The Mazda CX-8 I was loaned was in the beautiful deep “Soul Red” colour paint that I love! I was very excited by the outside and my experience of the CX-5 and CX-9, as well as the promise of a seven-seater when I gave this CX-8 the BabyDrive testing!!
The CX-8 we tested was one of the more basic models but I felt it didn't have the little features that made some of the other Mazdas I've driven feel really special, like rear window shades, clever retractable roller blind etc and I felt I missed them!
Storage inside the cabin is rather thoughtful; with good useable sized cup holders in the first, second and third rows, wells in all the door handles and the door bins are large enough for large refillable water bottles.
Mazda has given thought to the positioning of phones and charging for front and rear passengers, with a rubber tray in the central console or a shelf and USBs in the central console storage box and in the rear, and the central armrest has a hidden compartment with two USBs and a tray for charging phones.
The boot was competitively sized, holding seventeen shopping bags when only using five seats, which is the same as the Hyundai Santa Fe and two more than the VW Tiguan Allspace. Depending on the needs of your family, the four sizes of strollers I tested all fitted in the boot with good amounts of shopping bags when only using five seats. You could fit a medium sized dog in the boot with a comfortable amount of room for a few shopping bags beside it.
When using all seven seats, six shopping bags fitted in the boot, which is one more than both the Hyundai Sante Fe and the VW Tiguan Allspace. I could only fit two sizes of stroller in the boot when using all seven seats; the Mountain Buggy Nano and four bags or the Urban Jungle with one!
The CX-8 is a seven-seater with five top tether points. FANTASTIC!! They are all within plastic guides on the seat backs, apart from the central one in the second row which is right underneath the seat and I found I required an extension strap for the child seat.
There are ISOfix points in the two outer second-row seats only and I found there was enough room for me to install three big child seats across the second row while using the ISOfix because there is plenty of space across the second-row seats, which is unusal and great!
In the third row, I installed two big child seats using the seat belts and top tethers, and there was ample room for them. The second row slides to adjust leg room and we found you could have a 184cm passenger sit in front and behind a rear-facing infant capsule. In both positions, there was 25cm of knee room which was impressive! The headroom in the third row was better than in the VW Tiguan Allspace but still only enough for the 184cm passenger to last a 30-minute journey before they wanted more space!
For accessing the third row, the second-row seats slide forward and small kids could perhaps climb through but an adult could not reach through the gap to fasten buckles or bigger kids climb through without removing child seats. The second-row seatbacks are split 60:40 and the 60% is on the kerb side so you actually have to remove two child seats to access the third row from the kerb side of the car which seems biased to left-hand drive countries. I found that the third-row seats are very comfortable to sit in and I'm 162cm.
The CX-8 was simple and practical to drive around town and out on the open roads, I did find visibility out of the rear and side windows very limited because the windows slope up towards the back. I found myself relying on the rear camera which was far too small for a vehicle of this size!
The Mazda CX-8 does not have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which I found disappointing, but as I understand all Mazdas will be able to have the added by the end of 2018. The media system seems outdated, and the screen is small. The system is controlled using a joystick in the central console which I just found hard to navigate and use especially while driving as you are never sure if you are supposed to press, turn or nudge the stick for each command!? A lot of the necessary options wouldn’t work while driving, which I found frustrating!
Overall I found the Mazda CX-8 to be a practical family car that is pleasant to drive and the interior feels like good, practical quality apart from the shiny seat upholstery that is more suited to your embarrassing uncle's wedding suit fabric! That's the biggest downside of the vehicle for me! I think the fabric would be hard to clean from ground-in spills and child crumbs too. The CX-8 does have good practical storage and generous boot storage though! The five child seat capacity is FANTASTIC and rarely rivalled but I felt the CX-8 lacked some of the finer family-friendly details and overall polish of the CX-9.
The Mazda CX-8 scored one of ANCAPs highest five-star safety ratings and has six airbags as standard.