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Mazda CX-8 AWD Exclusive (2024): A personal driving experience

A three-row crossover you’ll want to drive yourself more often

A crossover like the Mazda CX-8 is a rare breed. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Some cars are meant to be chauffeur-driven, but for a number of reasons, the Mazda CX-8 AWD Exclusive is one crossover that fully understands an owner’s needs in terms of comfort and swag.

After all, achieving oneness between “horse and rider” is ingrained into Mazda’s philosophy. The CX-8, in particular, comes with a few luxurious perks that are too good not to notice.

This front row is made for drivers to enjoy. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

The cockpit feels and looks premium from the get-go. The soft and smooth Nappa leather—from the seats to the steering wheel—almost feels like a hug before the drive.

Look at all the luxurious amenities up front. PHOTOS BY PATTY MORATO-ROA AND SAM SURLA

The dashboard design is clean and minimalist, and lets your eyes focus on the wooden trim details that are highlighted by the newly added sunroof.

The leather-wrapped shifter gives a nod to much more expensively priced SUVs in the market. There’s a rotary knob to make all the tech easy to control from the driver seat. It almost gives a sense of driving a luxury sedan.

All the tech you could ever want and need. PHOTOS BY PATTY MORATO-ROA

Speaking of tech, the CX-8 is equipped with a seven-inch digital instrument cluster with a heads-up display, an eight-inch infotainment display, wireless Apple CarPlay, wired Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, a wireless charger, and a 10-speaker Bose sound system.

For better appreciation, it’s equipped with a noise reduction feature to lessen road and engine noise for some peace and quiet, alongside dual-zone automatic climate control to keep things temperate.

A second row worth fighting over. PHOTOS BY PATTY MORATO-ROA

As enjoyable as it is behind the wheel, the best seats in the house are actually in the second row with its roomy captain’s seat configuration. Passengers get comfortable “business class” seating that is (oddly) heated, their own climate controls, sunshades, and a center console with cupholders.

A third row that can squeeze two adults in a pinch, but is better off used for cargo. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

The third row accommodates two more passengers with ample legroom and two USB ports (no air vents, sadly!). If folded, it gets you more cargo space at 742L.

With all seats occupied, the car fits a total of six including the driver, and there’s still enough space left to accommodate a golf set or two large pieces of luggage at 209L. It also has a secret compartment to store more delicate items if needed.

An extremely safe car with some very sensitive parking sensors (which you can thankfully disable). PHOTOS BY PATTY MORATO-ROA

Mazda takes pride in its i-Activsense advanced driver assistance suite, which is the automaker’s promise of safety for drivers and passengers.

The safety features include blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alerts, a 360° camera, parking sensors, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and airbags for all six persons.

It’s surrounded by sensors, so be warned that alerts can be hypersensitive at times and slightly bothersome. Then again, there is no such thing as too safe.

The naturally aspirated engine is fine, but more power can truly make this crossover exciting. PHOTOS BY PATTY MORATO-ROA

It’s evident how much thought Mazda puts into the crossover’s performance and efficiency on the road. It runs on a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G engine that outputs 187hp and 252Nm to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.

My own fuel test gave me a 9.3km/L outcome on a mixed highway and city drive, and 18.3km/L on a full highway drive. However, this will depend on how light- or heavy-footed you are as a driver. Given its vehicle size, the CX-8 is pretty fuel-efficient.

The narrow body is perfect for squeezing through tight streets. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

About its size, the CX-8 was designed to steer through the narrower streets of Japan as compared to the CX-9, which was built for wider roads. The former is slimmer and shorter than the latter, but it beats the Toyota Fortuner in length by a slight difference.

It’s priced lower than the CX-9 at P2,530,000, but higher than the seven-seater FWD variant, which is identical in size and length but has no captain seats and lacks some features.

It's a distinguished-looking three-row crossover that's willing to be your dance partner. PHOTOS BY PATTY MORATO-ROA AND SAM SURLA

In terms of design, trust Mazda’s signature curves to hook you. It screams luxury and sophistication, but at the same time stays within the spectrum of minimalism and austereness.

It veers away from the typical sporty aesthetic and opts for a more cultured and mature take on what a crossover ought to be. The distinguished looks are definitely among this vehicle’s best attributes, but it doesn’t stop with just its outer appearance.

Mazda’s focus on delivering driver-centric vehicles makes the CX-8 worth the price. You’re guaranteed a driving experience that accurately gets you on a personal level.


Engine2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline
Transmission6-speed automatic
Power187hp @ 6,000rpm
Torque252Nm @ 4,000rpm
Dimensions4,900mm x 1,840mm x 1,730mm
Drive layoutAWD
UpsideAn elegant design and a crossover made for the driver that’s still fuel-efficient for its size.
DownsideThe more powerful turbo or diesel engines would have been nice for this size. Hypersensitive parking sensors.

Patty Morato-Roa

Patty had an early career as a TV and print model. She was also immersed in the motoring world at a young age having spent her childhood around annual car shows. She has worked as an editorial assistant, and dabbles in photography as well. She’s a wife of an avid motorcycle rider and a mom of two.