Car Reviews

2019 Mazda CX-8 Asaki Review

MAZDA CX-8 ASAKI IN A NUTSHELL: Mazda’s SUV middle-child fills a gap between the five-seat Mazda CX-5 and the petrol-only seven-seat Mazda CX-9 by offering a diesel-powered seven-seater for families. But if you don’t need diesel, pick the CX-9.

What is the Mazda CX-8 Asaki?

It’s easy to understand why seven-seat SUVs have become so popular over the last decade. You don’t need to be a family of seven to enjoy the benefits, anyone with kids and extended families will appreciate the flexibility having three rows of seats brings.

And let’s not beat around the bush, people movers have an uncool image that many of us don’t want to be associated with. So car makers have increasingly added seven-seat SUV offerings.

READ MORE: TOP TIPS TO BUY A SEVEN-SEAT SUV

Mazda now has two, with the diesel-powered Mazda CX-8 joining the petrol-only Mazda CX-9 in 2018. Originally the CX-8 was meant to be a Japanese-only special, but the popularity of the brand here gave Mazda Australia enough leverage to convince HQ to send the CX-8 down under.

Mazda gave it a tweak for 2019 so we’re seeing how the latest iteration stacks up.

What does the Mazda CX-8 cost and what do you get?

There are two grades of CX-8, the entry-level Sport and the generously-equipped Asaki. It’s the later we’re testing here, and it’s priced from $62,590 (plus on-road costs) which is cheaper than the equivalent CX-9 Azami AWD, which starts at $66,760.

For the money you get 19-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, keyless entry and ignition, power tailgate, tri-zone air-conditioning, head-up display, leather upholstery, heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated as well as power-adjustable front seats, heated second-row seats and sunblinds in the second row.

What’s the Mazda CX-8 Asaki interior like?

In a word: plush. It’s not a cheap SUV but you do feel like you get what you pay for inside. Nice, supple leather lines the interior which gives a premium ambience.

Speaking to the creation of the CX-8, anyone upgrading from a CX-5 will be familiar with the design as the two cars share plenty of mechanical and design DNA. That means it has a user-friendly layout, with all the key controls falling easily to hand and plenty of small-item storage spaces.

A new-for-2019 addition is ambient lighting, which may seem like a gimmick but really does further that prestige feeling the cabin radiates.

How much space is there in the Mazda CX-8 Asaki?

This is the key selling point of the CX-8. It may be based on underpinnings more closely aligned to the CX-5, but the Mazda engineers stretched the wheelbase to 2930mm; the same as the CX-9. That makes for a much roomier cabin, both in the second row as well as the extra two seats in the third row.

That means there’s good room in the second row for two adults or three children; but because it’s the same width as the CX-5 it isn’t quite as generous as the wider CX-9. Those in the middle row are well looked after though, with heated outboard seats and an armrest with cupholders and a pair of USB sockets.

Like so many seven-seat SUVs (as opposed to a people mover) the third row is best used part-time, because while there’s reasonable room for smaller children, it’s a tight squeeze for adults.

The second-row bench slides forward to liberate more space for those in the rear, if needed.

Luggage capacity is a sizeable 742-litres when the third row is stowed and not in use. But when you’re using all seats that figure drops to just 209-litres. Most seven-seat SUVs are the same.

What’s the Mazda CX-8 Asaki infotainment like?

Befitting its place at the top-of-the-range the Asaki gets a premium sound system in the form of a 10-speaker, 273-watt Bose stereo. It’s packaged up with a 7.0-inch infotainment screen (controlled via a rotary dial in the centre console) that incorporates navigation and digital radio. One of the major updates for 2019 was the overdue addition of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard equipment.

Unfortunately, it’s still Mazda’s now superseded infotainment system (as opposed to the new version in the latest Mazda3) which is slow and clunky to use at times. It’s also a little small compared to newer, larger screens.

What’s the Mazda CX-8 Asaki engine Like?

The main selling point for the CX-8 (compared to the CX-9 at least) is the diesel engine. A 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel, it produces 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque; compared to 170kW/420Nm from the 2.5-litre turbo petrol in the CX-9.

Naturally, fuel economy will be the main reason for many to pick one over the other, and the CX-8 does have a big advantage of its petrol-powered sibling, 6.0-litres per 100km, compared to 8.8L/100km.

While clearly designed with efficiency and family motoring in mind, the engine does an admirable job. It has strong pulling power from low down in the rev range, so it has good pick up off the mark. The six-speed automatic is well-matched to the engine, shifting smoothly and without much fuss. One small criticism is the clunky way the i-Stop system works, because while it switches off at the lights nicely, when you need to go again the engine can start up with a jolt.

The bigger problem with the CX-8 engine is the same bugbear that has plagued Mazda for a long time – noise. While the brand has made strides forward with newer models in reducing the noise that seeps into the cabin, the CX-8 hasn’t benefited from those changes.

As a result, there’s an obvious diesel rattle, especially from cold start-up, and you can hear it under acceleration too; which detracts from an otherwise polished driving experience.

What’s the Mazda CX-8 Asaki like to drive?

It’s not just the engine noise that penetrates the cabin, tyre roar is also noticeable at times; particularly on coarse chip road surfaces.

But that’s the biggest criticism of the way the CX-8 drives. There’s an obvious similarity to the CX-5 behind the wheel, even if the seven-seater weighs approximately 200kg more, with predictable steering and a relatively responsive chassis.

The ride is well sorted too, with a good balance between handling and comfort. It can be a little firm at times, you’ll notice the occasional sharp-edged bump in the road, but overall it soaks up imperfections and leaves the occupants well looked after.

It doesn’t really live up to Mazda’s ‘Zoom-Zoom’ marketing line, but as seven-seat SUVs go it’s pleasant to drive.

How safe is the Mazda CX-8 Asaki?

As the range-topper, the Asaki has an extensive list of safety equipment. It gets airbag coverage for all three rows which is an important factor in seven-seaters, because you don’t want to leave those in the back row exposed.

Also included is a suite of active safety features including autonomous emergency braking (AEB), active lane-keeping assist and lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and 360-degree birdseye view camera (to make parking safer and easier).

What are the Mazda CX-8 Asaki alternatives?

Well, the most direct rival is the CX-9 and if you’re willing to make the sacrifice of high fuel economy it’s arguably the better choice. It’s a smoother, punchier engine and it’s physically bigger, with the extra width making it more comfortable for seven.

But, as mentioned at the beginning, there are an increasing amount of seven-seat SUV options available. The Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander diesel starts at $60,500, while the Kia Sorento GT-Line is priced from $58,990 (but a new model is in the pipeline). Other options include the petrol-powered Holden Acadia LTZ (from $57,490), Ford Everest Trend (from $59,990), Nissan Pathfinder Ti (from $66,390) and Toyota Kluger GXL (from $59,970).

READ MORE: HOLDEN ACADIA VS MAZDA CX-9

2019 Mazda CX-8 Asaki pricing and specifications

Price From $62,590 plus ORCs Warranty 5 years/unlimited km Engine 2.2L turbo diesel Power 140kW at 4500rpm Torque 450Nm at 2000rpm Transmission 6-speed auto Drive all-wheel-drive Body 4900mm (l); 1840mm (w); 1725mm (h) Kerb weight 1957kg Seats 7 Thirst 6.0L/100km Fuel tank 74-litres Spare Space saver

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Editor's Rating

How do we rate the interior and practicality?
How do we rate the value?
How do we rate the controls and infotainment?
How do we rate the performance?
How do we rate the ride and handling?
How do we rate the safety?
This is a solid choice for a diesel seven-seat SUV though the Mazda CX-8 lacks the polish and space of the flagship - but petrol only - CX-9. We like the comfort and quality of the interior and the great safety credentials. The technology inside is good and the drivetrain admirable, but the ride is sometimes a little firm and the engine can be noisy.

Stephen Ottley

Stephen Ottley