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Mazda CX-8 review: A long story

Does adding length to one of Mazda's best cars create a better one?

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The Mazda’s 2+2+2 configuration makes the car’s middle row feel like something out of Business Class, or at least Premium Economy.

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Singapore

APPARENTLY it's not length that counts, but how you use it. What to do with 9 inches? If you're Mazda, you take it (23mm, to be exact) and add it to the wheelbase of one of your best cars. Never mind what I would have done.

That extra length is essentially what turns the CX-5 into the CX-8, the latest Mazda to hit the road here. Thus elongated, the new model has room inside for three rows of seats, but with something of a twist: you can have your Mazda CX-8 with six seats or seven.

In that sense, it's just like a BMW X7, only the Mazda is still less than 5 metres long overall, unlike the BMW, which is big enough to have its own postal code.

At S$158,888 with Certificate Of Entitlement, the six-seater costs S$1,000 more than the equivalent seven-seater, which makes things interesting, because what true Singaporean could stand the thought of paying more for less?

Yet, as anyone who's been on a commercial plane knows, fewer seats means more room per seat. The Mazda's 2+2+2 configuration makes the car's middle row feel like something out of Business Class, or at least Premium Economy. You slide your backside into an individual chair, which you can recline and lounge in while you drape your forearms on armrests. All that's left is to tell the driver to wake you up on arrival.

Choosing a CX-8 with Captain's chairs, as they're known, also works better for the people in the third row seats. They don't have their own air-con vents, so you need the gap between the middle row chairs to let cold air waft back there.

Whatever the seat count, the CX-8 is a nice car to drive. It's a good showcase of what Mazda has to offer, in that it feels like something tuned by people who both care about driving and know what they're doing. The steering feels nicely weighted, and for a relatively tall car the Mazda is so graceful around bends that it ought to wear a tutu. The suspension is definitely on the firm side, however, which probably explains why the handling feels so taut. That kind of setup is probably necessary in a car built for up to seven people anyway.

If anything will draw mixed feelings, it'll be the engine. It's a plain 2.5-litre four-cylinder with 194 horsepower. There's no turbocharger, so there are no fireworks. Yet, the CX-8's performance actually feels far more lively than the stopwatch suggests.

It accelerates with gusto, and as long as you don't mind treating the right pedal with a heavy foot, the Mazda has no problems merging with flowing traffic. And you shouldn't mind, because the transmission shifts smoothly, and the engine actually sounds pretty jazzy when playing loud.

Of course, the CX-8 is still a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV), and only a dingbat would buy one of those for driving pleasure. Above all, this is a car for families, and it fulfills that role well.

There are airbags galore, and all kinds of sensors and monitors to watch out for obstacles in your path, vehicles in your blind spot and so on. If you crash this in a big way, it'll be because you tried really hard.

Banish the third row seats, which you can do with one hand, and the luggage capacity grows from 209 litres to 775.

A Multi Purpose Vehicle (MPV) might be better at family haulage, but surely you'd rather give up some space in exchange for a car that doesn't look and drive like a bus? Anyway, the CX-8 was always going to be a strong proposition, since it's a more versatile version of the CX-5, which is among the best looking, best handling and best equipped SUVs in its class.

If anything, the CX-8 is the more suave looking of the two, at least to my eyes. The longer dimensions give it better proportions, and when viewed from the side it radiates presence without bulkiness. Whatever the case, it sure beats an MPV. All the length in the world is never going to make one of those appealing.


Mazda CX-8 Skyactiv-G 2.5 Luxury

Engine 2,488cc, inline 4
Power 194hp at 6,000rpm
Torque 258Nm at 4,000rpm
Gearbox 6-speed automatic
Top speed 196km/h
0-100km/h 10.7 seconds
Fuel efficiency 8.1L/100km
Price S$158,888 (with COE)
Agent Trans Eurokars Pte Ltd
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