Mazda CX-8 VS Volkswagen Tiguan
- 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
- High tech overhaul
- Subtle, refined looks
- Spacious and practical
- Getting pricey
- Minimal drivetrain enhancements
- Touch interfaces won't be for everyone
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|
First there was the Beetle, then there was the Golf. Now for the first time in history, Volkswagen is most associated with its mid-size SUV, the Tiguan.
It’s high stakes, but Volkswagen hopes rolling updates will keep it fresh for at least a few years to come, as it (globally) marches towards electrification.
There’s no electrification for Australia this time around, but has VW done enough to keep such an important model in the fight? We’ve taken a look at the whole Tiguan range to find out.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
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 Tiguan moves a smidge further upmarket with this facelift, now with an entry cost higher than ever, and while that might rule it out for some buyers, no matter which one you pick you’d still be getting the full experience when it comes to safety, cabin comfort, and convenience.
It's up to you to choose how you want it to look and drive, which are ultimately subjective areas anyway. On that basis I have no doubt this Tiguan will keep its buyers happy for years to come.
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.
The Tiguan was already an attractive car, with many subtle angular elements which added up to something suitably sophisticated for a European SUV.
For the update, VW has mainly made changes to the Tiguan’s face to keep it in line with the incoming Golf 8’s tweaked design language.
I think it has only served to make this car look better, with more integrated light fittings swooping out of its now more gentle grille treatment. There was a pugnacious toughness about the outgoing model’s flat face that I will miss, though.
The side profile is near identical, the new car only identifiable by subtle chrome touches and new wheel choices, while the rear is freshened up with a new lower bumper treatment, contemporary Tiguan lettering across the rear, and in the case of the Elegance and R-Line, impressive LED light clusters.
The inside, which has had a significant digital overhaul is what will get buyers salivating. Even the base car scores the amazing digital dash, but the larger multimedia screens and sleek touch panels will be sure to impress.
It’s important to note that while pretty much any car can have massive screens today, not all have the processing power to match, but I’m glad to say everything in the VW is as slick and fast as it should be.
The new wheel is a really nice touch with the embedded VW logo and cool looking surrounds. It feels a bit more substantial than the outgoing unit, too, and all the functions on it are nicely laid out and ergonomic to use.
I will say that the colour scheme, no matter which variant you pick, is pretty safe. The dash, while nicely finished, is just one big slate of grey, detracting from the flashy digital overhaul.
Even the inserts are plain and subtle, perhaps a missed opportunity for VW to make the interior of its pricey mid-sizer feel a bit more special.
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.
Refined and digitised it may have been, but is this update still practical? One of my big worries when hopping in was that the abundance of touch elements would make it distracting to operate while driving.
The touch panel climate unit from the previous car was starting to look and feel a little old, but there’s still a part of me that will miss how easy to use it was.
But the new touch climate panel not only looks good, it’s pretty easy to use too. It just takes a few days of getting used to it.
What I really missed was a volume dial and tactile shortcut buttons on the R-Line’s massive 9.2-inch touch-only screen. It’s a little usability gripe that will get on some people’s nerves.
The same goes for the touch elements on the R-Line’s wheel. They look and feel super cool with odd vibrating feedback, although at times I did fumble things that should be simple like cruise functions and volume. Sometimes the old ways are the best.
It sounds like I’m complaining about the Tiguan’s digital overhaul, but most of it is for the best. The instrument cluster (once an Audi exclusive feature) is one of the best on the market in terms of its look and usability, and the large multimedia screens make it really easy to jab at what function you’re looking for while remaining concentrated on the road.
The cabin is also excellent, with a tall but suitable driving position, big storage bins in the doors, big cupholders and cutaways in the tidy centre console, as well as a small centre console box and odd little pop-open tray atop the dash.
The new Tiguan is USB-C only in terms of connectivity, so bring a converter.
The back seat offers excellent amounts of room for my 182cm (6'0") frame, behind my own driving position. It’s super practical back there, too, with even the base car scoring a third adjustable climate zone with movable vents, USB-C outlet, and a 12V outlet.
There are pockets on the back of the front seats, big bottle holders in the door and drop-down armrest, and weird little pockets atop the seats, too. It’s one of the best rear seats in the mid-size SUV class in terms of amenities for passengers.
The boot is a large 615L VDA regardless of variant. This is also great for the mid-size SUV class, and it fit our entire CarsGuide luggage set with space to spare.
Every Tiguan variant also has a space saver spare under the boot floor, and little cutaways behind the rear wheel arches to maximise storage space.
The power tailgate is a boost, too, although it remains odd that the R-Line misses out on the gesture control.
Price and features
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.
The updated Tiguan doesn’t look wildly different from the outside. We’ll get to design in a second, but don’t underestimate it based on looks alone, there are a lot of significant changes under this mid-sizer's skin which will be key to its ongoing appeal.
For a start, VW has dumped its corporate titles of old. Names like Trendline have been dumped in favour of more friendly titles, with the Tiguan range now consisting of just three variants, the base Life, mid-grade Elegance, and top-spec R-Line.
To make it more simple, the Life is the only grade available as a front-wheel drive, while the Elegance and R-Line are all-wheel drive only.
As with the pre-facelift model, the updated Tiguan range will become more expansive in 2022 with the stretched seven-seat Allspace variant returning, and for the first time the brand will also introduce a go-fast Tiguan R performance variant.
In terms of the three variants which arrive for now, though, the Tiguan has notably taken a price hike, now technically more expensive than ever before, even if it is only by $200 over the outgoing Comfortline.
The base Life can either be chosen as a 110TSI 2WD with an MSRP of $39,690, or as a 132TSI AWD with an MSRP of $43,690.
While the price has increased, VW notes that with the tech onboard the current car, it would represent at least a $1400 discount on the Comfortline with the required option pack to meet it like-for-like.
Standard equipment on the base Life includes an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a 10.25-inch fully digital instrument cluster, 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry with push-start ignition, full auto LED headlights, cloth interior trim, a new leather bound wheel with the brand’s updated aesthetic touches, dual-zone climate control (now with a fully touch interface), and a powered tailgate with gesture control.
It’s a tech heavy package, and feels nothing like a base model. A pricey $5000 'Luxury Pack' can upgrade the Life to include leather seats, a heated steering wheel, power seat adjust for the driver, and a panoramic sunroof.
It’s a significant price-jump from the Life, and adds adaptive chassis control, 19-inch alloy wheels, chrome exterior styling touches, interior ambient lighting, upgraded ‘Matrix’ LED headlights and LED tail-lights, standard ‘Vienna’ leather interior trim with power adjustable front seats, a 9.2-inch touch-only multimedia interface, heated steering wheel and front seats, and privacy tint on the rear windows.
Finally, the top-spec R-Line is available with the same 162 TSI ($53,790) and 147 TDI ($55,290) all-wheel drive powertrain options, and includes massive 20-inch alloy wheels, a more aggressive body kit with blacked-out R touches, bespoke R-Line leather seat trim, sports pedals, black interior headliner, variable ratio steering, as well as a sportier steering wheel design with haptic feedback touch control panels. Interestingly the R-Line loses the gesture control tailgate, making do only with a powered one.
The only options on the Elegance and R-Line aside from premium paints ($850) is the panoramic sunroof which will set you back an additional $2000, or the ‘Sound and Vision’ package, which adds a 360-degree parking camera, head up display, and harman/kardon nine-speaker audio system.
Every variant also comes with the full array of active safety features, which is a huge boost to value for buyers, so make sure to take a look at that later in this review.
Regardless, the entry-level Life now competes with mid-grades of rivals like the Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5, and Toyota RAV4, the latter of which has a key fuel-sipping hybrid variant, which many buyers are searching for.
Engine & trans
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.
The Tiguan maintains a relatively complex engine line-up for the class.
The entry level Life can be chosen with its own set of engines. The cheapest of which is the 110 TSI. It’s a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 110kW/250Nm driving the front wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch automatic. The 110 TSI is the only front-drive option left in the Tiguan range.
Next up is the 132 TSI. It’s a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol producing 132kW/320Nm driving all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
The Elegance and R-Line are available with the same two higher-powered engine choices. This includes the 162 TSI 2.0-litre turbo-petrol which produces 162kW/350Nm, or the 147 TDI 2.0-litre turbo-diesel which produces 147kW/400Nm. Either engine is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and drives all four wheels.
Missing from the picture for this update is the word seemingly on every buyer’s lips at the moment – hybrid.
There are hybrid variants available overseas, but due to ongoing issues with Australia’s relatively poor fuel quality, VW has been unable to launch them here. Things could change in the near future, however…
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.
Whiz-bang dual-clutch automatics are meant to make for lower fuel numbers, and it certainly seems to be the case for the Tiguan, at least on its official figures.
The 110 TSI Life we tested for this range review has an official/combined consumption figure of 7.7L/100km, while our test car saw around 8.5L/100km.
Meanwhile the 162 TSI R-Line also sampled has an official figure of 8.5L/100km, and our car returned a dash-reported 8.9L/100km.
Keep in mind these tests took place over only a handful of days rather than our usual weekly test, so take our numbers with a grain of salt.
Either way, they are impressive for mid-size SUVs, particularly in the case of the all-wheel drive 162 TSI.
On the downside, all Tiguans require a minimum of 95RON as the engines are incompatible with our cheapest entry-level 91.
This is due to our particularly poor fuel quality standards, which look set to clean up if our fuel refineries get an upgrade in 2024.
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.
Given that so much is similar across the Tiguan range in terms of its spec and fitment, which variant you choose primarily influences the experience behind the wheel.
It’s a shame, for example, that the entry-level 110 TSI hasn’t been tweaked for this facelift, as our gripes with this variant still stand.
The 1.4-litre turbo is efficient and reasonably punchy for its size, but has an annoying power lull when it comes to a stop which can work with the dual-clutch to make for some laggy, glitchy moments.
Where the base car shines, though, is its ride. Like the Golf below it, the 110 TSI Life strikes a fine balance between ride quality and comfort, proving to insulate the cabin well from bumps and road impurities, while giving it enough driver engagement in the corners to feel a little like a giant hatch.
If you want to read more about the 110 Life, we have a variant review of the new one here.
We weren’t able to test the mid-grade Elegance, nor did we sample the 147 TDI diesel for this test, but we did have a chance to drive the top-spec 162 TSI R-Line.
Straight away it’s evident there's a strong case for paying the extra for more grunt. This engine is excellent in terms of the power on offer, and the way it's delivered.
The big boost in these raw figures helps it deal with the extra weight of an all-wheel drive system, and the extra low-down torque makes it an even better match for the snappy dual-clutch automatic.
This has the effect of removing most of the annoying jerky moments from stop-start traffic, while allowing the driver to make the most of the benefits of the instantaneous dual-clutch shifts when accelerating in a straight line.
The all-wheel drive system, more aggressive tyres, and a sharper steering tune in the R-Line make it an absolute pleasure to turn into corners at speed, offering a handling prowess that betrays its shape and relative heft.
Certainly then, there’s something to be said for splashing out on the larger engine, but the R-Line isn’t without its downsides.
The huge wheels conspire to make the ride a tad harsh when bouncing off suburban road imperfections, so if you’re primarily plodding around town and not seeking thrills on the weekend it may be worth considering the Elegance with its smaller 19-inch alloys.
Stay tuned for a future variant review with driving impressions for the 147 TDI, and of course the Allspace and full-fat R when they become available next year.
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.
Great news here. For this update, the entire VW safety suite (now branded 'IQ Drive') is available even on the base Life 110 TSI.
Included is freeway-speed auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, driver attention alert, as well as front and rear parking sensors.
The Tiguan will carry across its maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as awarded in 2016. The Tiguan has a total of seven airbags (the standard six plus a driver’s knee) and the expected stability, traction, and brake controls.
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.
Volkswagen continues with a competitive five year/unlimited kilometre warranty, the industry standard when it comes to its primarily Japanese rivals.
Servicing is covered by a capped price program, but the best way to keep the cost down is to purchase the pre-paid service packs which cover you for three years at $1200, or five years at $2400, regardless of variant.
Doing so brings the cost down to very competitive levels, although not to the absurd lows of Toyota.