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The Mazda CX-8 carries a big space and still drives tight

By Jason K. Ang Philippine Daily Inquirer January 26,2020

 

SUVS of all shapes, sizes and price points are hot right now. Almost all car buyers would be considering one, thanks to their attributes of tall seating position, high ground clearance and roomy cargo area. Mazda has added a couple of new offerings to fortify its lineup, namely the CX-8 and its smaller sibling, the CX-30.

As you can surmise from the model name, the CX-8 slots in just below the flagship (or should we say aircraft carrier) of the brand, the full-size CX-9. Essentially, it’s a seven-seat version of the compact CX-5, stretched to a size S to M (midsize). This is all the better to fulfill its new role as a capacious yet still sporting family transport.

The CX-8 measures 4.9m longx1.84m wide. The sub-5 meter length makes it easier to park and maneuver; the car has a turning radius of 5.8m. Crucially, the smaller dimensions versus the CX-9’s allow the car to be sold in the Japanese market, and make it more appropriate for tight, narrow roads.

The CX-8 carries the new, sharper version of Mazda’s Kodo-Soul of Motion styling. This means pronounced creases, sweeping character lines, all in a silhouette that evokes movement. Thanks to the design, the CX-8 hides its bulk well.

It’s not that the CX-8 is a small vehicle. At 4.9m, it is still a substantial length of metal, and when you walk up to the CX-8, you can begin to appreciate its size. It’s only when you put it side-by-side by the CX-9 that it looks small.

 

Where this Mazda shines is the interior. Seats and steering wheel are trimmed in high-quality Nappa leather, and nearly all other surfaces are soft-touch plastics. There’s metallic trim to liven things up. We’re not fans of the infotainment screen that sticks up from the dashboard like a sore thumb. However, the interface and switch layout is intuitive and easy to operate. It’s quite similar to BMW’s current iDrive system—nothing wrong with borrowing from the best. Built-in Apple CarPlay allows easy connection with an Apple smartphone.

Push the starter button and a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine fires up. The Skyactiv unit delivers 187hp and 252Nm. Mated to a six-speed automatic, drive goes to the front wheels. Acceleration is sufficient. You’ll have to cane it if you want to go fast, or switch to Sport mode to keep the transmission in a gear for longer.

This wouldn’t be a Mazda if it didn’t please the driver, and the CX-8 delivers. The CX-8 reacts predictably and confidently to steering inputs, even when we push a little harder than we should a nearly five-meter long SUV. We tended to forget all the bulk and space behind us, until it comes to parking.

For parking, Mazda has that covered, too, with cameras front and rear producing a 360-degree overhead view. The CX-8 behaves much like a smaller vehicle too, easing into parking spaces without much difficulty. We had to remember that this was a long vehicle, as we nearly slammed into a rear wall if not for the vigilant cameras.

 

All that size, particularly the long 2.93m wheelbase, results in an airy, roomy cabin. The rear seat is comfortable for two, and even three adults can sit shoulder-to-shoulder. The third row is sufficient to carry two adults for short trips, making the CX-8 more of a 5+2 SUV. In typically clever Mazda fashion, the third row folds down using only hand, making loading a breeze.

The list of standard equipment is long: dual power seats up front with memory function for the driver, dual-zone aircon with rear air vents, rear window blinds, heads-up display, self-dimming rear view mirror, and LED headlamps.

Aside from the front-wheel CX-8, there’s also an all-wheel drive variant. The second row is comprised of two captain’s chairs, for a more upscale feel. The two-wheel drive Mazda CX-8 comes in at P2.29 million, while the all-wheel drive version is at P2.45 million.

The CX-8 might just be the Goldilocks of the Mazda lineup, being not too big and just small enough to fit in most garages. It behaves like a sporty hatchback when driven hard, allowing the enthusiast moms and dads to have their cake and eat it, too.

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