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January 25, 2021

Review: 2021 Mazda CX-8 AWD Exclusive

When Mazda Philippines launched the CX-8 mid-sized SUV, it served as an alternative to the typical pickup-based mid-sized SUV choices in the market. Priced at P 2.290-million, we extensively reviewed the CX-8 2WD Signature last year, proclaiming it to be the best balanced of Mazda’s CX line-up. But what if you wanted something more; something with all the bells-and-whistles? Well, for P 160,000 more, there’s this: the CX-8 AWD Exclusive.

Let’s put things into perspective first. At P 2.450-million, the CX-8 AWD Exclusive actually sits between the other CX-8 variant (P 2.290-million), and top-of-the-line CX-9 (P 2.950-million). It’s more expensive than the bigger and more powerful, but less equipped entry-level CX-9 2WD Touring (P 2.380-million). The close price gap between these two models presents a problem to would-be buyers, who may just get more confused on which three-row Mazda SUV to get.

Ultimately though, Filipinos gravitated towards the CX-8, likely realizing that this SUV offers much better value thanks to similar (in some cases, better equipment) than the larger CX-9, while staying under the psychological P 2.5 million barrier. Indeed, it has become Mazda’s third best-selling model in 2020 after the Mazda3 and CX-5.

Style-wise, there’s almost no way to tell the two CX-8 variants apart. Since Filipinos care a lot about looks, it’s brilliant that Mazda offered essentially a complete package—from the full gamut of color choices, exterior LED lighting, to the same 19-inch alloy wheels. In fact, the only exclusive AWD features? An additional badge on the tailgate and standard roof rails.

Open the doors, and you’ll revel in the same sort of luxury Mazdas have come up of late. Nice, plush plastics, solid-feeling switchgear, genuine wood trim, and Nappa leather seats. Simply put, it doesn’t fall short on expectations.

That said, the two CX-8 variants also reveal their biggest difference inside: the AWD Exclusive’s second row captain’s seats. Initially, Mazda’s decision to swap the traditional bench for individual buckets may seem counterintuitive, but in the end, it’s the very reason why it stands out in the segment. It enables this mid-sized SUV to play the role of several vehicles. Need a practical self-driven family car? Get the 2WD. Are you more chauffer driven? Get the AWD.

Unlike other captain’s seats, its application in the CX-8 doesn’t diminish its cargo capacity greatly. Apart from being able to move fore and aft, and recline, the individual seats also fold flat forming a long, continuous cargo space from the cargo hold all the way to the back of the front seats. If there are shortcomings, there are just two: one, is a missed opportunity to fit ventilated seats like in the CX-9 and Mazda6 (heated seats for the first two rows are standard though), and two, is that the second-row console box protrudes even with the second row folded. This can potentially limit its ability to haul large things like a flat-screen TV.

Now, for those who’ll end up being driven most of the time in the CX-8, you’ll be pleased to know that its ride is one of the comfiest, if not the comfiest in the mid-sized SUV category. Even if Mazdas are known more for their enthusiast-centric handling, this one is extremely pliant—going through all sorts of road cracks and potholes—small and big with poise and grace. Moreover, it’s got none of the float—a typical cause of car sickness. The cabin is extremely quiet, too.

For those who prefer to do their own driving, not much separates the front- and all-wheel drive CX-8, subjectively. Having the added security of one more driven axle is helpful in low-grip situations such as heavy rain, but as a daily driver, they feel same. Even more surprising, the fuel economy penalty isn’t much with the AWD version registering 7.1 km/L to the 2WD’s 7.5 km/L in similar traffic and driving conditions.

Now, what truly sets the AWD apart is its added suite of driver assist features which Mazda calls i-Activsense. The CX-8 2WD already has features such as lane departure warning (LDW), lane keep assist (LKA), blindspot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert, but the AWD goes one step further—adding smart city brake support, driver-attention alert, and a radar-based active cruise control into the mix.

Shame truly that the 360-degree camera’s resolution is pretty low rent.

On the flipside, Mazda used the added radar system in CX-8 to add a functionality called Distance Recognition Support System or DRSS. Something not even found in the Mazda6, it automatically turns on once speeds reach 30 km/h. After that, it continuously scans the road ahead for other vehicles—yes including bicycles and motorcycles—and actively warns the driver to maintain a safe distance via the heads-up display. It is, in other words, an unobtrusive yet effective anti-tailgating measure. Neat.

Initially, the CX-8’s market positioning is a bit fuzzy; after all, playing as the in-betweener is never easy. Being the family’s middle child, you’re often the “forgotten” one. However, as you get to know it more, this one brings a lot to the table. Mazda’s decision to offer two distinct seating arrangements is pure genius, offering a level of distinction in this overcrowded segment. In particular, this AWD Exclusive’s second-row captain’s seats brings a truly business-class feel that make it a genuine and even better alternative to the usual executive sedans, or even MPVs such as the Honda Odyssey.

2021 Mazda CX-8 AWD Exclusive

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Ownership 2021 Mazda CX-8 AWD Exclusive 6-Seater
Year Introduced 2019
Vehicle Classification Mid-sized SUV
Warranty 3 years / 100,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type 5-door SUV
Seating 6
Engine / Drive F/AWD
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.5
Aspiration Normally Aspirated
Fuel Delivery Direct Injection
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 190 @ 6,000
Nm @ rpm 252 @ 4,000
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 91~
Transmission 6AT
Cruise Control Yes, Adaptive
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 7.2 km/L @ 16 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,900
Width (mm) 1,840
Height (mm) 1,730
Wheelbase (mm) 2,930
Curb Weight (kg) 1,833
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Multi-Link
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Parking Brake Electric w/ Auto Hold
Tires Toyo Proxes R46A 225/55 R 19 V (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Front & Rear
Parking Camera Yes, 360-degree
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 2 (2nd row),
3-pt ELR x 2 (3rd row)
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist
Lane Departure Warning
Lane Keep Assist
Blindspot Monitoring
Rear Cross Traffic Alert
Smart City Brake Support
Driver Attention Alert
Exterior Features
Headlights LED, Active
Fog Lamps Yes, LED
Auto Lights Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers Yes
Tailgate Power
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Electric, 10-way
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Electric, 6-way
Seating Surface Nappa Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 50/50 (2nd row),
50/50 (3rd row)
Sunroof No
Trip Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, w/ Fold
Rear View Mirror Auto Dimming
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Yes, Dual Zone (front), Single Zone (rear)
Audio System Stereo
Smartphone Connectivity Apple CarPlay
Android Auto
# of Speakers 10, Bose
Steering Controls Yes


  1. Is the Mazda cx8 a quite or noisy car?

    1. Uly, Cx8 awd or Subaru Evoltis?

    2. Depends on your usage. Since I don't have a driver, I'd probably pick the CX-8. The size is more manageable without sacrificing much in terms of interior space. I'd skip the AWD need for the Captain's Seats for me. I'd go for the FWD.

      That said, if you're primarily chauffer driven, I'd go CX-9 AWD. There's a sense of drama here that the Evoltis can't replicate. Plusher interior, quieter. It's cheaper too. The only problem is with stocks. Good luck in getting one nowadays.


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