Justifiably there’s lots of emphasis now puton vehicles’ safety features and ratings.
But the vast improvements to the safety of one most important items, the windscreen, doesn’t seem to feature much.
Well I, and more especially the front seat passenger, certainly appreciate the safety aspects of this new CX-8’s laminated screen after an on-coming truck flicked up a rather large stone.
A stone that, very loudly, hit the left side of the windscreen.
Quite amazingly, other than giving all aboard one hell of a fright, the damage was limited to a golfball-size circle on the outer glass layer and without any sign of star-like cracks.
Needless to say, all CX-8s also come loaded with Mazda’s latest i-ACTIVSENSE safety technologies.
These include radar-cruise, lane departure/keep assist, blind spot monitoring,cross-traffic alerts and automatic emergency braking.
This “five plus two” seat, diesel only CX-8, the first even numbered SUV in Mazda’s latest range, slots in between the five seat CX-5 (petrol or diesel) and slightly larger, turbo-petrol, seven seat CX-9.
It’s stylish and, with those seven seats, offers spacious versatility within its still relatively neat dimensions.
There are two GSX models (in either 2WD or AWD), and the AWD Limited as driven.
From and including the front doors forward the CX-8’s architecture is pretty much identical to its latest model, CX-5 siblings.
However then heading rearwards its 400mm longer, with pleasing looks and its own individual style.
This extra length allows for the third row of two seats, which when not being used stow very neatly in the luggage area floor, from where they also neatly arise when needed to be adult friendly for shorter trips.
And even better for those of less height (Mazda suggests 175cm) for longer drives.
The second row offers lots of comfort, and heated seats for two (complete with a large fold down armrest), or three if needed.
The seats split 60/40 and slide back and forward and their design means they can easily be operated by smaller fry to get in the third row.
With all seats in use there’s 209 litres of luggage space, increasing to a really impressive 742 litres as a five seater.
The Limited has a power tail-gate.
Unsurprisingly, when sitting behind the wheel, with minor exceptions it feels pretty much the same as being in the recently upgraded CX-5.
Which means its very comfortable, uncluttered and user friendly.
Both models come with an excellent headup display, three-zone climate air-con, and sat-nav.
The Limited’s Nappa leather and real wood furnishings, heated steering wheel and stunning 10-speaker Bose premium audio system combine to complete the overall feeling of refinement.
Under the bonnet is the latest version of the 2.2-litre Skyactiv-D turbo diesel, producing 140kW and 450Nm torque at 2000rpm.
This was very quiet while performing domestic duties and effortless at cruise.
But then, when you really put your foot down, it delivers a very acceptable sound to match your rate of acceleration.
Like when its 0-100kmh figures (just over nine seconds!) are being explored.
Do this and rather obviously expectations of achieving the stated 6L/100km won’t happen.
But the overall figure for my drive-time was 7.3l/100km.
Which these days, even when factoring in RUCs will likely appeal, especially to those doing lots of kilometres.
The handling proved very predictable and tidy, thanks to both the fully automated all-wheel-drive and smart G-Vectoring Control system.
But being, taller, longer and heavier with a 200mm ground clearance, means it expectedly can’t match the CX-5’s excellent sporty demeanour.
This versatile seven seat, CX-8 with its economical diesel that is equally at home around town or on the open road, clearly continues Mazda’s less-is-more design philosophy. It’s likely to appeal to those needing more seats than the CX-5 has, but don’t wish to up-size completely to the CX-9.
– By Roger Hart