help fuel economy.
The big headlining change to the new CX-5 is the added off-road driving mode added to AWD variants.
Dubbed ‘Off-Road Traction Assist’, the system locks the rear differential at the push of a button, enabling torque to be sent to the wheels that have grip.
In theory, the system is designed to better allow the CX-5 to get out of a sticky situation, such as deep mud or some particularly tricky terrain, and in practice it does what’s advertised.
Don’t get us wrong, the CX-5 isn’t transformed into a Jeep Wrangler or Toyota LandCruiser because of the new feature, but it certainly helps that Mazda has added extra go-anywhere assurance to its popular model.
Also keep in mind that the CX-5 will still be limited by ground clearance and its approach angle.
On the occasion that the CX-5 ventures down an unsealed road or rough terrain in inclement weather when venturing to a remote Airbnb or holiday home, the Off-Road Traction Assist button will surely be a welcome addition.
Aside from the new off-road mode, the CX-5 drives largely the same as before – for good and bad.
Steering is sharp, direct and communicative, while also being light and pleasant enough to manoeuvre around town.
However, the trade-off for a nice steering SUV is that suspension is still a bit too firm, for our tastes at least, which is of particular note in a five-seat family hauler like the CX-5.
Don’t get us wrong, its not back-breaking by any stretch, and on smooth surfaces, the ride is perfectly liveable.
Unfortunately, Australia – and in this particular case, Melbourne – is full of more than just smooth roads, with the occasional large dip and bump (not to mention the juttering of travelling over tram tracks) transmitted right to occupants.
Mazda said it has also improved the NVH levels of the new CX-5 thanks to extra sound deadening, but without driving the old car and new one back-to-back, it is a little hard to tell the level of enhancement.
However, we are happy to report road and wind noise was kept to a minimum in our time with the car, even at freeway speeds.
From the outside, you’d be forgiven for thinking the CX-8 is a CX-9, but behind the wheel there is no doubting its smaller dimensions and unique selling point.
With the CX-8 being as wide as a CX-5, it makes manoeuvring through the tight inner-city streets of Melbourne a breeze.
In our time with the car, we never turned down a tight laneway with cars parked on both sides and panicked about squeezing through with our mirrors intact.
This also helps with navigating streets shared with cyclists , with the CX-8 remaining comfortably in its lane at all times.
Our Touring SP grade was fitted with the 140kW/252Nm 2.5-litre petrol engine, which does an admirable job at moving the near-two-tonne car to city speeds, but struggled a little as the speedo climbed towards 100km/h.
This is especially evident in some freeway on-ramp situations that require you to get up to speed to merge, with the engine feeling out of breath – and even a bit coarse – towards the top-end of the rev range.
Luckily, peak torque is on tap from fairly low down, so when navigating the CX-8 to the supermarket or shopping centre, it is a delight to cruise from traffic light to traffic light.
We also sampled the diesel-powered Asaki LE recently, which offers up noticeably more pep thanks to its turbo-diesel engine's 140kW/450Nm – which matches the BT-50 workhorse’s 3.0-litre unit.
The diesel engine is no doubt a better option for those that take long road trips or frequent the freeway, and also stands the CX-8 even further apart from the turbo-petrol-only CX-9.
As with other models in its stable, Mazda has nailed the driving position and feel with the CX-8, with the driver’s seat offering heaps of all-round visibility, enough adjustability to get comfortable, and a steering wheel that serves up subtle cues as to what is happening on the road.
Don’t get us wrong, the CX-8 isn’t as engaging or sharp as an AMG SUV, but it’s certainly one of the better mainstream SUVs for fun and feel behind the wheel.
Safety is where the Mazda CX-5 stands heads and shoulders above the competition.
Lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, driver attention alert, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and adaptive cruise control, as well as auto high beams, wipers and headlights, are all included as standard across the entire Mazda CX-5 line-up.
But wait, there’s more as our Akera test car also has front parking sensors, traffic sign recognition and a surround-view monitor to make parking a breeze.
New in the 2020 model-year upgrade however, is night-time pedestrian detection for the AEB system.
The list of safety equipment included in the CX-5, even at its cheapest, is the yardstick from which all other cars – including models from premium brands – should be measured.
No surprises then that the Mazda CX-5 carries a full five-star ANCAP safety rating when it was first tested in 2017.
The Mazda mid-size SUV scored 95 per cent in the adult occupant test, while the child occupant protection examination yielded an 80 per cent score.
As for the vulnerable road user and safety assist categories, the CX-5 notched 78 and 59 per cent respectively.
The Mazda CX-8 was awarded a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating from its test in mid-2018, with notably high scores for adult and child occupant protection.
As standard, the CX-8 is fitted with crucial safety systems that you would want in a family car, such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert with automatic braking, a reversing camera, traffic-sign recognition and rear parking sensors.
Stepping up to the Touring grade adds front parking sensors, while the Asaki nabs a surround-view monitor – both features that are nice to have, but not essential.
According to ANCAP, the CX-8’s AEB system is operational from 4-160km/h and is deemed ‘good’ for overall performance, while its lane-keep and lane-departure tech works from 60-180km/h and was given a ‘marginal’ grade.
Service intervals are every 10,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first.
Basic service costs will alternate between $347 and $378 up to 160,000km or 16 years, but additional scheduled maintenance items will cost extra.
For example, the cabin filter will need to be replaced ever 40,000km, costing an additional $80, while spark plugs will need to be refreshed every 60,000km interval at a cost of $327.
As such, the first five years of servicing, by our calculations for the 2.5-litre turbo-petrol CX-5 Akera, will cost buyers $2092.
Scheduled service intervals for the CX-8, regardless of petrol or diesel, are every 12 months or 10,000km, whichever occurs first.
Some rivals like the Hyundai Santa Fe need servicing every 12 months/15,000km, so those who like to rack up the mileage in a year need to take note.
The cost of servicing over five years works out to be $2057 for the petrol engine and $2237 for the diesel, which averages out to about $411 and $447 per annum respectively.
Maintenance costs are a little on the expensive side for the CX-8 when compared to something like the Toyota Kluger, which asks $200 for every 12 month/10,000km service in the first five years.