Review: Mazda CX-8 2.5L AWD Exclusive

Published February 2, 2021, 5:21 PM

by Inigo Roces

The sassy six-seater

Text and photos by Eric Tipan

This SUV isn’t particularly striking on the outside and isn’t even all that big, which is why it also gets classified as a mid-size crossover. Apart from the stylishly svelte body — a Kodo design language trademark — one can actually make the claim that it’s just plain.

But it is what’s in between and underneath the fine lines and the subtle curves of the body — the details — that make it noteworthy in a market chock-full of similar styles and body types.

First off, the look. 10 years is old by automotive standards and this design language is already pushing 11. Mazda has tweaked it no less than six times through the years and instead of adding, they take something away. Surprisingly, it’s actually made it classier and more sophisticated in a minimalist sort of way. Someday it may become outdated, but it certainly isn’t going to be this year.

If there’s one thing about the exterior, it would be how the roof doesn’t slope to the rear like the shape of its windows. It’s obviously for extra headroom on the third row, but it appears odd, which is a rarity for a Mazda.

Other than that, everything looks great: especially the 19-inch alloy wheels, slim adaptive led headlamps, and the rear comes with a spoiler and dual type exhaust.

Majority of the finely curated stuff is in the cabin. It uses a smart key that you’ll never have to whip out. It was just in my pocket the whole time. To unlock, just press the button on the door handle.

There are soft-touch surfaces from the dashboard to the door panels using a variety of materials, including leather inserts, but it’s the overall color theme — dark red Nappa leather (seats) and the black headliner — that really makes it feel cozy inside.

Trim highlights aren’t out of place and not overdone. There are some chrome bits that take inspiration from the angular shape of grille, a few faux wood pieces, and the glossy panel of the shift knob. Just enough items to make a great mix and superb contrast that without screaming “I’m luxurious.”

It comes with a small infotainment screen (with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), that’s also positioned much farther away from the driver, because sadly, it is a non-touchscreen unit. This change was made across all models sometime in 2019 to reduce driver distraction. The Command Control (rotary knob) on the center console is now the only way to handle the infotainment system. It’s not exactly the modern way but as per Mazda, safety first. Plus, it’s easy to forget about such petty stuff when you hear your favorite song come out from each of the ten Bose speakers.

Other upscale features include a triple-zone automatic climate control system, a heads-up display system (project on the windshield), a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, a power tailgate, and dampers on the center console box and glove compartment so they all gently open up.

Despite how it looks from the outside, the cabin doesn’t feel cramped. Maybe because the second row only has two seats (so I’ll have to check the seven-seater variant) but the size feels just right for six passengers. Headroom looks okay for the Filipino build but the third row is suspect for really tall guys (or gals).

All four wheels are driven by Mazda’s Skyactiv 2.5L gas engine (naturally aspirated) that is mated to a Skyactiv-Drive six-speed automatic transmission. It still comes with an i-Stop (idling stop system) but the automaker did a great job in making it less noticeable and intrusive when it shuts down or restarts the engine.

Steering feedback is very light, and feels almost like a compact crossover. Even if power numbers aren’t exactly high (190 HP and 252 Nm of torque), it’s amazingly nimble and reactive that it doesn’t feel like a 1.8-ton vehicle. The low ceiling also helps it keep its balance when taking corners aggressively.

Overtaking, even in the Normal driving mode (it also has a Sport mode) is easy. Just a little throttle pressure and it shoots forward and takes the gap quickly. The pull kicks in just before 2,000 RPM (revolutions per minute), which is good for fuel economy. Consumption is 6.5 kilometers per liter in traffic and close to 9 on open roads.

As it is based on the CX-5 whose platform is shared with the 3 and the 6, the comfort level is very good. It’s just the large wheels that let in some of the road harshness but otherwise, the ride is very smooth and calm.

Mazda’s investment in safety is comprehensive and didn’t stop with a non-touch screen. This range-topping trim comes with parking sensors and a 360-degree camera, lane departure warning (the lane I unintentionally crossed flashed in the display), blind spot monitoring, smart city brake support, and driver-attention alert.

This model isn’t fancy nor flashy and while you can call it luxurious, it isn’t really what it’s all about. What I gathered after a week with the Mazda CX-8 2.5L AWD Exclusive, is that it’s a low-key SUV that aims to deliver the plushest ride of a six-seater yet while also providing the highest possible levels of safety, comfort, and convenience possible. The CX-8 2.5L AWD Exclusive (six-seater) is priced at P 2.450 million.