Reflecting increased consumer interest towards high-riding vehicles, Mazda has released another sport utility vehicle (SUV) — one that slots between the compact CX-5 and the flagship CX-9. Priced from P2.290 million to P2.450 million, the all-new 2020 Mazda CX-8 sits right where high-end pick-up based passenger vehicles (PPVs) such as the Toyota Fortuner 2.8 V 4×4 cost. Is this unibody SUV worth a look? Let’s find out.
From a styling standpoint, the Mazda CX-8 is off to a flying start. As with every new Mazda SUV, the CX-8 simply looks gorgeous. The front fascia looks similar to the equally handsome CX-5, but that’s not exactly a bad thing in my book. Those beautiful 19-inch gunmetal alloy wheels also fill the wheel wells much nicer than the large wheel gaps seen in PPVs. At the back, the proportions aren’t as well-executed as the car’s front half. This is the angle where it often looks like a stretched CX-5, though it still looks good nonetheless.
Step inside, and then, you’ll realize this is P2.29 million or P2.45 million well spent as it’s easily the most premium interior at this price point, bar none. All variants feature a sumptuous interior that’s filled with premium injection molded soft-touch plastics for the upmarket feel. Other parts of the interior feel even nicer, as it’s trimmed either in real wood or luscious brown Nappa Leather. This interior also probably has more stitching details than my own tailored suit.
The CX-8’s first-generation Mazda Connect infotainment system has been with us for quite a while now. And yet, this remains to be one of my most favorite infotainment systems to use. I’ve said this before in other similar systems and I will certainly say it again. Using a rotary knob controller is way less distracting for me. The tactile feedback from the knob lets you feel how much you are scrolling through the menus. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, along with a fantastic 10-speaker Bose sound system.
Because this is the AWD Exclusive variant, there are captains chairs with a permanent center console in the second row. While this certainly adds to the luxury experience, the addition of the center console means entering the third-row seats is no different from when you have a second-row bench seat. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of space to move around in those second-row captain’s chairs. The center console also houses the USB port, along with buttons for the heated seats. Lastly, regardless of the variant, there’s are sunshades for the second-row occupants to enjoy.
As expected, those third-row seats are best left for kids. The sloping roofline eats into headroom, but other than that, legroom is actually pretty good. It’s further helped by the fact that the third-row seats are much higher from the floor compared to PPVs.
Behind those third-row seats is a 209-liter cargo area. While it may seem small, there’s a 33-liter hidden underfloor storage. Folding down the third-row seats yields an impressive 742 liters. If this still isn’t enough for you, folding down the second-row seats increases the load capacity to 1,727 liters. This is actually slightly bigger than the CX-9’s with all of that SUV’s seats folded. Oh, and of course, a power liftgate is standard on all CX-8 variants.
All CX-8 variants are powered by a Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter naturally aspirated gasoline engine that produces 190 hp at 6,000 rpm and 252 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm. Power is then sent to all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission. Compared to diesel-powered PPVs, however, this engine lacks the expected low-end grunt. Most of the power is concentrated at the mid to high rpm range. The entire powertrain combination is simply best described as adequate for this vehicle.
Now, in the global scheme of things, this 2.5-liter gasoline engine serves as the base engine for the CX-8. As such, the gearbox that accompanies this engine has been tuned to downshift willingly and eagerly to compensate for the torque deficiency when compared to the mighty 2.2-liter diesel seen in other markets. While the acceleration isn’t exactly quick, it’s perfectly adequate for the most part.
There are no paddle shifters, but they aren’t exactly needed. The gearbox always downshifts to the correct gear, plus torque comes in linearly from the middle of the rev range. I haven’t exactly tested this when fully loaded with six people due to the current pandemic, but I suspect that the engine would need more revving if you want to do an overtake with a full load. As for fuel economy, I was able to achieve 8.7 km/l. Not exactly thirsty considering this is a midsize SUV, but a torquier diesel would certainly help. Still, this fuel economy is ony around 0.5 km/l off when compared to the AWD CX-5 with this powertrain.
Take this Mazda CX-8 onto a twisty road, and you’ll be surprised by how different it feels compared to the CX-5 and CX-9. The CX-8 is probably one of the most laidback Mazdas I’ve ever drive. For instance, the steering is not as lightning quick as in the aforementioned SUVs, plus the suspension is also one of the softest I’ve ever felt in a Mazda. Not that I’m saying that this car is boring to drive because it isn’t. As with every Mazda, steering feel is still great and you can still tell what’s happening to the front wheels. Despite the softer suspension, body roll is still well controlled. What Mazda has done with the CX-8 is to make it feel stable and secure when driving it in the twisties.
The resulting slower steering means that the driver doesn’t need to make a lot of steering corrections when cornering or when driving through long and straight expressways. As a result, it feels less agile than your typical Mazda SUV. But the resulting driving experience is one that sets a balance between sportiness and long-distance comfort.
Further contributing to its long-distance comfort are its full suite of i-Activsense driver-assist systems. As standard, all CX-8 variants get lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, blind spot warning, and rear cross traffic alert. Unique to this 6-seater AWD Exclusive variant is radar-based adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking. Lastly, a 360-degree camera is also standard. Though we wish the resolution of the camera were as sharp as those found in the all-new Mazda 3 and CX-30.
Overall, the 2020 Mazda CX-8 is a true premium alternative to similarly-priced high-end PPVs. There’s simply no other three-row SUV at its price point that offers a sumptuous blend of luxury and sportiness as this family-friendly option from Hiroshima.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★★
Space and Practicality: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.5 out of 5