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Is the cheaper, petrol-powered Mazda CX-8 actually the pick of the range?

By Trent Giunco, 24 Mar 2020 Reviews

2020 Mazda CX-8 Touring Test Drive

You can now have Mazda’s gap-filling SUV for less than $40K

Overall Rating

5 0 5

Plus & Minus

  1. Plus Comfort and cabin NVH levels; seating versatility; now cheaper than ever

  2. Minus Petrol engine adds thirst; no third-row air vents/USB ports; dated infotainment

The Wheels Verdict: Adding a petrol engine to the CX-8 line-up creates newfound monetary value while retaining the model’s core attributes of a versatile cabin and premium ambience. And while it’s thirstier than the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four offered in three spec levels, the availability of the 2.5-litre SkyActiv-G unit will open up the CX-8 to a new segment of buyers.

2020 Mazda CX-8 Touring

WHAT IS THE MAZDA CX-8 TOURING FWD PETROL?

The seven-seat Mazda CX-8 sits on a stretched CX-5 platform (it’s 350mm longer than the 4550mm CX-5, but shares an identical width of 1840mm). However, its 2930mm wheelbase equals that of the CX-9. Essentially, the CX-8 slots in between the two as a best-of-both-worlds scenario.

WHY WE’RE TESTING IT

Originally launched as a three-model turbo-diesel-only line-up, the updated CX-8 now offers petrol power at a cheaper entry point. Safety has increased by including an advanced version of the company’s Smart City Brake Support, which now also incorporates pedestrian protection at night. We’re interested to know if the SkyActiv-G powerplant can cut the mustard in the stylish seven-seat SUV.

2020 Mazda CX-8 Touring Steering and Handling

THE MAZDA CX-8 TOURING FWD PETROL REVIEW

Mazda is doing a lot of introspective thinking and self-assessment of late. Plugging gaps in its range has almost become a sport for the venerable Japanese marque. The genre-bending CX-30 is one of the latest niche fillers, but the CX-8 really kicked it off in 2018. It’s bigger than a CX-5, but smaller than the COTY-winning CX-9.

However, the caveat was a single, diesel-only engine choice. Now Mazda has transplanted its 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine into the CX-8, and as a result, the seven-seat SUV with a tapered roofline now not only offers an alternative to turbo-diesel propulsion, it also lowers the cost of admission to less than $40,000.

Read next: Meet the 2020 Wheels Car of the Year finalists - Mazda 3

2020 Mazda CX-8 Touring 7 seater

The entry price of $39,910 is for the Sport, one of two petrol variants added to the range in front-wheel-drive (FWD) guise only. The other is the $46,590 Touring tested here. However, Mazda also elected to bolster the SkyActiv-D CX-8 offerings by introducing Touring, GT and Asaki all-wheel drive (AWD) grades. The top-spec Asaki AWD now extends to $65,440.

While the SkyActiv-G powertrain is new to the CX-8, it’s not a fresh engine. The 2.5-litre unit is used in the likes of the CX-5, CX-30 and 6. It produces 140kW (6000rpm) and 252Nm (4000rpm). The former is the same as the 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel, but the Newton count fails to rival the 450Nm mustered up in the oiler. Therefore the performance is not as lively, with the 0-100km/h sprint out of the school car park taking 10.9 seconds, 1.7sec slower than the FWD diesel.

Read next: Australia's best value large SUV 7-seat winner

2020 Mazda CX-8 Touring Engine

So progress is more adequate than swift, and you have to give the accelerator a good old prod to get the 1782kg mass moving. While it’s a little strained under load at high revs, the sound emanating from under the bonnet is more rorty than thrashy. However, the CX-8 likes to drink petrol, with the combined consumption claim coming in at 8.1L/100km. In the real world we saw the trip computer hover around 9.7L/100km.

Dynamically the CX-8 lives up to the standard set by Mazda’s SUV range. Based on a stretched CX-5 platform, the seven-seater displays decent body control, a composed ride quality, and steers with Mazda’s traditional engagement levels. Stretch its legs on the open road and the Touring is a plush and quiet cruiser thanks to the extra sound deadening, although the six-speed automatic is getting on a bit and can kick down over-eagerly in search of torque in hilly terrain.

Read next: Mazda CX-8 vs CX-9 - what's the difference?

Inside, not much has changed. It still feels premium and the design is ageing well, but the MZD Connect infotainment is overshadowed by the new system found in the CX-30 and 3. The 8.0-inch screen is touch enabled and offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while general ergonomics are sound. The head-up display is a highlight, as are the clear analogue gauges housed within the instrument cluster. The materials used throughout are top notch, while the Touring grade adds black leather and electrically operated front seats. LED fog lamps, keyless entry/start and parking sensors up front also come with the upgrade.

2020 Mazda CX-8 Touring interior

In the middle row, head and legroom is generous (the CX-8 shares the same 2930mm wheelbase as the CX-9), with the seats sliding forward and aft to accommodate taller third-row passengers. If you’re planning on using your seven-seater with all pews occupied most of the time, the longer and wider CX-9 is going to offer more room for all. There are cup holders in the back seats, but the third row misses out on the air vents and USB ports the middle row affords – you have to step up to GT or Asaki to gain that. The boot is 209L with all seats in place and 775L in five-seat mode.

Overall the CX-8 remains a polished and accomplished seven-seat SUV offering. While it isn’t as frugal at the bowser as its diesel counterpart, the petrol’s lower price of entry and the absence of perceived diesel drawbacks will appeal to plenty. And that, for Mazda, is worth all the navel-gazing.

Read next: Mazda's radical new buying plan revealed 

RIVALS

Hyundai Santa Fe; Kia Sorrento; Mazda CX-9

2020 Mazda CX-8 Touring Exterior

Mazda CX-8 Touring specifications

Model: Mazda CX-8 Touring petrol FWD
Engine: 2488cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v
Max Power: 140kW @ 6000rpm
Max torque: 252Nm @ 4000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Weight: 1782kg
0-100km/h: 10.9sec (claimed)
Economy: 8.1L/100km
Price: $46,590
On sale: Now

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