Seven-seat Mazda CX-8 is sizing up families
WHAT does Goldilocks want when she's all grown up with kids of her own? Mazda is confident the too big, too small and just right bases are covered following the launch of another seven-seat SUV.
The diesel-only CX-8, that starts from $42,490 plus on-roads, sandwiches between the mid-size CX-5 and the larger CX-9, which also has netball team capacity.
"Each of our SUVs has a distinct audience ... consumers want choices," Mazda Australia boss Vinesh Bhindi said.
"CX-8 is the perfect fit for growing families, ones who have one to two kids and might be considering another and often find themselves with a few extra passengers as friends come along for the drive.
"Where the CX-9 is too big and the CX-5 too small, Mazda CX-8 answers the call as the perfect in-betweener."
The CX-8 combines family traits and dimensions. It is 175mm shorter than the petrol-only CX-9, shares its 2930mm wheelbase and at 129mm narrower is the same width as a CX-5.
New car shoppers are abandoning diesels in the wake of the Volkswagen Dieselgate scandal, but it remains the engine of choice for those in high-end large SUVs. With that in mind, petrol is not an option on the CX-8. Mazda's customer analysis found this was no handicap.
"People really like the fuel consumption sticker numbers but whether it was a diesel or petrol was irrelevant," says Mazda marketing chief Alastair Doak.
Raising eyebrows is the CX-8's potential range of 1300km on one tank. The diesel claims 5.7L/100km in the front-wheel-drive Sport.
It's a simple model line-up, with just two specifications separated by a large price gap.
The base Sport grade is available in front-drive or the $4000 more expensive all-wheel drive. All-wheel drive also comes with a weight penalty that bumps the claimed thirst to 6.0L.
Step inside the CX-8 and savour the marque's push toward "mainstream premium". As with the recently released Mazda6 sedan, it's a sizeable step upmarket with materials and styling.
Shiny piano black finishes on the console and doors combine with faux leather and silver garnishes.
Even the cloth trim looks classy.
Other basic equipment includes a thin seven-inch colour touchscreen with satnav, digital radio and three-zone air-con.
It's a hefty step up to the range-topping Asaki variant at $61,490, which comes standard with all-paw grip along with nappa leather trim, 19-inch alloys (up from 17s), power tailgate, power adjustment of the front seats, Bose audio and advanced keyless entry.
Safety is solid across the three-tier range, including Mazda's city brake support which applies the brake automatically if an imminent collision is detected between 4-80km/h, or in reverse.
ANCAP has yet to crash test the CX-8. Key inclusions are lane keep assist to steer the car within road lines if the driver wanders, radar cruise control to maintain a set distance from vehicles ahead, reversing camera and rear parking sensors.
There are only two Isofix points, but five top tethers across the second and third rows.
Its head-up display projects speed and other details onto the windscreen rather than a pop-up panel as in previous Mazdas.
Unlike some competitors, the curtain airbags provide protection to the end of the third row.
Seven colours are on the palette: titanium, black, blue and white, with a $300 premium for metallic red, silver and grey.
Capped price servicing is $1095 for three years, but jumps to $2058 over five years. Servicing intervals are annual or 10,000km.
ON THE ROAD
Sound suppression is impressive. Only the coarsest chip surfaces generate road rumble.
The diesel is also quiet. At idle when it reaches operating temperature, many would struggle to detect it's an oil-burner and it's strong to boot - plant your foot and the power delivery is smooth and robust.
On the open road, the head-up display is a handy ally as the CX-8 silently moves through the six ratios with ease.
There are no paddle shifters on the steering wheel but they're not needed as the automatic box shifts intuitively to cruise at 100km/h at 2000rpm.
Our 300km journey in the front-drive Sport, which is tipped to be the volume seller, included some spirited hilly driving. We averaged 6.9L/100km, more than a litre over the claimed combined figure.
The quiet cabin environment accords with the comfort tuning of the suspension.
The CX-8 bounces over some mid-corner bumps but maintains its composure in most conditions.
The traffic sign recognition uses cameras to read signs and provide a constant reminder of zone restrictions in the head-up display and the driver's binnacle.
Switch on the intelligent speed assistance and it will keep to the zone's designated pace, ensuring you never get on the wrong side of a speed camera. It worked nearly perfectly for our journey, including roadworks, and was tripped up only briefly in a 100km/h section.
Operationally there is nothing too flashy. Analog gauges inform the driver, Mazda's dexterous dial controls the main screen functions, there are a pair of USB ports in the front console and the back, and a 12V port sits on the front passenger side.
Smaller adults can fit in the third row but anyone taller than 170cm will find their hair brushing the roof lining.
There is three-zone climate control, with independent dials for the second row but nothing for those further aft.
Smartphone mirroring apps Android Auto and Apple CarPlay will soon be available on all late-model Mazdas.
Available late this year, and not included on the just-released CX-8, the upgrade kit will work on all models with a MZD infotainment system that first went on sale in the Mazda3 from early 2014.
It's already standard on the recently updated BT-50.
Cost for the software and hardware kit is yet to be revealed.
"It will look exactly like what we currently have except you will be able to use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto," Doak said.
The functionality, which enables more seamless integration with smartphones, has become commonplace in most rivals and there had been strong pressure on Mazda - particularly in the United States - to offer the feature.
Another solid and dependable addition to Mazda's strong SUV range. The diesel is robust with impressive efficiency and it propels a quality package.
AT A GLANCE
MAZDA CX-8 DIESEL
PRICE $42,490-$61,490 (higher end, similar with rivals)
WARRANTY AND SERVICING 3yr unlimited km warranty (short), servicing annual or 12 months, over three years is $1095, five years $2058 (ok but expensive from 3-5 year period)
ENGINE 2.2- 4cyl twin-turbo diesel 140kW/450Nm, 6sp auto, 2WD or AWD (strong)
SAFETY Not rated, 6 airbags, lane-keep assist, radar cruise control, smart city braking, traffic sign recognition (good)
THIRST 5.7-6.0L/100km (miserly, but 7L on test)
SPARE Space saver (needed for boot space)
BOOT 239L (small), 572L third row stowed (good)