There is a certain sense of satisfaction when things click into place. It could be a problem that you finally solve, that eureka moment when the light finally dawns or, as is the case with the first ever Mazda CX-8, where the missing a part of the puzzle is found combined with the reassuring feel and comforting sound as you turn its numerous grooved bezel dials.
I attended the New Zealand launch of the Mazda CX-8 a couple of months ago and it was easy to see why they were so excited about its arrival, but it’s when you handed the keys (okay, keyfob) for a more extended drive that it shows its true worth and this week I was given just such a chance.
The Mazda CX-8 offers the seven-seater passenger room and not far off the luggage space that comes with their CX-9 model but with the driveability and poise that’s more akin to their CX-5.
With KODO design providing the backbone for this new SUV, there’s a sophistication to its profile, more flow to the vehicles lines and less drama, even when sitting on 19-inch high-gloss alloy wheels. The now distinctive Mazda grille and nose include LED daytime running lamps and adaptive (i-Activsense) LED headlights. The rear includes a roofline spoiler, a remote-operated power tailgate, dual chrome capped exhaust tips and LED lights that venture around to meet the subtle shoulder line.
Keyless entry gives you access to the CX-8’s modern and luxurious interior and (as I was reviewing the Limited model) you’re immediately struck with the deep nappa leather aroma that emanates from its very plush, aged merlot furniture. There is a lot of focus around the driver, with an uncluttered horizon and a seating position that allows for easy interaction with all manner of driving necessities, however, with a three-row cabin that’s been lavished with comfort and connectability, the (up to six) passengers don’t exactly get it tough. There’s also 775L of third-row seat-down luggage space to play with should you choose to only take a selected number of family members or friends.
I could go on about the CX-8’s suite of driver’s aids (radar cruise control, lane keep assist, traffic sign recognition, head up display…), smartphone connection, 10-speaker Bose stereo system, but the thing that really grabbed my attention was how mechanically satisfying the A/C, volume and infotainment dials were. I know they’re the same across most of the Mazda range now, it’s just as I relaxed in heated seat and steering-wheel comfort, the tactility and gratifying sensation as the dials clicked with each turn had my mind wandering towards a career in safe cracking—little things huh?
Then there’s the engine. The CX-8 comes equipped with Mazda’s SKYACTIV-D powertrain. An advanced diesel engine that via a 6-speed auto gearbox, serves up 140kW of power and gives you access to 450Nm from 2,000 rpm. When you complete this picture with their AWD and G-Vectoring control for stoic corner handling, you get a powerful drive with 6l/100km efficiency.
With only three of us, I admit that I don’t have a big family, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t like our own space from time to time (read into that what you will). The CX-8 gave each of us a row to play with, and my son quickly ‘dibbed’ the back row (just as well, he’s a little young to drive). We did the town and country experience tour, which included the regular mall and school run chores, four trips to football (one of them a tournament) and a beach visit for celebratory ice-creams. I kid you not, the CX-8 handles like a sedan on the road the quietness of the engine didn’t go unnoticed, or in fact, it did. There’s plenty of room for an extended family or those that like to tote around a lot of gear, yet it all fits nicely into a near medium-sized SUV frame.
Mazda already has an impressive lineup of SUVs ranging from the compact CX-3 to the large and luxurious CX-9 so adding another number to the fold may, on the face of it, seem a bit bemusing, however, when you realise what this new CX-8, seven-seat SUV has to offer it obviously all starts to click.
Words: Dave Mcleod