If there’s one thing Australian car buyers want, it’s not one thing at all. We want choice. Lots of it.
Thankfully, choice is one of those things Mazda does very well. Especially when it comes to SUVs, which also happen to be another thing Australian new car buyers want. And lots of them.
Despite possessing one of the most diverse and impressive SUV line-ups in Australia, Mazda is currently in the midst of rejuvenating its range. In the not-far-distant future, Mazda Australia will offer eight compelling SUVs to cater to just about any buyer.
It’s a range that starts with the compact CX-3, CX-30 and MX-30, moves up to the popular mid-sized CX-5 and all-new and hugely impressive CX-60, and will soon add the brand-new CX-80 and big and beautiful CX-90.
But it’s the eighth member of the line-up we’re here to focus on - the CX-8.
Having joined the range back in 2018, it’s now one of the most popular, thanks to its ability to combine style and practicality, which has endeared it to families around the country.
Despite being one of the most acclaimed SUVs in its segment, Mazda hasn’t rested on its laurels and the CX-8 has been given a range of subtle but significant upgrades for 2023.
While each change is small (because there was no point making drastic changes to such a successful model) they add up to give the CX-8 a new lease on life.
The most obvious uplift is to the front-end styling of the CX-8, which retains the same Kodo design language that has defined it since launch, but gets a refreshed face.
There’s a new block mesh front grille and a revised grille surround, as well as a restyled front bumper and headlight design.
At the rear, there’s also a new-look bumper, a sleeker tailgate design and new combination taillights. When you add in new 19-inch alloy wheel designs on the Touring Active, GT SP, Asaki and Asaki LE variants, you get a fresh visual impact from the already hugely popular and desirable looking CX-8.
There is one more new design feature, with Mazda introducing a new colour to give buyers even more choice. But this is no simple added hue, instead it’s part of Mazda’s recently released Takuminuri paint finishes, dubbed Rhodium White Metallic.
Takuminuri paint finishes are specially designed to accentuate the dynamic and elegant forms of Mazda’s vehicles, shaped by the Kodo design language. The colours chosen for the Takuminuri finishes are meant to provide a more precise and higher-quality textural finish to the body for an even greater feeling, and visual sensation, of luxury.
Rhodium White Metallic joins seven other colours in the range - Deep Crystal Blue Mica, Jet Black Mica, Machine Grey Metallic, Platinum Quartz Metallic, Polymetal Grey Metallic, Titanium Flash Mica and, of course, Mazda’s now-iconic Soul Red Crystal Metallic.
As we said, Australians love choice and Mazda provides it with the CX-8 range. And not just in terms of colours, because there are no less than nine model variants to choose from, thanks to two powertrain options and six model trim grades.
Sport remains the entry-level variant with Touring and the new Touring Active (effectively replacing Touring SP) above it. The range is completed by the new GT SP (previously GT) and the luxurious Asaki and Asaki LE.
Crucially for an SUV aimed at families, Mazda never stops finding ways to improve safety, and for this updated model it has made its Cruising and Traffic Support (CTS) available on the GT SP, Asaki and Asaki LE grades. CTS is able to operate the accelerator and brake autonomously in low-speed conditions to reduce the risk of an accident.
The most notable interior change across the line-up is the revamped Mazda Connect infotainment system, which adds a 10.25-inch widescreen display.
This stylish and easy-to-read screen also introduces wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to the CX-8’s lengthy list of features, adding to the previously available Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity and DAB+ digital radio.
The two powertrains are carried over from the 2022 version of the CX-8, with customers able to take their pick of the G25 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, paired to a six-speed automatic transmission, or the D35 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine with six-speed auto and all-wheel drive.
One of the updates for 2023 is the addition of Mazda Intelligent Drive Select (Mi-Drive) as standard on all i-Activ AWD models. Mazda has also updated accelerator pedal settings for D35 variants for better response.
That latter change may not sound like a big-ticket item, but it shows the attention to detail that is part of Mazda ensuring all of its vehicles are the best they can be. Even something as seemingly as small as the pedal feel can have an impact on the driving experience.
The G25 makes a healthy 140kW of power and 252Nm of torque, while the D35 ups the ante with its combination of 140kW and 450Nm, which translates to plenty of punch when you push down on the recalibrated accelerator pedal.
While the frugal petrol engine will be popular with those on a budget, the D35 is a great engine that feels really well suited to the character of the CX-8. It’s potent, with loads of pulling power, but doesn’t feelagricultural, it’s both smooth and refined.
Smooth and refined are perhaps the two best words to sum up the driving experience of the CX-8. It was already one of the sharper-handling SUVs in its class, but Mazda has updated the springs and dampers for improved handling and ride comfort.
This translates to a better experience in just about any conditions you’ll find yourself in, be it the urban grind or the open road. The CX-8 feels sure-footed, especially the all-wheel-drive models, always clinging to the road with confidence.
It also manages to combine the seemingly opposite demands of comfort and control, with Mazda’s engineering team balancing the suspension’s compliance over bumpy surfaces with sharp and responsive handling.
For an SUV capable of seating up to seven, the CX-8 is impressively agile for its size, and you can feel the through line connection to Mazda’s sportier models such as the MX-5.
Speaking of seating, that’s one element that Mazda hasn’t changed - it’s both capacious and comfortable in the front and rear. Customers will be able to choose (there’s that theme again) a seating configuration for six or seven occupants.
While the majority of the range opts for maximum practicality with a three-seater bench in the second row, in addition to the two-seat first and third rows, the Asaki LE gives buyers the choice of a six-seater layout. This replaces the second row seats with a pair of Captain’s chairs, which add a genuine level of luxury rarely seen in this segment of the market.
The upgrades Mazda has made to the CX-8 are all that really needed to be done. There’s no point messing with a winning formula, but Mazda has given the recipe a slight tweak to ensure the CX-8 remains as compelling and appealing as it always has been.
And that means Australia’s new car buyers the kind of choices they deserve, and demand.