Though not the cheapest CX-8, the Touring SP 2WD petrol from $47,790 (all prices are before on-road costs) represents compelling value for money, especially if you like your seven-seater SUV to look sporty.
Even the entry-level Sport 2WD petrol from $39,990 is decently equipped, with seven seats (of course), sliding and reclining middle-row seats, tri-zone climate control with second-row control, head-up display, auto on/off LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, roof rails, power-folding side mirrors, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone support, power windows, remote central locking, push-button start, cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, electric park brake with auto-hold and 17-inch alloys (with a space-saver spare wheel).
Safety systems include autonomous emergency braking (AEB – dubbed Smart City Brake Support with forward and reverse functionality in Mazda-speak), forward collision warning, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with full stop/go functionality, lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, speed sign recognition with 'Intelligent Speed Assistance' (that keeps the vehicle below the posted limit), rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, driver-fatigue checks and tyre-pressure monitors.
Stepping up to the Touring 2WD petrol from $46,890 adds worthwhile kit like front parking sensors, LED fog lights, keyless entry, leather upholstery, heated and powered front seats, second-row centre armrest with USB charging ports, paddle shifters, and an electrically actuated second-row seat slide function for one-touch third-row entry. It’s effortless.
Yet, for just $1000 extra, the $47,790 Touring SP 2WD petrol ushers in blacked-out trim inside and out and 19-inch alloy wheels that really alleviate the CX-8’s dowdy bulk (and provide an extra 5mm of ground clearance – at 205mm – as an added bonus), as well as synthetic leather/suede seat trim, driver’s seat memory and heated second-row outboard seats.
Want more? For goodies like a powered tailgate, sunroof, longer (10.25-inch) touchscreen, wireless phone charging, premium audio and third-row USB ports and more, you’ll need to find at least $56,390 for the GT 2WD petrol. For all-wheel drive, you must also tick the diesel box, bumping the price of most grades by $7000 in the process.
Note that Mazda charges $495 extra for metallic/mica paint. Remember when the brand used to boast about never charging extra for that?
Still, what the Touring SP brings is a classy and well-equipped package that lacks none of the essentials, at under $50K.
While this is up against the higher grades of the Outlander (Exceed) and CR-V (VTi L7) with specs that approach that of the CX-8 GT, keep in mind that these are shorter vehicles with less interior space (and practicality), while the Mazda comfortably undercuts similarly equipped but larger SUVs like Kluger, Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento. It really does straddle the classes.
Finally, with its 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine and six-speed torque-converter automatic transmission, the CX-8 sidesteps some of its rivals more… controversial engineering. These include CVTs (Outlander and X-Trail) and DCTs or/or turbos (auf wiedersehen Skoda Kodiaq and VW Tiguan Allspace).
After wading through all these facts, suddenly, the Mazda’s value appeal comes into sharper focus.
Too bad the CX-8 isn’t as sharply attired as its strikingly slinky CX-9 sibling.