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Mazda CX-8 AWD Exclusive: Compromise has never been this good

Horsepower isn’t always the main yardstick by which cars are judged

Mazda’s answer to the three-row crossover problem. PHOTO BY RED SANTIAGO

People say that you can never have the best of both worlds. In life, one has to always pick something over another. That you can never have your cake and eat it, too. But just the simple thought of letting one thing go for something else isn’t really cool for some. But for me, I can confidently say that compromise can be quite good. Case in point: the Mazda CX-8 Exclusive. Allow me to tell you why.

This car has the best of the CX-5 and the CX-9 combined. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

First up, the CX-8 is stunning. It basically has all the design elements of both the CX-5 and the CX-9 that I love. The front clip is basically that of the former, while the sides and the rear end are from the latter. Being a three-row crossover, the CX-8 is obviously bigger than the compact CX-5. It’s a tad smaller than the CX-9, but you can’t really tell both cars apart because they just look so good. Only a cursory glance at the badge would let you know that this isn’t Mazda’s flagship SUV.

Passengers will fight over who gets the captain's chairs. PHOTO BY RED SANTIAGO

The interior is the same affair. The dashboard and the instrumentation look the same as those in the CX-5. And honestly, I like the simpler black-and-gray theme. There are acres of soft-touch materials all around, just to remind you that you are seated in the lap of luxury in case you forget. The Mazda Connect infotainment system is easy to use, and the sound from the 10-speaker Bose audio system is glorious. Couple that with a super quiet and refined cabin and Metro Manila’s traffic jams suddenly seem bearable.

Like all Mazda dashboards, this one is form and function. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

The front and rear seating areas have separate air-conditioning zones to ensure that everyone is comfortable. Speaking of rear occupants, the second row has these plush captain’s chairs that offer passengers first-class seating luxury. Sadly, the same can’t be said with the third row. Though the seats are good enough for adults, there are no vents here so it can get hot during the sunniest of days. In addition, the infotainment screen is rather small, and the piano-black accents are absolute fingerprint magnets.

The Bose sound system brings out the best from your tunes. PHOTO BY RED SANTIAGO

And now, on to the driving part. The 188hp 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G engine isn’t the most powerful of the lot. But it feels adequate especially in the city, thanks to 252Nm of twist. Speaking of city streets, I managed to get around 6km/L in horrible payday-Friday traffic just before Christmas. But hitting the open road and being gentle with the accelerator makes 11-12km/L possible.

The CX-8 doesn’t jump off the line with each prod of the throttle. But the engine pulls smoothly, making the drive relaxing. In fact, my mom and my grandmother easily fell asleep in the cabin’s peaceful ambience. Because of its size, the CX-8 isn’t exactly nimble. But it does oblige with each turn of the tiller, cornering with stability and finesse. After a couple of hours behind the wheel, I got used to the size and became more confident with my steering input. Truly, the CX-8 is as enjoyable to drive as it is to ride, speaking volumes about how well-built this car is.

The third row doesn’t have vents so it’s better off for cargo. PHOTO BY RED SANTIAGO

The CX-8 is one of the safest cars you can buy today. Aside from the usual stuff like six airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, and parking sensors, equipped as standard on this crossover are 360° camera, adaptive cruise control, driver attention sensor, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. That’s practically everything, giving owners peace of mind on the road.

The 2.5-liter four-cylinder may not be turbocharged, but it pulls smoothly and confidently. PHOTO BY RED SANTIAGO

The CX-8 is priced at P2,450,000. You’d be hard-pressed to find a vehicle that is as good-looking and refined as this one. Having said that, if it’s not too much to ask, I hope that Mazda Philippines brings in the diesel version as well. But for what the car is and what it offers in its current configuration, who would have thought that compromise could be this good?


Engine2.5-liter four-cylinder DOHC gasoline
Transmission6-speed automatic
Power188hp @ 6,000rpm
Torque252Nm @ 4,000rpm
Dimensions4,900mm x 1,840mm x 1,730mm
Drive layoutAWD
UpsideStyling, comfort, luxury and list of standard equipment.
DownsideA diesel engine would have been a better match.

Red Santiago

A jack of all trades, Red is passionate about cars, motorcycles and audio. He sometimes drives for a ride-hailing app company—just because he really loves driving.