– By Henry Bailey –
It was love at first sight when I slid into the driver’s seat of the Mazda CX-8. It felt and looked luxurious. There’s lots of space in the front and the individual second row seats made it feel like the pointy end of a plane (which we’ve been missing). But it took two weeks before I actually liked it.
When we test drive cars for FAN we ask for a two week loan so we can live in them like it was our company car or novated lease vehicle. We look at cars differently compared to the main stream press. It’s more like a Fit for Purpose evaluation which is important for Fleet Managers. This has proven worthwhile with the CX-8 because it was a really hard car to like in the first few days.
The first of two models Mazda gave us was the range topping Asaki LE. Wow! It was beautiful. In Soul Red Crystal Metallic it turned heads everywhere we went. The interior was Chroma Brown Nappa Leather. The only glamorous accessory missing was the coloured key shell.
If I was an empty nester baby boomer that wanted inconspicuous luxury, this is would be my car. Everything you expect from a European brand in a Japanese package.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing in the first week of driving with the Mazda CX-8. Our problems started with the door unlock settings. When we picked it up, it was set to only unlock the rear doors when in park with the key removed. This created some issues in the Kiss-n-Ride line at school drop off.
First there was 30 seconds of kids screaming and yanking on the door handles. Then a frantic search for the door unlock button which didn’t exist. Conceding defeat I selected park, pulled on the handbrake, and jumped out to open the rear doors from the outside. Still no good. We were trapped! Finally, with hazards lights flashing and lots of frustrated stares from other parents, I stopped the car and voila!
It took a similar experience while dropping the middle child off at soccer training for me to search through the menu on the seven inch multi-information LCD display to find the answer and change the unlock settings.
My second confrontation with the CX-8 was over the LCD display. Is it a touch screen or not? Sometimes yes, other times no. I didn’t seem to notice because I started using the dial and buttons located in the centre console to navigate the entertainment menu. And the steering wheel controls also provided enough functionality to remove the need to touch the screen.
When the weekend arrived I took the family for a road trip so the CX-8 Asaki LE could stretch its legs. This is when we noticed the part-time touch screen. A car rule in our family is – passenger controls the music (which means I never get to pick but at least there’s no fights).
My partner instinctively reached for the LCD entertainment screen…and nothing. Tap, tap, tap. Still nothing. This is the great part of reviewing vehicles; your passengers (aka family) always give you their opinions. Well, let’s just say the CX-8 lost a few points for this.
Mazda also let us drive the CX-8 Sport. Once again, we slipped into it like a glove. There was no leather and a few less features but it didn’t dampen our enjoyment.
The Sport model came with the traditional back seat which felt nicer (and neater) then the captain’s rear seat design in the Asaki LE. It also had a rear cargo blind to cover our precious cargo.
Both models are quiet on the road which was surprising considering the difference in price. The Sport model is $20k cheaper than the Asaki LE so it does come with less gadgets but it doesn’t feel less luxurious. The cabin sound proofing really surprised us and enhanced the overall driving experience.
We’ve fallen in love with Mazda again.
You can find out more by downloading a copy of the 2021 Novated Leasing Guide – click here.
Or, you can watch our video review on YouTube.