I’ve been somewhat confused and defeated in my car spotting challenges of late with the Mazda CX-8 and CX-9 both on our roads and both holding a large stance on the road.  So to find out what they are and how they differ, we’ve driven a couple of thousand k’s over two weeks in the CX-8 and then CX-9 back to back.

The Mazda CX-8

Both of these are classified by Mazda as Large SUVs and rightly so, they both have seven seats and have a decent size at around 5m in length and 2m wide on the road.

The Mazda CX-9

But this is also where they differ most. Despite the same seating configuration and lift up third row seats, the CX-8 is about 15cm narrower, and 10cm shorter.

Drive & Engine

The other primary difference is the petrol engine in the CX-9 vs the diesel power of the CX-8.

On a 900km round trip in the CX-8 we didn’t need to refuel – but we did because the kids had seen the Hyundai video driving to Bathurst so they panicked:).  The CX-8 averaged 6.5 on that highway trip.

Driving to Bathurst and back from Sydney in the CX-9 the fuel economy was 9.5l/100km.

There’s a very clear efficiency and cost advantage to that Diesel engine, and frankly, it drove smoothly, didn’t give me any of my historic negative diesel vibes.  Of course at idle when standing outside the car it’s louder than the petrol CX-9 but who stands around a car like that.

Throttle response and punch from the petrol was far superior as you’d expect in then CX-9 – but in honest to goodness daily driving I see no reason to baulk at the Diesel.

The Tech Inside

The cabin of the CX-9 is very similar to the CX-8 – the start button sits higher being perhaps the only noticeable adjustment. The Infotainment screen sits high and back in the dash, and isn’t positioned to be touched.  That’s to be controlled by the dial below the gear shifter.

Frustrating, not ideal for Apple CarPlay, but I suspect it would become second nature after a few weeks of ownership.  Mazda don’t want you touching the screen, dangerous perhaps?  Whatever the case the lack of fingerprints is a good thing, though I personally would much prefer a full touch infotainment.

You’ve got to pay a premium to up spec the car to get a 360 degree reversing camera, which I’d recommend on the larger CX-9 for sure.

Both have blind spot monitoring, both have a “Driver attention alert” and forward obstruction warning, lane keep assist, rear parking sensors and rear cross traffic alert.

They also have “Smart Brake Support” which is Mazda’s way of labelling AEB – emergency braking – as well as traffic sign recognition which is a great feature of the head-up display which is available on even the base model.

The Interior

You’re every so much closer driver to passenger due to the overall body size, but again – it’s not like you’re popping into a small car, though the CX-8 it should be pointed out is exactly the same width as the CX-5, which explains why the CX-9 FEELS much larger to the driver, though the kids didn’t feel overly cramped in the CX-8 compared to the CX-9 strangely.

I absolutely love the fit and finish of the Mazda interior, it’s genuinely premium, particularly in the higher spec models with all the trimmings of course, but even in the base model it’s a step up from something like a Hyundai and even a Toyota.

Which one would you buy?

With around a $5,000 premium to pay for the CX-9 over the CX-8 it’s a no brainer for me.  The CX-8 is cheaper to run, easier to park and costs less. 

Loved it.