Mazda Motor Corp announced “CX-8,” a new SUV (sport utility vehicle) having three rows of seats.

The CX-8, which will be released Dec 14, 2017, in Japan, is the largest SUV that Mazda targets at the Japanese market. It has the same platform with the “CX-9” large-size SUV, which the company sells in North America and other overseas markets.

The price of the CX-8 ranges from ¥3,196,800 (approx US$28,406) to 4,190,400. Mazda plans to sell 1,200 units of the vehicle per month.

“In Japan, minivans are mainly used as cars for many passengers, but they are gradually being replaced with SUVs having two or three rows of seats,” Mazda President Masamichi Kogai said at a press conference that the company had Sept 14, 2017, in Tokyo. “We will try to create a new market that replaces the minivan market.”

“We will change the common sense that cars for many passengers are equal to ‘box cars,'” said a Mazda engineer who was responsible for the development of the CX-8.

The development of the CX-8 started in about 2014, he said. The development of the CX-9, a large-size SUV targeted at the North American market, was preceding that of the CX-8.

“We decided to consider an SUV that has three rows of seats and is suited for the Japanese market, by using the CX-9’s platform,” the engineer said.

In parallel with the development of the CX-8, Mazda decided to withdraw from the minivan market. The company finished selling the “MPV” in 2016 and will stop the production of “Biante” at the end of September 2017. And the production of the remaining minivan, “Premacy,” is scheduled to be finished within fiscal 2017.

The CX-8 SUV is a new SUV that Mazda will release after “setting a stage.”

“(In the aim of appealing to minivan owners,) we made improvements to the packaging so that all the passengers including those sitting on the third row of seats can feel comfortable,” the engineer said.

The third row of seats, which tends to be narrow in an SUV, was designed so that 170cm-tall adults can spend time without discomfort.

When the number of rows of seats is increased to three, the mass of the vehicle increases, affecting the traveling performance. The heaviest model of the CX-8 can be 1,900kg in weight. It is about 200kg heavier than Mazda’s “CX-5” five-seat SUV, whose width is the same as that of the CX-8 (1,840mm).

To comfortably drive the vehicle, whose weight is close to 2t, Mazda made changes to the “Skyactiv-D 2.2” 2.2L diesel engine. While the company has been using the engine since 2012, this time, it has made the largest improvement since the engine was introduced, the engineer said.

This time, the maximum output and maximum torque of the engine were increased by 11kW and 30N·m, respectively, to 140kW and 450N·m. This was achieved mainly by replacing its two-stage turbocharger with a new model. In addition, Mazda employed a technology to spray fine mist of a small amount of fuel at a high pressure in multiple steps.

The CX-8 uses the same platform as the CX-9, and its wheelbase (2,930mm) is the same as that of the CX-9. While the CX-8 also uses the same suspension mechanism as the CX-9, Mazda adjusted damping force for the CX-8. The CX-8 measures 4,900 (L) x 1,840 (W) x 1,730mm (H), and its riding capacity is six or seven people.

The exterior design of the CX-8 has much in common with the CX-5.

“We use the same parts especially for the front parts,” Mazda said.

Specifically, the CX-8 and CX-5 use the same front bumper, front door panels, etc.