2019 Mazda CX-8 Range Review

2019 Mazda CX-8 Range Review

Priced From $43,910Information

Overall Rating


4 out of 5 stars

Rating breakdown
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Safety, value & features

4 out of 5 stars

Comfort & space

4 out of 5 stars

Engine & gearbox

4 out of 5 stars

Ride & handling

4 out of 5 stars


4 out of 5 stars

Pros & Cons

  1. ProOverall comfort, cabin quietness, diesel refinement and economy, seating versatility

  2. ConNo petrol option, no mid-spec options, no air vents in third row

  3. The Pick: 2020 Mazda CX-8 Sport (FWD) 4D Wagon

What stands out?

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The Mazda CX-8 bridges the gap, in size and price, between the CX-5 and CX-9, and offers three-row seating, fastback styling, an elegant and quiet cabin, enhanced handling and efficient SKYACTIV-D turbo-diesel engine. Autonomous emergency braking is standard.

What might bug me?

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The lack of a petrol option, which doesn’t make the CX-8 a great prospect if most of your driving is short trips in heavy traffic. It also makes it more expensive to buy a CX-8, with diesel powertrains attracting a $3000 premium over petrol in other Mazdas such as the CX-5 and Mazda 6.

Having fewer options, or paying a lot more for your CX-8, because of the small choice of variants compared to other Mazda models.

How often you have to drop the car off for service. It’s every 10,000km (or 12 months), which could mean twice a year if you drive a lot.

Dealing with a flat tyre when you’re out of town. All CX-8s have a space-saver spare tyre, which limits the recommended top speed to 80km/h. It is skinnier than the regular tyres on the car, and so has less grip.

What body styles are there?

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Five-door SUV-style wagon only.

The most affordable CX-8, the Sport FWD, drives only its front wheels, but the other two models drive all four wheels.

All-wheel-drive CX-8s use an on-demand AWD system. Most of the time it sends most of the engine’s power to the front wheels, to optimise fuel economy. When the sensor-based, predictive system thinks the front wheels are about to slip, it sends a greater proportion of power to the rear wheels.

The Mazda CX-8 is classed as a large SUV, lower priced.

What features do all Mazda CX-8s have?

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A 7.0-inch central screen that supports internet radio integration through apps like Stitcher and Aha.

Sound system with AM, FM and Digital (DAB+) radio, Aux and USB inputs, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring, Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and audio streaming, and at least six speakers.

Satellite navigation, a reversing camera, and rear parking sensors.

Rear cross-traffic alert, which looks to either side behind you when you are reversing, and warns if a vehicle is approaching.

Seven seats.

Aluminium alloy wheels.

Six-speed automatic transmission.

Adaptive cruise control, with slow-speed stop-and-go function.

Active safety suite which includes autonomous emergency braking that works at low and medium speeds, forward obstruction warning, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, rear-cross traffic alert and driver attention alert.

A head-up display that projects information on the windscreen near your line of sight, including speed, blind-spot, sat-nav directions and Mazda’s Traffic Sign Recognition, which displays the last speed-limit sign you passed.

Leather on the gear handle and steering wheel, and controls on the wheel for operating the cruise control, the sound system, and your phone.

Three-zone climate control with second-row control and vents

Headlights and tail-lights illuminated by LEDs, which are brighter than conventional halogen bulbs and last much longer.

Rain-sensing windscreen wipers, and windows tinted against sun penetration.

Auto-dimming rear-view mirror.

Keyless entry and push-button start

Roof-rack rails.

Electronic stability control, which can help you control a skidding car. All new cars must have this feature.

Six airbags. (For airbag placement, and for more on CX-8 safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)

The CX-8 is covered by a five-year warranty, with no limit on distance.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

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The CX-8 is only available with an enhanced version of the 2.2-litre SKYACTIV-D turbocharged diesel engine that’s shared with the Mazda 6 sedan and wagon. One reason the CX-8 was introduced to the Australian market was to provide a diesel alternative to Mazda CX-9, which only comes with a 2.5-litre turbo petrol.

In the CX-8, the 2.2-litre diesel is slightly more efficient in the Sport FWD, consuming just 5.7 litres/100km on the official test (city and country combined). This figure rises slightly to 6.0 litres/100km in the AWD versions.

The diesel pulls well and is well-suited to country driving, though it also accelerates smartly around town.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

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The least costly CX-8 is the Sport FWD which comes with front-wheel drive, cloth seats, 17-inch steel wheels, and the features common to all CX-8s. Spend more money and you can have a Sport AWD, which drives all four wheels, which adds traction on gravel or snow covered roads and gentle tracks.

There is a considerable price difference between the Sport AWD and the most expensive CX-8, the Asaki AWD, because there are currently no mid-spec variants in range as with other Mazda models.

Spending an extra $15,000 on the Asaki AWD brings premium luxury and features including Nappa leather upholstery, and a more appealing dashboard finish, LED ambient lighting, power-adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel and 273W 10-speaker Bose sound system with amplifier.

Exterior enhancements include LED daytime running lights, auto-folding and heated door mirrors, remote operated powered tailgate, and more attractive 19-inch alloy wheels shod with lower-profile tyres that look a bit racier.

The headlights use dusk-sensing multi-element LEDs, and at night dip for oncoming drivers only those parts of the high beam that might dazzle them – leaving you a bright view of the road to either side.

Other driver aids include a 360-degree view parking monitor, and front parking sensors.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

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The more expensive AWD versions consume a little more fuel, 6.0-litres/100km compared to the Sport FWD 5.7-litres/100km.

The lack of mid-spec variants such as the Touring and GT, which hold up the middle of the CX-5 and CX-9 ranges, means you’ll have to pay $15,000 more if you want any of the additional features only available in the Asaki AWD – for that money you can buy a Mazda 2 Neo.

Seven colours are available on a CX-8, five of them at no extra cost. Soul Red Crystal and Machine Grey attract a $300 premium.

How comfortable is the CX-8?

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This new CX-8 uses classy looking materials, with Mazda placing more emphasis on presentation and refinement.

Even the less-costly CX-8 Sport uses metal-look finishes prominently, and supplies a chunky leather grip for the height and reach adjustable steering wheel. Both front seats are height adjustable too, and the steering is pleasantly light.

Seats are very comfortable, with good upper body support. While the leather trim feels plush, the less slippery cloth seats hold you in place more effectively around corners.

The cabin whilst driving is noticeably quiet thanks to Mazda’s ongoing war on noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels. The CX-8 has extra soundproofing applied to the inner of the rear guards and at the base of the D-pillar to make things quieter in the third row. And the tailgate is better sealed to help cut wind noise. Road noise is also low, even on the Asaki’s 19-inch low-profile tyres, and diesel clatter is a lot less noticeable than in the CX-5.

The CX-8’s suspension is tuned for comfort and takes most road surfaces in its stride, with occasional jarring over modest-sized ruts. Ride-handling balance also sensibly prioritises keeping the occupants comfortable and relaxed, rather than the ability to enthusiastically negotiate bends.

What about safety in a CX-8?

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The CX-8 was the first car to be tested under the tougher Australasian new Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) testing regime, and passed with the top 5-Star safety rating.

Every CX-8 has the mandatory stability control, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, a rear cross-traffic alert, and six airbags. It is a comprehensive package, focusing jointly on crash protection and crash avoidance.

Two airbags protect the driver and front passenger from a frontal impact; two more are placed outside these front occupants at chest level to protect from a side impact; and curtain airbags, extending down each side at head level to protect occupants in all three rows from side impact.

Mazda calls the CX-8’s auto braking Smart City Brake Support [Forward/Reverse]. It operates over a broader speed range than the similarly named system in the outgoing CX-8, using camera-based sensors to scan the road ahead for obstacles – typically a car that has slowed unexpectedly, but also a pedestrian. It can apply the brakes automatically in an attempt to avoid a crash, at speeds up to 80km/h. The system works in the same way, albeit only up to 8km/h, when you’re reversing.

Meanwhile Smart Brake Support system uses radar sensors and a forward sensing camera to monitor vehicles and obstacles ahead, helping avoid front-end collisions from 15km/h or more and includes support for highway speeds.

Blind-spot monitoring uses rear-facing radar sensors to check for vehicles at your rear corners that might not appear in your mirrors, warning you of them if you attempt to change lanes.

Rear cross-traffic alert uses the same sensors when you’re reversing, checking for vehicles crossing behind you and telling you if you’re about to back into danger.

Lane-keep assist warns that you have started to drift out of your lane (perhaps from distraction), also providing gentle steering assistance to bring you back. And a Driver attention alert checks your control inputs over time, warning you to take a break if they become erratic.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

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Mazda’s CX-8 drives more like a heavier, slighter softer-riding CX-5, rather than a more nimble CX-9. The lack of a petrol engine may temper its appeal for some buyers, but the upgraded 2.2-litre diesel is strong and frugal.

The steering feels nicely weighted and responsive around town, but increase the pace to country cruising, though, and you can feel a little play in the wheel from centre.

Overall, the body control and general dynamics are good, but arguably more noteworthy is the ride comfort and quietness in the cabin, even on the Asaki’s bigger 19-inch wheels.

The CX-8 mostly just cruises along with ample compliance and a general imperviousness to road surface that would make some higher-priced Euro SUVs look stiff-legged and restless by comparison.

How is life in the rear seats?

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The third row is designed to accommodate occupants up to 170cm tall, which makes it a little tight for most adults. Once they squeeze in though, most people will cope with a 20-minute run across town. Kids, meanwhile, won’t have too much to gripe about in terms of leg and shoulder room, although visibility for shorter bodies is not brilliant, and there are no dedicated air vents back there.

If there’s only a sixth passenger to be accommodated, the third row can be split to allow extra luggage space over the folded seventh seat.

The second row seats are much roomier, can recline 22- and 30-degrees from vertical, and have a fold-down centre armrest with storage and two USB sockets. The middle-row has dedicated heating/cooling vents and independent air-conditioning controls. The two outboard seats in the Asaki are heated.

The CX-8’s rear doors open out to 80-degrees to make getting into each row easier, and to help with loading items through the side, or placing infants in child seats or capsules.

How is the CX-8 for carrying stuff?

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With the third row in use, the Mazda CX-8 holds 209 litres of luggage space, which Mazda reckons is enough to hold two golf bags. There is also a sub-boot below the main boot floor with a large opening and a depth of 100 mm, offering 33 litres of underfloor storage space, which is especially useful for valuable or fragile items.

With the third-row seatback folded away, the available luggage capacity increases to a sizeable 742 litres. Folding down both the second and third-row seatbacks brings a capacious 1727 litres and creates a flat floor space large enough to hold two bicycles.

The entire luggage area, including the sub-boot space, is covered in a hard-wearing, non-woven material.
The Asaki comes with a power-operated tailgate.

Any CX-5 can tow braked loads up to 2000kg or 750kg unbraked.

Where is the CX-8 made?

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All CX-8s are produced in Japan.

Are there any rivals I should consider?

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The CX-8’s main diesel seven-seater SUV competitors include the Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Mitsubishi Outlander, Peugeot 5008, Skoda Kodiaq and new Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace.

The Ford Endura is also worth a look if you're not after seven seats.

If you’re not too fussed whether your SUV has a diesel or petrol engine, all of the above models have petrol versions as do the Holden Acadia, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Kluger and of course the Mazda CX-9.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

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Mazda CX-8 Sport FWD is a very well equipped SUV in terms of safety and comfort. Front-wheel-drive is more than adequate for what CX-8s are mostly likely to be used for, which makes it well worth pocketing the $4000 in change from the price of the Sport AWD.

And while the Asaki AWD has some nice creature comforts, it does come with a $19,000 premium.

Are there plans to update this model soon?

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The CX-8 first went on sale in Japan (where the bigger Mazda CX-9 isn’t available) in late 2017 and entered the Australian market in June 2018.

It received a slight update in March 2019 that brought improved handling, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, tyre-pressure monitoring, a revised air-conditioning control panel.

Don’t expect any upgrades until 2020, though Mazda Australia might introduce new specification grades to bridge the $15,000 price gap between the Sport and Asaki.