Mazda Malaysia and Bermaz Auto recently celebrated the rollout of the locally assembled Mazda CX-8 SUV from the Inokom plant in Kulim, Kedah. Just like the CX-5 which is also assembled in the same facility, the CX-8 is also slated for export to other ASEAN markets. Members of the media at the rollout ceremony were given the chance to drive and experience both the petrol and diesel versions of the CX-8 High variant.
In Japan, it is the CX-8 that is the brand’s flagship SUV as the CX-9 is not sold there. And the first impression of the vehicle is the premium quality of the design and trim used. Mazda’s KODO design language chooses to use subtle flowing lines and surfaces to mimic the graceful yet athletic elements of nature rather than rely on conspicuous creases and angles. As a result, the CX-8, like all current Mazda vehicles, have a smooth, elegant profile that keeps to its “Soul of Motion” fundamentals.
For the interior, it looks like Mazda has made considerable efforts to create a comfortable human-centric environment even if some of these meticulous details are missed by many. One example is the extended door panel which covers the lower portion of the door sill. When the doors are closed, it keeps dirt and mud off the door sill and making sure you won’t accidentally rub dirt or mud on your trousers or legs. It also helps to further insulate the cabin from road noise.
Another feature of the door design is its ability to open up to 80° which makes it convenient for loading and unloading, or even for reaching in to adjust a child seat. The large door aperture also makes for easy access to the 3rd row.
The three rows of seats are built on a tiered floor for more seating comfort. The rear passengers have sufficient space under the the seats in front to tuck their feet thus allowing for a more relaxed posture. The third row is designed to accommodate occupants up to 170 cm (5’6″) tall in relative comfort without sacrificing too much seat cushion thickness. The third row seats also features full-sized headrests which fold down when the seat is folded.
The seats are designed to ensure a natural posture by keeping the S-curve of the spine and maintaining an upright pelvis posture to help stabilise the body.
Mazda has improved NVH (noise, vibration & harshness) of the cabin by using vibration-dampening material in the rear panels, reducing the gap between the roof moulding and roof spoiler, and sound-absorbing material. It also made use of high-damping urethane to reduce high frequency vibrations, while low frequency vibrations are suppressed by converting pitches and rolls into bounce. The result is a calm interior which reduces fatigue for its occupants and helps add to the premium feel the company wants to achieve.
Some engine noise is allowed into the cabin particularly for the driver to be aware of the speed. As a passenger, engine noise can be heard but it sounds muffled even when the engine is revved hard.
Furthermore, we noticed on our drive up north in the new CX-5 2.5 turbo that raindrops on the roof was hardly heard due to the insulated roof lining. The only place the sound of raindrops was apparent was on the windscreen but this is deliberate to allow the driver to perceive speed. We drove the CX-8 on a sunny day but we assume it also received the same noise insulating treatment as the CX-5. The triple-zone climate control of the CX-8 kept the three of us very comfortable.
Other tiny details include the use of wood from the Ayous tree for cabin trim to enhance the premium look (High variant). Mazda chose this wood as it is similar to the Paulownia which has a high resistance to deformation caused by humidity.
We had the SkyActiv-D 2.2L turbo diesel CX-8 High variant for a brief test run and managed to use some of the 188 hp and 450 Nm of torque on clear stretches of road. Acceleration was smooth and we were able to nearly keep pace with the lead car which was a SkyActiv-G 2.5L turbo petrol CX-5 with 227 hp and 420 Nm at least in the initial stages; the CX-8 weighs 1,924 kg.
Mazda had tuned the CX-8’s suspension with lateral-force-cancelling coil springs and adapted rebound springs in the front dampers to enhance ride stability. The software-based GVC which controls the engine torque based on steering movement and acceleration, also helps to provide improved handling and ride quality to the vehicle occupants.
The first impression the CX-8 gives is of a well-engineered vehicle with premium feel and quality. Despite missing out on the Mazda Radar Cruise Control feature, it still comes with other i-ActivSense driving safety features. And unless you are in dire need of adaptive cruise control, I do not think it is a deal-breaker. There is no official price yet however (which seems to be an industry-wide issue), but I do not expect it to be priced below any of its current rival brands, which do not have anything with such trim and features on offer.
To see more of the driving experience of the CX-8 turbo diesel, watch the video below the gallery. (Note: engine noise in the video is apparent due to the placement of the voice recorder on the centre console; in reality, the cabin was quieter than that)