Wide doors allow easy entry to the front seat, where it’s clear that most switchgear and controls are focused on the driver.
The multi-adjustable steering wheel is precisely centred for unencumbered view of the analogue dials within the chunky rim and standard-fitment digital head-up display above. Finding the ideal position is no hardship.
Most functionality boxes are ticked: superbly crisp dials, excellent ventilation, plenty of storage (including large door pockets for bottles and such) and fine forward vision. The excellent climate control system also features independent middle-row controls. Useful.
However, the multimedia set-up in this Mazda throws up both good and bad points: the former include thoughtful placement of a BMW iDrive-style controller that is meant to mitigate eyes-off-road distraction; users can alternatively use the touchscreen access if the vehicle is stationary; and – once familiarised – the menu layout is simple to fathom.
But, a decade old now, the system is certainly ageing, with tardy responses, dated graphics and a low-rent map rendering that seems aftermarket.
Driver front/side vision is also hampered by massive door mirrors, thick A-pillar bases and a narrow rear window, so you’re left to rely on that smallish camera screen as well as the (thankfully effective) RTCA/driver-assist safety systems. And the climate-control buttons are too easily activated/deactivated by the placement of phones in the storage slot below.
The second row is where the CX-8 really starts to diverge from its shorter sibling.
Longer doors which very helpfully open to almost 90 degrees provide ample entry/egress, to a classy environment thanks to the SP’s smart, monochromatic (black) presentation, that lush seat trim and broad attention to detail. These include large centre air vents with full climate control (including heating for outboard occupants), one-touch power windows that go all the way down, a wide centre armrest that matches the front ones, offering cupholders, minor hidden storage and a pair of USB-A ports for charging duties. Grab handles, reading lights, coat hooks, huge door storage and map pockets further underline the Mazda’s family-friendly focus.
Finally, there’s the two rearmost seats, accessed via a simple push of an electric button on either side, followed by a gentle push forward, to reveal a sizeable gap for passengers to clamber past. Thanks, longer doors. It’s not too bad given this is a stretched midsized SUV.
But it’s really best for smaller people, as the knees-up posture can get tiring after a while. The backrest is quite upright and doesn’t recline either. And you won’t find body-facing air vents back there – though in 31ºC summer heat and humidity the air-con could be felt, mercifully.
For a tight third-row environment, it’s not too bad. Thankfully there’s space for big shoes to tuck underneath the second row; big windows flood light in; the folding full-sized headrests mean heads are neither touching nor baking beneath the back window; there’s storage and cupholder access; and exiting is child’s play thanks to a single-lever action that’s clearly defined.
Shown above are interior details for the Mazda CX-8 2022.