15 Jun 2010 | Text and photos by Julian Kho
Styled to Impress
This is one Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV) that makes you yearn for more.
There comes a time, in the midst of its planned model cycle, when a revamp is necessary for many vehicle models. Sometimes the competition changes so quickly that new engines, new safety features, whole new drive trains are necessary to keep up. For the Mazda8, that time is now.
In a revolutionary turn of design philosophy that heralds a new era of distinctive and instantly recognisable Mazda cars, the Mazda8 is aimed at setting a trend in the MPV category. A trend many have tried to accomplish but have fallen behind.
Simply because when it comes to comfortable motoring, few brands come close to Mazda.
The overall exterior of the new MPV conveys a more aggressive, road-hugging image thanks to the availability of the tasteful, subtle, body skirting. The metal trimmed skirting picks up on the boldness of the fascia and carries the prominent chromed Mazda badge in an extra large size. This small element effectively transforms the “zero” box minivan body shape into one “hero” that is edgier, better defined and more aesthetically pleasing. The clear head lights, curved-rectangular fog lights and large air intakes give the vehicle a stern and muscular outlook, pushing the design envelope upscale.
Unfortunately, things can get a little simple round the back. The only feature that resonates with the sporty appearance is the twin exhaust pipes. Its tail lights show hints of the previous Mazda6, especially the way it’s shaped and positioned. Furthermore, despite the efforts of re-designing the back-end, it hasn’t shaken off the old look of the Mazda5.
Like the exterior, the interior was made to please.
The MPV is pleasant to live with as it features high-quality materials, excellent ergonomics, and great seats. The sand beige leather-clad cabin of my test drive car was enticing and extraordinarily comfortable. The seating position feels high, thanks to the fully electric seat adjustments. The large window openings, which conveyed the sense that I was as much outside the vehicle as inside, also proved great for visibility, especially when parking in confined spaces. This helped a great deal, given the fact that MPVs don’t usually come in sedan sizes.
Much to my surprise, ample leg room was available not just for me, but for passengers who were seated on the second and third row. Dual power sliding doors on both sides are convenient and is a plus, considering that it lessens the possibilities of injuring passengers with the occasional slamming of doors. More importantly, middle seats are a marvel of clever design as they can be joined together, making it possible to haul a total of eight passengers. However, due to the constraints of the seating space, I reckon seven passengers will be more comfortable.
Apart from the disappointing dashboard that looks economical, the quality of other interior materials is top notch and pleasant to the eyes. Impressive technology is fitted and it certainly makes up for the other qualms. Simply because all it takes is the insertion of the plug in your usual iPhone or iPod and it synchronises all your music as well as album artworks with the in-built touch screen which comes in standard. Skipping songs or playing your favourite artists has never been easier.
Garmin GPS is also available, which makes it impossible to get lost, since it constantly updates itself as you drive along. Oh, and have I mentioned about the sporty 3D blackout meters yet? It’s a beauty. The welcome lighting gradually increases a blue-toned meter graphics from the moment you open the door and it reaches full illumination by the time you settle in. Something not any cars I’ve driven in have.
Overall, the experience is only marred by the rather inexpensive-looking dashboard and the missing controls on the steering wheel which I can’t fathom. Despite having the impressive technology such as the touch screen and the iPhone compatibility, radio controls are found missing on the steering wheel – something that most drivers will greatly appreciate.
The Mazda8 goes zoom-zoom with its 2.3-litre engine. Recently launched, this in-line, 4-cylinder DOHC engine delivers great power and response. Pick-up is quick to the word and cruising is superb. Hit the on-ramp, nail the gas, and it takes off, quickly accelerating into and ahead of the traffic. It’s also smooth and quiet, which is good for the family.
This vehicle drives more like a sedan than an MPV. Compared with other MPVs, it handles better on winding roads and maneuvers better in tight situations. Suspension is superb and the brakes work very well and are easy to modulate for accurate stops. Although body roll was evident, it’s understandable due to its dimensions, which are generally smaller than other MPVs in the market. But I reckon that’s not too bad for a car of its stature.
Despite the niggles (which Mazda will no doubt address), the Mazda8 is pretty accomplished. Make no mistake, rivals will find it hard to outdo its muscular yet exquisite design, its hard performance numbers and its spacious dimensions.
Compared with other MPVs, Mazda8 handles better on the road, and maneuvers well in tight confines. It offers ample unique features and if you want a family vehicle that’s smooth, quiet, comfort, agile and quick, and can carry up to eight passengers, the Mazda8 is an excellent choice.
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