Why the new Mazda CX-8 is a steal

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Mazda’s first seven-seat diesel SUV is cheaper than the petrol-only CX-9, but there’s a catch

So the all-new Mazda CX-8 has arrived as the Japanese brand’s ninth model line and fourth SUV.

Joining the small CX-3, large CX-9 and mid-size CX-5 – Australia’s top-selling SUV — it’s damn good value, with a starting price of $42,490.

That’s just $2500 more than the cheapest CX-5 diesel ($39,990) and $1400 less than the base CX-9 ($43,890) — despite the fact it’s powered by the same diesel engine that Mazda charges a $3000 premium for in the CX-5.

The entry-level front-wheel drive CX-8 Sport also undercuts popular seven-seat AWD diesel SUVs like the Santa Fe (from $44,850) and Kia Sorento (from $45,490), as well as the Peugeot 5008 (from $45,490) and Skoda Kodiaq (from $48,990).

There might only be three CX-8 model variants to choose from, but all of them offer almost as many standard features as the equivalent CX-9, excluding only 18-inch wheels and a proximity key at base level.

And while the trump card of the CX-8’s 140kW/450Nm 2.2-litre turbo-diesel is torque, which out-muscle’s the CX-9’s 170kW/420Nm 2.5-litre turbo-petrol four, it’s also far more efficient.

The oil-burning CX-8 consumes as little as 5.7 litres of diesel per 100km, while the CX-9 drinks at least 8.4L/100km of petrol.

In fact, the CX-8’s only real compromise is the fact it’s shorter and narrower than the CX-9, which is why it’s sold in Japan and the CX-9 isn’t.

The CX-8 is the same width as the CX-5 at 1840mm (both are almost 130mm narrower than CX-9) and is identical to the mid-size SUV from the B-pillar forward (including its dashboard).

But it rides on the same 2930mm wheelbase as Mazda’s flagship SUV, effectively making it a long-wheelbase CX-5 offering the same spacious second-row as the CX-9, which has a longer rear overhang that makes it 175mm longer overall than the 4.9-metre CX-8.

Therefore the CX-8’s third-row headroom is tighter and its cargo volume behind the middle row is 70 litres less – but still sizeable at 742 litres.

So the CX-8 can carry slightly less stuff and its third-row seats aren’t suitable for bodies taller than 170cm, but it makes up for that by being easier to park and more nimble in corners.

It’s no lightweight at 1840kg (1957kg AWD), which makes it 200kg heavier than the CX-5, but it handles more like the CX-5 than the CX-9 yet offers the same 2000kg towing capacity.

Unsurprisingly, Mazda expects base Sport FWD variants to comprise 60 per cent of CX-8 sales and all-wheel drive Sport models (from $46,490) to account for 10 per cent.

Comprising the remaining 30 per cent will be the top-shelf CX-8 Asaki AWD that costs $15,000 more at $61,490 — $3300 less than the range-topping CX-9 Azami ($64,790).

So the CX-8 slots beneath the CX-9 in both name and price, yet Mazda expects it to find only 3000 customers in its first year on sale – a third of the 9000 sales notched up by the CX-9 last year.

Mazda’s public sales targets are typically conservative but in this case the company is either bluffing big-time, CX-8 supplies are severely limited or it hopes to upsell customers to its most expensive – and therefore most profitable – model, the CX-9.

Either way, unless you need maximum cargo or people carrying capacity, demand the cheaper, torquier, more efficient and more dynamic diesel seven-seater – and perhaps be prepared to wait.

(motoring.com.au, http://bit.ly/2Njio50)

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