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Mazda lets us drive the CX-8 in Malaysia

Here are our first impressions of the midsize SUV

With the arrival of the CX-8, Mazda now has a crossover in every size category. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

Mazda Philippines recently brought us to the Japanese automaker’s Kulim manufacturing plant in Malaysia to witness the unveiling of the CX-8 midsize crossover SUV for the Malaysian market. The CX-8 is expected to make its Philippine debut soon after, and will be sourced exclusively from said Malaysian factory (Japan doesn’t manufacture left-hand-drive units of this vehicle).

The CX-8 is as stylish as its SUV siblings. PHOTOS BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

Though we have no information yet as to what powertrains and specifications our market will receive, we can definitely say the CX-8’s size sits somewhere between the CX-5 and the CX-9—with the ability to accommodate up to seven passengers (Malaysia gets a six-seater option with the second row equipped with two captain’s seats). Mazda Philippines is aiming to target growing Filipino families shopping for a spacious vehicle with a European-like premium feel.

Yep, Malaysian cars are right-hand-drive. PHOTOS BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

The CX-8 measures 4,900mm long, 1,840mm wide and 1,730mm tall. It has the same width as the current CX-5 AWD, but is longer by 350mm and taller by 50mm (it also has 15mm more ground clearance). Though the CX-8 has the same wheelbase as the CX-9, the latter trumps it with 17mm more in height, 120mm more in width and 175mm more in length. With these figures, the CX-8 should be easier to navigate through our congested roads and parking spaces than the CX-9. Hopefully, the Philippine-market model will come equipped with the same driver-assist tech we sampled in Malaysia, such as the 360° cameras and the i-Activsense safety features.

G-Vectoring Control, together with improvements to suspension dynamics, adds to the more composed on-road behavior of the CX-8

Koichiro Yamaguchi, the program manager for the CX-8, explained the important aspects that customers should experience with this premium vehicle. One is powerful driving, which means the driver should feel smooth and linear acceleration and also handle the car at will despite its size.

Another important point is riding feel, which boasts comfort and excellent noise/vibration/harshness reduction. G-Vectoring Control, together with improvements to suspension dynamics, also adds to the more composed on-road behavior of the CX-8. This lessens fatigue for the driver and the passengers, helping to provide a more serene traveling experience.

The author is a big gentleman. Even so, the CX-8 cockpit still has room to spare. PHOTO BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

To get firsthand knowledge of the CX-8’s performance and comfort, we proceeded to a short test drive after the launch program. The drive covered a 72km stretch of urban and tollway routes, including portions with varied surface textures.

The unit assigned to us was powered by a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G engine churning out 192hp and 258Nm. This variant comes equipped with ergonomic fabric seats that conform to the brand’s human-centric design philosophy. The dashboard layout and the door trim design retain the interior architectural language of the current CX models, with generous usage of soft-touch materials.

As you can clearly see here, the CX-8 has commanding but stylish road presence. PHOTOS BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

When you shut all doors, cabin silence is immediately evident. It effectively alienates you from external environment noise. Having been inside other Mazda crossovers, we can confidently say the CX-8 feels the best in NVH management. Our drive experience further proved just how well this vehicle canceled out road and wind noise at speeds reaching 150km/h. Suspension was well-tuned and took on speed bumps and road imperfections effortlessly without sending jarring sensations into the cabin.

The powertrain generated more-than-ample oomph as we cruised along the tollway, giving us enough juice to zip through cars in moderate traffic and keeping our convoy intact. The six-speed automatic gearbox was butter-smooth. Downshifts were seamless when more power was summoned by our sudden accelerator input. The steering response, meanwhile, was stellar. It was direct and obedient while exhibiting minimal lateral roll during high-speed turns and lane changes. And the ride quality was so comfortable that we dozed off when it was somebody else’s turn to drive.

The rear space is roomy, and the seating configurations are versatile. Road trips! PHOTOS BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

In terms of legroom, headroom and cargo space, the CX-8 doesn’t disappoint either. With all three rows propped up, there is still a substantial amount of luggage space at the back—possibly good enough for an overnight out-of-towner for the family. A 6ft frame will have no space issues in the first and second rows. However, the third row feels somewhat cramped. Livable, yes, but cramped. It is better reserved for shorter people. Thankfully, the rear doors open very wide, and the second-row seats slide forward to allow easier ingress/egress and provide additional knee room for occupants in the third row.

All your essential excursion gear should fit nicely in here. Weekends will be fun. PHOTOS BY MANSKEE NASCIMENTO

Overall, the Mazda CX-8 delivers a satisfying driving experience that is sure to please car buyers looking for a tastefully designed, spacious and comfortable family crossover SUV. It’s just a matter of time before we see this vehicle in local showrooms. It’s definitely something to look forward to.

Manskee Nascimento

Manskee is a music-loving petrolhead who specializes in car care. He finds peace in long drives to and from his home in La Union.