Car Chooser
Car Chooser

2021 Mazda CX-8 GT (FWD) owner review

Bob
Author
Published
PROS
  • Flexibility and family comfort of interior space
  • Ultra quality and reliability
  • Just the overall package - it's SPOT on.
CONS
  • Suspension slightly softer than I'd like
  • Not sure I've got anything else!

About the Mazda CX-8

Bob purchased this Mazda CX-8 new with additional options for $59,000 (including all on-road costs). Bob would buy this car again because: “Simply the best quality, feature packed, versatile, fun to drive and fit for purpose vehicle we’ve ever purchased. The Diesel engine is spot on perfect for economy and performance, the interior has held up beautifully over 12 months and the reliability has been flawless. “

How reliable has your car been? Tell us about any issues.

Reliability has been flawless. Not a fart, not a hiccup, not a foot gone wrong over 12 months and 19,000km+ of ownership and driving.

We bought it expecting good Mazda (Japanese) quality and haven’t been disappointed, in fact it has clocked nearly 20,000km of busy family life and it’s not just the mechanical reliability, but electrical and overall perceived quality that have been amazing.

The leather has worn only very slightly, the electrical features (including factory Mazda Connect software/firmware and Apple CarPlay) have all been amazing and the safety systems all work with minimal pain and an effortless background surveillance while still permitting it to be fun to drive.

No issues expected, no issues to report. Perfect.

What do you think of the ownership experience with your car?

From the initial emails received from Mazda while we were awaiting arrival before delivery, to the flowers and champagne sent by the dealer after delivery, to the convenience of the MyMazda portal through the ownership period (for centrally locating digital information like owner manuals, warranty and roadside info and all the important dates), we have zero complaints.

While we’ve had no issues, the comms from Mazda are unobtrusive, the relationship with our dealership has been complementary to this and we’ve recommended many people to the vehicle, the brand and the Dealership. We’ve equally not had a need to complain but feel we know exactly where/how to if required.

To address the question of ownership “experience”, it has been not only a sensible, rationally rewarding choice (which was a major brain-bending struggle to start with given the choice on the market) but emotionally has enriched our decision by being genuinely fun to drive with a little character that a vehicle this size doesn’t have much right to do in my mind.

Boy have we been proven wrong about our initial expectations of it just being a family SUV!

How has the purchase and aftercare experience been with your car?

Our dealer was outstanding. I must declare, I’ve worked in the industry for many years and I’m a nitpicker on the experience, but it was perfect. From the warmth of the sales team on the day we test drove, to how they seamlessly catered for our kids with colouring books while we took turns for the drive, to the painless way they negotiated with us, it really was a validation of not just the choice of vehicle, but the choice of brand.

For all the naysayers (and 10 per cent market share earns you a few) equally you don’t get this big by being hopeless at building cars and looking after customers. Not with over 65 brands trying to hunt you down every month.

Despite being a massive car enthusiast and knowing the ins and out of most models not even on sale yet, I subsequently purchased myself a Mazda 3 G25 GT Hatch in 2022 for my own daily run-around. This was on a shopping list with BMW 118ti, VW Golf R, even at one time a Tesla Model 3.

The heart wanted the last hot hatch (after owning a few over the years and recently selling a classic 2007 Megane RS R26 F1 Team weekender) but the head encouraged the heart to soften for an entirely excellent, comfortable and suitable Mazda 3 as the backup daily given the new work from home hybrid living we find ourselves in.

The CX-8 more than slightly pulled me back to the Mazda corner too. It was just too early for me (financially and practically) to go to EV just yet and frankly, there was nothing even close in quality/price/function to suit my needs.

Equally, the knowledge of quality we experienced, reputation for the brand and the dealership relationship means that despite the huge saving on the sticker price by “downgrading” to the Mazda 3, it has actually been the perfect not-even-daily driver that doesn’t feel like it’s wasted. And I feel like a Golf R would have sat almost wasted doing 500km a month…

And in final words, before anyone decides to have a crack at “yeah right, Mazda 3 with a Golf R and BMW 118ti in the same mix, tell him he’s dreaming” – I’ve driven many nice weapons over the years and I would have paid $10-15k more if the Mazda 3 came with the CX-9/Mazda6 2.5 Turbo.

That would have been my perfect car – maybe not yours, but given what I’ve had the pleasure of driving for the best part of 20 years, it didn’t need to be a three-door manual racer any more (in fact I sold the aforementioned Megane for that very reason and the new owner absolutely loves it now the way it was intended). Anyway, this isn’t a review for my Mazda 3 (which equally I wouldn’t gush about anywhere near as much as our CX-8) – it’s a review about our happy family hauler.

To the final point, our first paid service at 10,000km (on a 12 month/10,000km interval) was faultless and efficient and bang on the quoted price per Mazda’s online pricing site.

We just booked our second service in a month’s time using the MyMazda portal. It seamlessly sent the booking request to our selling dealer late on a Sunday evening and by 9:25am, exactly 55 minutes after opening on Monday morning, the email response came directly back from the Dealer confirming we were all booked in with a complimentary loan car.

Again, hard to accidentally do that if you don’t have a clue what you’re doing – it’s clear that’s a well oiled machine and more than just showroom shine to the ownership.

I’d love a 15,000km interval, so I’m marking it a 9/10 as a slight penalty. But again, we knew this up front and were OK with it. Equally, how often do you see a Mazda broken down on the side of the road – even a 20 year-old one? My point exactly.

Are you happy with the price and features of your car?

Over the moon. There’s nothing we need that isn’t standard, likewise there’s nothing superfluous either that we don’t need.

From the Auto-high beam LED active cornering headlamps that are absolutely epic in country Victorian backroads or equally on the Hume Highway to Sydney, to the new-for-’21 larger Mazda Connect screen, to the tri-zone climate, rear inbuilt window shades and the remote open tailgate feature, we would not change a thing.

Funnily enough, at delivery the poor sales lady started to explain the foot-swipe remote open tailgate feature and I rolled my eyes and said “don’t bother, they never work”. She was greatly relieved to hear that and laughed, we’d given up in a previous SUV, it was a hopeless feature.

However, woe is me, after writing off this feature and not even bothering, about three months ago I read on a CX-8 owner page that you simply kick under the centre of the rear bumper like a soccer ball and I now manage to get it working 100 per cent of the time.

So there, take that complacency, arrogance and being an old dog not open to learning new tricks! (and Mazda, maybe an opportunity for training your sales team on kicking soccer balls!)

What do you think of the performance and economy of your car?

Performance is spot on. We didn’t buy this to set land speed records and equally we’re happy with the pulling power, smoothness of the transmission, and overall performance.

Economy is fantastic and frankly much better than my 2022 Mazda 3 (which admittedly doesn’t get the open road driving this does) but it is a fine balance of power for the economy.

The economy over the 19,000km is sitting around 7.1L/100km with a lot of mixed but generally more open road driving. I only ever run on premium diesel. And it’s improving over time.

Our highway driving dips into the high 5.0s on proper open freeway and a recent round trip at Christmas of over 2600km interstate saw the fully loaded wagon pulling around 6.5L trip total on premium diesel, with two adults, two kids and loaded to the roof with presents, luggage and Allens snakes (plus a few litres of coffee). This in summertime with air con on constantly also. Impressive.

We didn’t bother with all-wheel drive, it isn’t needed for us so I’m sure that has helped slightly (and I note the GT FWD diesel was recently discontinued interestingly, so we’re quietly chuffed we saved that one).

All that could really improve it in the real world would be slightly better around-town economy, probably only really possible if they’d fitted the clever Mazda6 i-E-loop system (which strangely is absent on CX-8 but fitted to Mazda 6 and CX-9 overseas I believe).

That or a hybrid system, but if I was desperate for economy before everything else we’d have looked at a Kluger hybrid.

What do you think of the technology in your car?

This thing is LOADED with tech. I’m a car nut, I love tech and for the life of me other than cooled seats and maybe some extra chrome plus Mazda’s fairly underwhelming half-digital dash, we wouldn’t change a thing on the tech front.

The active driving tech is beautifully calibrated, the infotainment is great (and the better half loves the Bose nearly as much as I do…) and the heated second-row seats are a fan favourite for our son who recently came out of his booster and loves the feature.

Even the wireless charging means I can have my phone on CarPlay (wired) and my wife’s phone on the wireless charger for our weekend trips. And no, I’m not marking the car down for not having wireless CarPlay as it wasn’t a big thing when we purchased and I’m sure in five minutes will be available on the next model update Mazda.

It’s spot on for us as a tech loving family. Some may find it overwhelming, but to us it’s perfect. Nothing we don’t need (like self-parking, urgh) and everything we do.

What do you think of the ride comfort and handling of your car?

Ride and comfort again is bang on for our needs. We agonised over CX-8, Tiguan Allspace, and CX-9 up to the end, with a Mazda 6 Atenza wagon and Passat R-Line wagon thrown in for good measure.

Knowing we were sacrificing the handling of the sportier wagon, we knew the SUV wouldn’t be a sports car – but this was for school runs, family hauling and my wife’s open road commute so comfort took the lead.

The CX-8 is much less direct than the CX-9 and a lot softer overall, but we’ve again found it perfect around town, over the X-Games speed humps in our suburb and even quite comfortable on some light dusty/muddy roads recently.

Suspension is compliant, if slightly too soft/wallowy (as a tiny criticism) but equally it’s not a complaint as we knew this when purchasing vs the CX-9 which solved a lot of these qualms – but was just too big for our slightly narrow driveway.

Steering is direct enough when you get around the initial roll, but when loaded up is comfortable, has minimal kickback and just feels planted (as long as you hold back on the torque application).

The CX-8 could do with a little firmer damping perhaps, but not enough for us to care about and in fact being loaded with the family often it remains comfortable in this state. But again, I’m nitpicking.

A recent late night run from Bonnie Doon back to Melbourne on my own was somewhat WAY more enjoyable than I expected through the twisties, riding the twin turbo torque wave and flowing the car through the turns. It was easy to find a smooth, yet rapid balance through some enjoyable roads. Far more fun than a 2.0-tonne seven-seat vehicle should be.

Do you have any additional comments about your car?

Overall, our CX-8 GT has been by far the best car we’ve ever owned or leased over 2 decades, between my wife and I.

Epic in every way for our needs, stylish and functional, while still being robust and a dutiful family soldier. I initially thought we’d keep this one for up to seven years, but we’re actually looking with interest at the CX-70/CX-80 coming up in future years.

This might solve the argument (that our finances somehow won this time around) of not buying the CX-9 or a luxury SUV like the X5 and possibly upgrading the CX-8 if the new seven-seater version comes with RWD and a hybrid diesel option, or something similar.

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Ratings
Overall9.5
Show Breakdown
Technology 10
Reliability 10
Ride & Handling 9
Price & Features 9.5
Purchase & Aftercare 9
Performance & Economy 9
Ownership Experience 10
Top Line Specs
5.9L
140kW
150g
5 ★
View all specifications