Car Reviews

2018 Mazda CX-8 Sport Review

Isaac Bober’s 2018 Mazda CX-8 Sport Review with price, specs, performance, ride and handling, ownership, safety, verdict and score.

In a nutshell: Mazda CX-8 slots in between CX-5 and CX-9, is diesel only and offers 5+2 seating.

2018 Mazda CX-8 Sport FWD Specifications

Price $42,490+ORC Warranty five years, unlimited kilometres Service Intervals 12 months, 10,000km Safety Not Yet Tested Engine 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel Power 140kW at 4500rpm Torque 450Nm at 2000rpm Transmission six-speed automatic Drive front-wheel drive (as tested) Dimensions 4900mm long, 1840mm wide, 1720mm wide, 2930mm wheelbase Turning Circle 11.6m Seats 5+2 Boot 209L-1840L Towing 2000kg maximum braked Towball Download 100kg Spare Temporary Fuel Tank 72L Thirst 5.7L/100km

The Mazda CX-8 was originally billed as a Japan-only vehicle but there was clearly enough interest from markets around the world that Mazda reconsidered. It was launched here in June and you can read Dean Mellor’s first drive review of the CX-8 here. We’ll have a video review online soon too and will add it to this article.

Bigger than a CX-5 and smaller than a CX-9 is how people generally try and describe the thing, but just what does that mean? The CX-5 measures 4550mm long, 1840mm wide and 1675mm high, the CX-8 measures 4900mm long, 1840mm wide and 1720mm high while the larger CX-9 measures 5075mm long, 1969mm wide and 1747mm high. The wheelbase of the CX-8 and CX-9 is identical at 2930mm.

Mazda CX-8 Sport Review

When you look at the numbers there’s quite a decent step up from the CX-5 to the CX-8 in terms of size (in all areas except width which is identical) but the difference in size compared to the CX-9 is minimal and with a wheelbase that’s the same you start to wonder does one almost cancel the other out, and if one or the other had a petrol or diesel engine would there be any need for the other vehicle? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this. See you in the comments.

What’s in the range and how much does it cost?

The CX-8 can only be had with a diesel engine and there are only two grades to choose from, the entry-level Sport we’re testing here and the Asaki. The Sport is available in either front-wheel drive (which we’re testing) from $42,490+ORC or all-wheel drive $46,490+ORC, while the Asaki is all-wheel drive only and lists from $61,490+ORC.

It would be quite easy to walk up to the door of the CX-8 Sport and think a lack of keyless entry suggests the thing is lacking creature comforts. But that couldn’t be further from the truth and this entry CX-8 is surprisingly well decked out.

Standard features include, automatic LED headlights and taillights, rain-sensing wipers, 7.0-inch infotainment screen with MZD Connect and native sat-nav (there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto), powered and folding mirrors, a head-up display, three-zone climate control and almost every one of Mazda’s active safety systems (only front parking sensors, 36-degree view monitor, and adaptive LED headlights are reserved for the top-spec variant).

Mazda is predicting 3000 sales of the CX-8 in its first year on the market with a model split of 60 per cent Sport 2WD, 10 percent Sport AWD and 30 percent Asaki AWD. At the local launch, Mazda said the CX-8 would appeal to those buyers who only had occasional need for seven-seats but wanted more room than a CX-5. Hmmm, given the third-row seats in the CX-8 and CX-9 are identical for room, again, I reckonthe question comes back to one that hinges on your engine wants/needs more than anything else…

What’s the space and practicality like?

There are seven seats in the CX-8 just as there are in the CX-9 and, like that vehicle the CX-8 is best billed as a 5+2 rather than a dedicated seven seater. That said, I did, when testing the CX-8 load it with six blokes from my football team; the two blokes in the third-row seats were both under six-feet tall and claimed they had ‘enough’ room, so, with its seven seats the CX-8 passes the usability test (Mazda said the third-row was designed to accommodate passengers up to 170cm tall). That said, we did struggle to fit everyone’s luggage in with those in the second-row having to nurse a bag or two; the boot was filled with a kit bag and half-a-dozen soccer balls.

Mazda CX-8 Sport Review 2018

The interior room is impressive thanks to the fact the CX-8 and CX-9 have an identical wheelbase and while the CX-8 is narrower (the same width as CX-5) you don’t feel cramped.

Mazda CX-8 Sport Review 2018

The second-row seats are 60:40 split-fold in design and can be moved forwards and backwards to either maximise legroom or give a little more room to those in the third row. There’s a centre armrest in the second row that houses two cupholders and a storage bin (big enough to hold a tablet) with two USB outlets. There are climate controls for backseat passengers at the back of the centre console but there are no vents for those in the third row.

Mazda CX-8 Sport Review 2018

The third-row seats are the same as those in the CX-9, meaning they can be folded flat (50:50 split fold) into the floor when not needed to increase boot space, or you can just use one of them on its own. Getting into the back seat means sliding one of the second-row seats forward and then tilting it forward and climbing through the gap. For older kids and shorter adults clambering into the back isn’t as tricky as it might sound. The doors open right out to 80-degrees which means fitting or removing a child seat is easy, although you do have to watch kids opening the doors in tight car parks.

Mazda CX-8 Sport Review 2018

Over in the boot storage runs from 209 litres (when loaded to the roof – not that you would) to 742 litres when the third-row seats are folded down (again, to the roof) and 1840 litres when the second- and third-row seats are folded down. The floor is just about flat with the second-row seats folded down, although there’s a gap between the two seating rows.

The boot itself offers four tie down points, bag hooks, a storage bin beneath the boot floor and a temporary spare beneath that.

Mazda CX-8 Sport Review 2018

In the front of the CX-8, the dashboard design mimics the CX-9, meaning its clean in its layout and relatively simple to use on the fly. The quality of the materials used, for the Sport, overall, is good rather than amazing; the new Santa Fe we recently tested (review online next week) in the same entry-level spec felt a lot more ‘premium’.

Mazda CX-8 Sport Review 2018

The cloth-covered seats are comfortable and while there’s only manual adjustment, both tall and short drivers will be able to get into a good driving position. There’s reach and height adjustment on the steering wheel too. There’s good vision around the vehicle from the driver’s seat and the reversing camera offers a good field of view.

Are the controls and infotainment any good?

The dashboard is dominated by the 7.0-inch tablet-esque infotainment screen which juts out from the top. The air vents sit below that with seatbelt reminder alerts nestling between the vents and the dual-zone climate controls which are clear and easy to use.

The infotainment screen is easy to read although it’s prone to showing finger print smudges and can be hard to see in direct sunlight. There’s a rotary controller for the infotainment system and a home button which you use to access the main functions of the system, once you’ve deep-dived you can tap-tap at the screen to dive further into the functionality.

Mazda CX-8 Sport Review 2018

There’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity and I think this is a big miss and that’s just because the infotainment system when running, say music or a podcast via a USB input rather than Bluetooth can be very temperamental. Yes, Mazda says the functionality is coming to its infotainment but it’s taking its sweet time…

The Active Driving Display (head-up display) is worth mentioning because of the clarity of the projected image and the speed with which it adjusts to the prevailing speed limit. Some of these systems can be confused when you’re on a split road where a school zone is in force on one side but not the side you’re driving on, or indeed in school zones where it won’t pick up the start of the zone, just the middle and end. One such system didn’t adjust the school zone speed limit at all.

What’s the performance like?

Under the bonnet is a 2.2-litre SkyActiv-D turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine that makes 140kW at 4500rpm and 450Nm of torque at 2000rpm. This is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with start-stop (i-Stop in Mazda-speak). Fuel consumption is a claimed combined 5.7L/100km for the FWD CX-8; in our week of testing we returned 6.8L/100km. The fuel tank is 72 litres and the kerb weight is 1840kg.

The thing that gets you about the engine is just how quiet the thing is, whether at idle or under load you can barely hear the engine. Similarly, wind and road noise is well suppressed, testament to Mazda continually addressing underbody, under bonnet, wheel arch and firewall insulation across its entire range. Beyond this, Mazda said it tweaked mounting points for the suspension and power steering system to reduce vibration and noise leaking into the cabin. The CX-8 also feature’s Mazda’s sound smoothing technology which uses dampers in the pistons to absorb vibrations as well as frequency control systems that sees injection and combustion timing reduced to minimise the overlapping sound waves which just about cancels out vibration. It’s clever stuff that helps to make this one of the quietest diesel engines on the planet.

Whether you’re driving on your own or you’ve got a full load of passengers and luggage on-board, the CX-8’s diesel engine is smooth and thrusty. The six-speeder, in this day and age of eight-speed automatic transmissions, reads like it might be a little stretched but it isn’t and the gear shifts are refined and quick with excellent response to the throttle and brakes.

What’s it like on the road?

At the local launch, Dean noted the compliance of the Sport FWD due to its higher sidewall tyres and this was confirmed after putting the CX-8 across the Practical Motoring road loop. Not having tested a CX-8 on 19s yet I can’t say how much added compliance the extra rubber on the 17s affords but I’d suspect quite a bit. The thing is certainly comfortable and the suspension tune seems spot on for this sort of vehicle.

Mazda bangs on about its zoom-zoom sportiness but buyers of the CX-8 will be looking for comfort and control rather than how aggressively you can tuck the thing into a corner and to that end the CX-8 delivers. It handles its weight well and, even with a load on board there’s very little body roll through corners and almost no thump-through even across the worst of the road’s imperfections.

Mazda CX-8 Sport Review

Often those in the third-row of this type of vehicle will complain about the ride because of the proximity of these seats to the rear axle, but the blokes I’d stashed in the back said the ride was good and I purposely sought out some of the deeper holes in the road.

The steering is good and while it’s light at around-town speeds it builds weight progressively as the speed grows. Across the dirt sections of our drive loop the CX-8 showed the same comfort and control it exhibited on bitumen with excellent grip and noise suppression.

Mazda CX-8 Sport Review

In all, the CX-8 is a competent and comfortable vehicle to drive whether you’re on your own or carrying a car-load of passengers and their luggage. It really is hard to say whether you’d pick the ride and handling of the CX-8 over the CX-9; they feel almost identical.

What’s it like to park?

Being narrow like the CX-5 and with reversing camera and parking sensors, the CX-8 is easy to park even in tighter spots. Indeed, it’s much easier to park than the slightly bigger CX-9.

Does it have a spare?

Yes. Beneath the boot floor is a temporary spare which for a big vehicle like this and, one that being a diesel, is likely to be more popular in rural areas, is a little disappointing. The wheels and tyres on the Sport are 17×7.0-inches with 225/65R17 rubber. The spare measures 17×4.0-inches with T155/80R17 rubber.

Mazda CX-8 Sport Review 2018

Can you tow with it?

A light-loaded box trailer would be about it. The maximum braked towing capacity is 2000kg but the towball download is only 100kg.

What about ownership?

On August 1, Mazda updated its warranty (across the range) from three-years, unlimited kilometres to five-years, unlimited kilometres which puts it in the mix with the likes of Ford, Holden, Renault and Hyundai. The warranty might have improved but servicing is a bit short at 12 months or 10,000km. Mazda offers capped price servicing for the life of the warranty with pricing running from $319 – $390. Beyond this schedule, brake fluid and the cabin air filter need to be replaced every 40,000km at a cost of $69 and $91, respectively.

What about safety?

The CX-8 still doesn’t have an NCAP rating but given its safety suite and the fact it’s based on the CX-9 platform, which carries a five-star rating, Mazda would be hopeful the CX8 will follow suit. Our Sport FWD test car gets, as standard, Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM), High Beam Control (HBC), Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA), Lane-keep Assist System (LAS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Mazda Radar Cruise Control (MRCC) with Stop & Go function, Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Smart City Brake Support [Forward/Reverse] (SCBS F/R), Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR), reverse camera and rear parking sensors.

Editor's Rating

How do we rate the interior and practicality like?
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?
Practical Motoring Says: Mazda's engineers have done a top of job of producing a good riding and handling diesel-engined SUV that's whisper quiet and fun to drive. The steering could do with a little more weight, though. There's plenty of room in the thing, especially the second-row seats and while the third-row seats are comfortable there's not a lot of legroom and so they're best left for kids. The Sport FWD is our pick.

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober