Mazda has given its family-sized CX-8 a facelift.
Pitched as a “just right” solution for families who have outgrown the CX-5 but aren’t ready for bigger car, this seven-seater blends the relatively narrow width of Mazda’s best-selling crossover with the stretched wheelbase of the full-sized CX-9.
New-look bumpers and headlights on the 2023 model join mild calibration changes to the engine and suspension.
Easiest to spot in high-grade models with painted wheel arches and lower body cladding formerly finished in matt black plastic, the CX-8 is also available with new “rhodium white” metallic paint on the car shown here.
Other tweaks include wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
Priced from $42,060 to $71,410 plus on-roads – about $46,500 to $77,500 drive-away – the Mazda CX-8 is available in a choice of nine variants.
Basic models have cloth seats, 17-inch wheels and a basic six-speaker stereo.
High-grade models wear polished 19-inch alloys, have quilted Nappa leather seats, a 10-speaker Bose stereo and electric sunroof.
New USB-C ports up front are linked to a 10.25-inch central infotainment screen accessed through a rotary controller. It’s not a touchscreen, which frustrates at times.
A 7-inch display embedded within the driver’s cluster feels dated compared with widescreen digital readouts, though the standard inclusion of a head-up display is a winner to our eyes.
Redesigned front seats offer plenty of support, working with retuned suspension to deliver a more comfortable ride.
Strong safety credentials that earned a five-star rating in 2018 are underpinned by a range of features including front and rear auto emergency braking, active cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, driver attention warning and rear cross-traffic alerts.
Top-end models add clever adaptive LED headlights for 2023, along with a new “cruising and traffic support” feature that can handle accelerating, braking and lane centring in stop-start traffic.
The back seats are as roomy as ever, though the third row is best suited to children or smaller adults.
Boot space is a paltry 207 litres with all seven seats in place, though it grows to 775 litres if you fold the third row away.
The CX-8 makes sense as a family wagon for folks who occasionally need the use of a third row for kids’ sport or sleepovers.
It’s a bit puzzling in range-topping Asaki LE trim, where the middle row’s three-seat bench is replaced by a pair of heated, cooled and power adjustable “captains chairs”.
A suspicion that it’s not the family pick is reinforced by an electronic folding mechanism that takes an age to allow access to the third row, along with a “pure white” quilted finish to the leather that might not be a great fit for the school run.
The layout also compromises load space as the middle chairs don’t fold flat.
A choice of engines are paired with six-speed automatic transmissions.
The standard motor is a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine that uses 8.1L/100km to send 140kW and 252Nm to the front tyres.
Customers with an extra $7000 in the budget can choose a 2.2-litre twin-turbo diesel that needs 6.0L/100km to produce 140kW and 450Nm, which is then delivered to all four wheels.
There is no hybrid option for the CX-8, although more expensive plug-in hybrids are on their ways to Mazda showrooms.
Driving tweaks in the updated model include a reworked throttle response to deliver smoother progress, along with revised suspension that prioritises plushness over poise.
The CX-8 rides reasonably well but can feel floaty on a rollicking road.
A tall and narrow body trades interior packaging for dynamic prowess, returning one of Mazda’s less convincing efforts in the bends.
It’s much better in comparatively effortless diesel trim, which combines turbo torque with all-wheel-drive traction to better effect than the stressed-feeling petrol model.
It’s disappointing to see the CX-8 miss out on Mazda’s best engine, a quiet and punchy 2.5-litre turbo petrol unit found in the smaller CX-5 and larger CX-9.
Impressive packaging and a broad range of models work in its favour, though dated tech and a lack of hybrid options disappoint.
MAZDA CX-8 AZAKI
PRICE About $77,500 drive-away
ENGINE 2.2-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 140kW/450Nm
WARRANTY/SERVICE 5-yr/u’ltd km, $2233 for 5 yrs
SAFETY Six airbags, auto emergency braking, active cruise control, lane keeping assistance, rear cross-traffic alert with auto braking
BOOT 207 litres