If you have a large family, the options for cars that can carry everyone around start to decline very quickly.
In the early 2010s, people carriers were all the rage and the streets were lined with Toyota Wishes and Honda Streams.
Today, the market has gravitated towards SUVs, and although MPVs are still around, they have gained payloads in terms of both price and size. Also, the boxy look of the toaster may not appeal to some car buyers.
There aren’t many SUVs on the market with seven seats. Competition is sparse, but Mazda has answered the call with the Mazda CX-8. OK then?
If the style works, don’t change it
Compared to other SUVs on the market where quirky styling and bold lines tend to lead to a unique and sometimes questionable appearance, the CX-8 has a relatively underrated design language. This allows it to fly under the radar, and some may not even realize this model exists.
However, it still has Kodo design traits that make it Mazda’s quintessential, and its styling aligns well with the rest of the current model range.
Up front, a unique chrome radiator grille announces to the world that you have purchased the high-end “Super Luxury” variant, accompanied by adaptive LED headlights.
This variant also receives larger 19-inch alloy wheels, but other than that there isn’t much bling anywhere else. To be honest, if you take a look at the CX-8, you could very well confuse it with its big brother CX-9.
He rolls up his sleeve
Sitting inside, you really feel separate from both the rest of the outside world and other passengers. Each seat is located away from each other and each occupant feels as if he or she has their own personal space in the car.
Since this is the six-seater “Super Luxury” option, there is a second row center console instead of a regular “peasant” seat.
On the flight deck, I really like the cabin design.
While it may seem cramped at first glance, there is more than enough room to maneuver and everything you need is close at hand.
The higher-end CX-8 also comes with premium Nappa leather compared to its cheaper siblings, but you can only get it in brown. This will make it difficult to decide on an exterior color to match.
The multitude of controls also make the CX-8 feel like an airplane cockpit, and drivers may take some time to familiarize themselves with where everything is.
However, having physical buttons is much better than having everything jammed on one screen.
Speaking of screens, they may look slightly dated for our current generation of cars, but they still work as expected without trying too hard to impress passengers.
The instrument cluster, at first glance, might look like an old-school analog. But on closer inspection, it is actually a 7.0-inch digital display.
While most manufacturers are moving towards fancy displays, a screen that works naturally and unobtrusively is still my go-to choice.
Functional fit every day.
The CX-8 is quiet even at high speed, which means you can enjoy all your favorite tunes with clarity thanks to the 10-speaker Bose system. The system also integrates seamlessly with your smartphone via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Space for everyone
You lose some seating space with the six-seat option as the center console is fixed in place, but what you gain is a lot more functionality.
The only complaint I have is the in-out speed of third row passengers. Since the second row seats are fully electric, it takes some time for the seat to fully seat itself.
This is particularly annoying when you are trying to get passengers off.
I can already imagine angry and impatient drivers honking your horn as you desperately try to put your seat back in place at an MRT drop-off point.
Even with all seats up, the 209-liter trunk is still large enough to take to your weekly grocery store. Fold down the third row seats and you’ll get a large cargo area that can easily swallow a few full-sized suitcases or golf bags.
This variant is also equipped with a shock sensor and an electric tailgate, making it easy to load objects even with hands full.
Dignified and refined guide
The famous 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G engine that resides in the CX-8 churns out a respectable 195PS and 258Nm of torque, and is smooth as butter at all revs. It doesn’t deliver brute amounts of power, but instead delivers it gently to accentuate a comfortable ride.
The six-speed automatic with manual override feeds the power well, and the CX-8 is responsive when you need it. Although I suspect that most people buying this car wouldn’t even bother shifting gears manually, and Mazda has provided that too, citing the lack of gearshift levers.
On the other hand, if you want to take it a step further, the CX-8 has a surprisingly nice exhaust note. You’ll hear it loud and clear as the engine tries to push all 1.8 tons of metal in 10.7 seconds for the sprint of the century.
My test ride with the CX-8 produced fuel consumption of 10.2km / l, and that’s with some enthusiasm by hitting the accelerator.
Not bad, but it’s not something you can gloat about with your friends. Mazda has focused much of its efforts on the suspension setup when upgrading the CX-8, and it’s definitely noticeable. The car glides over the bumps of the road and the ride quality is superb.
Instead of the intrusive and boisterous safety alerts that some cars tend to have, the CX-8’s safety features work as intended without letting you get scared every time you change lanes without signaling.
Adaptive cruise control works like a charm and is a simple affair to use.
Its Lane Keeping Assist system guides you back into the designated lane smoothly and the blind spot monitoring system gently reminds you of traffic through quiet beeps or via a graphic on the heads-up display.
It almost looks like a butler who is with you in the car. Professional, calm and will only speak to you in gentle and polite tones. This is a car not meant to be rushed, but rather a car that guides you to your destination with balance.
Bang for your dollar
Coming in at $ 232,888 at the time of writing for the top-tier model, it really puts the CX-8 in a competitive edge over some of its seven-seat competitors. Cars like the Mercedes GLB come to mind in a similar price range, and that doesn’t even come close in terms of space and features.
While driving this thing is a reasonably straightforward affair, I’d actually rather sit in the back. Rear occupants, especially in the 2nd row, are pampered with features.
Combine this with fantastic legroom and an ample amount of headroom and you get a winning package for long road trips.
If you are looking for a car that can carry your whole family in comfort and be able to burn miles without much hesitation, this is a good candidate.
Admittedly, it doesn’t have a prolific badge like some of its European competitors do. But he can certainly stand with them.
Now the question is: will you go for six or seven seats?
(Prices are accurate at the time of writing)
$ 232,888 (including COE)
VES bandage: C1
Engine: 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder Skyactiv-G DOHC, petrol
Power: 195 HP
Torque: 258 Nm
Fuel consumption: 12.3km / l (official) / 10.2km / l (recorded)
0-100 km / h: 10.7 seconds
Transmission: Six-speed automatic Skyactiv-Drive, front-wheel drive
Brakes: ventilated discs (front), discs (rear)
Suspension: MacPherson (front) / Multi-link (rear)
Dimensions (LxWxH): 4,900 mm x 2,115 mm x 1,725 mm
Wheelbase: 2,930 mm
Empty weight: 1,815 kg
Fuel tank capacity: 72 liters
Boot capacity: 209 liters (seats up), 775 liters (3rd row folded)
Tires: 225/55 R19
Adaptive LED headlights
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
Advanced keyless entry
Automatic door lock and remote lock
Front and rear LED turn signals
Hands-free electric tailgate
Intelligent cruise control
Bose 10-speaker sound system
360 degree view monitor
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This article was first published on Motorist.