19 September 2018

Mazda CX-8 2018 Car Review

If you’re an anti-diesel bod, long ago soured by old-style smoky, lethargic examples of the breed, you should try out this Mazda CX-8 in 2.2-litre diesel format.

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For this is a fabulous engine – it delivers punch at round-town speeds plus economy, yet it’s also quiet, and sufficiently refined to feel almost like a petrol motor at times.

Quiet and refined is obviously a good thing when you’re carting the family around – a job this vehicle is custom designed for. It’s a seven-seater, with second-row seats that allow access to a third row more spacious than most, so depending on the height of your passengers, it’s great for more than just car pooling. Better still, although there are still just two ISOFIX anchors, there are five top tethers for child or booster seats to give maximum flexibility – though if you want to try three abreast, it’d still be wise to check your seats will fit in the space.

With all the bottoms in use, the modest remaining luggage space is boosted by an under-floor space good for smaller items, or perhaps to tuck your valuables out of sight when you’re at the playpark or beach. That rearmost boot area also has pop-out hooks to keep bags and shopping from sliding around, while the third row passengers get their own small cubbys and cupholders on the wheel arches.

The CX-8 may not be a traditional people mover, but that cabin is still pretty flexible. If you have to leave the kids at home while you carry your new antique dresser, simply fold the second-row seats to give a long, long flat load floor, then reverse the process via minimal effort come school pick-up time.

So yes, it’s practical, but it also delivers a reasonably dynamic drive for the breed, too. That’s partly down to the G-Vectoring control, which automatically balances longitudinal g-force with lateral force to improve dynamics.

Current safety systems already monitor vehicle speed, throttle and steering rotation, so this was in theory quite a small step that fractionally increases load on the front tyres to deliver better turn-in and a slightly improved posture – so it’s safer, and more comfy, a combo likely to please both parents and their kids, even if it’s really too subtle to pin down. But it is part of an equation that makes this cross-over feel more wagon than SUV – something we noticed at launch, in vehicles that didn’t have it fitted.
Up front, this is a handsome cabin, trimmed in our GSX test car with a dark cloth for seats and trim. There were enough storage places up front, though our tester would prefer a charging point a little more accessible to the driver than the passenger footwell, while a wide array of controls is easily accessed via either steering wheel buttons or a dial by your left hand – short folk no longer need avoid big cars if they want to reach the radio.

We were in the base-spec GSX 2WD – there’s a 4WD GSX and top-spec Limited – but it still came loaded with the sort of fancy extras that just five years ago might have seemed OTT in even luxury cars. So there’s a seven-inch touchscreen display with SatNav, controlled by that commander dial, with Bluetooth and internet radio integration, plus voice activation. There are auto LED headlights, rain-sensing front wipers, and a head-up display, and there’s a safety package that includes smart city brake, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, forward obstruction warning, radar cruise control, lane keep assist and departure warning, traffic sign recognition, plus the by now virtually standard array of reversing camera and parking sensors front and rear, as well as items like trailer sway control.

There are enough seven-seaters these days to theoretically give this Mazda a run for its money, but few look as sleek and wagon-like as this. Indeed, you need to get up close to really appreciate that it’s quite big, and closer to a traditional SUV in its dimensions than the streamlined design suggests. A people mover might be the logical choice for someone regularly carrying up to five passengers. An SUV might seem a valid alternative. But if you like smart looks and incisive handling, you’ll have a hard time finding anything which is also as practical as this. That combo, along with this feature list, makes CX-8 a sharp contender against equally practical but arguably less stylish competitors like Skoda’s Kodiaq and Hyundai’s imminent Santa Fe. 

At a glance


Mazda CX-8 GSX


2.2-litre dohc in-line four-cylinder intercooled turbo-diesel



ANCAP safety rating


Power and Torque

140kW at 4500rpm, 450Nm at 2000rpm


Six-speed auto with manual and sport modes

Fuel economy


Towing capacity




Seating capacity


Luggage capacity/payload

242 litres (seven seats in use), 775 litres (five seats in use) space for two bicycles (front seats only in use)

Safety systems

  • Smart City Brake
  • Blind Spot Monitoring
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
  • Lane Keep Assist and Departure Warning
  • Reversing camera and park sensors front and rear
  • Traffic Sign Recognition
  • 2 Isofix, 5 top tether child seat anchors
  • Trailer Sway Control
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