In a market segment dominated by SUVs, Mazda’s handsome CX-9 proves you can carry seven people with style. Now available in two-wheel-drive and priced from $44,425, Mazda CX-9 is a ‘must consider’ ‘crossover’ for family buyers.
With abundant space even for those in the third row and considerable luxury inside, we rate the Mazda CX-9 as one of our favourites.
For sure, that handy 3.7-litre V6 engine and Mazda’s ‘sports-oriented chassis dynamics score big points for enthusiast drivers.
Mazda CX-9 Overview
Mazda CX-9 remains the benchmark ‘crossover’ seven-seat SUV. While not in the off-road league of the Ford Territory or Toyota Kluger, Mazda CX-9 ramps-up the luxury inside and delivers high-standard on-road dynamics appreciated by enthusiast drivers.
Earlier this year Mazda broadened the CX-9 range with the addition of two front-wheel-drive variants in entry-level ‘Classic’ and mid-spec ‘Luxury’ (range-topping ‘Grand Touring’ is exclusively all-wheel-drive).
Car Showroom tested a two-wheel-drive Mazda CX-9 Luxury. Priced at $51,725 the Luxury adds items like 20-inch alloy wheels, leather-trimmed seats (electronic adjustment for the fronts) and a premium Bose audio system.
Mazda CX-9 Engine
Mazda’s 3.7-litre V6 petrol engine is a gem. With 204kW of power at 6250rpm and peak torque of 367Nm at 4250rpm, Mazda says the CX-9 is the most powerful naturally aspirated crossover (195kW/391Nm for Ford Territory and 201kW/337Nm for Toyota Kluger).
Since launch Mazda has improved combustion control during deceleration and idling which has wrought a slight decrease in fuel consumption for the Mazda CX-9 – 11.0l/100kms for the two-wheel-drive variants.
It’s a 60-degree short-stroke V6 and delivers 90 per cent of maximum torque from 2800rpm.
Drive is via Mazda’s six-speed ‘Activematic’ automatic transmission and the Mazda CX-9 provides a towing capacity up to 2,000kgs.
Mazda CX-9 The Interior
Mazda CX-9 stands out with its spacious (wheelbase 2875mm is one of the longest in this class) and luxurious interior with modern piano black trim. Our ‘Luxury’ model was highlighted by the leather seats.
Instrumentation shows Mazda’s typical attention to detail with a driver-focussed layout featuring blue illumination for the gauges. Luxury models gain a Bose audio system.
With eight-way power adjustment for the drivers’ seat and rake/reach adjustment for the nice, leather-wrapped steering wheel, the driving environment is sporty and comfortable.
Second row passengers score nicely supportive seats with both side and rake function for versatile seating and their own air-conditioning controls with an LCD screen. The two seated in the third row also enjoy nice seats and impressive leg-room.
Access to the third row is easy with a lever raking the second row seatback forwards and also sliding the base.
For load-carrying versatility second and third row seats fold flat and the second row is split-fold 60/40. With the third row seats in-place Mazda CX-9 provides a reasonable 267-litres of luggage space (928-litres when folded)
Mazda CX-9 Exterior & Styling
Need to revise your thinking if you view most SUVs as ‘boxy’ - a highlight of the Mazda CX-9 is its sophisticated exterior styling and free-flowing curves.
The front features Mazda’s ‘corporate face grille combined with a large lower air intake. We particularly like the large combination front lights which blend nicely into the curved front fenders.
In profile the Mazda CX-9 exudes its sophistication with an elegant shape punctuated by bold wheel arch flares and upward slope for the glasshouse with a ‘kick-up’ for the third windows.
The rear is a very nice execution with bold combination lights, curved glass, a sculptured bumper and sporty twin exhausts.
All-up it’s quite a muscular look which empowers the Mazda CX-9 with considerable on-road presence and reasonable aerodynamics for a vehicle of this size – Cd 0.365.
Mazda CX-9 On The Road
If you’re contemplating a Mazda CX-9 FWD, you’ve no doubt placed two-wheel-drive versions of Toyota Kluger and Ford Territory on your shopping list. To be honest all three provide high standard driving dynamics.
But for a sporty feel, the Mazda CX-9 probably ranks number one, closely followed by the Territory which is just in front of the Kluger. Are sporty dynamics a high priority for buyers of these cars? Good question.
Certainly the combination of Mazda CX-9’s 366Nm of torque, relatively light 2080kgs and smart calibration of the six-speed automatic transmission has provided lively performance and response which makes for useful throttle balance in the twisty stuff.
And the MacPherson strut front/multi-link rear suspension has – like all Mazdas – been set-up with performance drivers in mind. That means a flat stance (yes even in a full-size SUV), nice grip and positive feedback.
So over our high-speed mountain roads test loop the Mazda CX-9 was one of the best ever seven-seaters.
In the city that 3.7-litre V6 was handy for freeway merging…but at 11.0l/100kms the Mazda CX-9 and the Toyota Kluger with the same figure are both shaded by the Ford Territory at 10.6l/100kms. Despite its size, the Mazda CX-9 with its 11.4-metre turning circle and standard reversing camera coped with the confines of our CBD car park.
Mazda CX-9 Challenges
Size is the only issue with the Mazda CX-9. Sure it accommodates seven with more comfort that just about any other seven-seat SUV but – like all SUVs - females or those not familiar with these vehicles will need some acclimatisation.
Mazda CX-9 Verdict
Styling is a personal thing, but for us at Car Showroom, looking at the CX-9, we reckon the folks at Mazda with the drawing boards and crayons have shown their rivals how to successfully blend family car convenience with contemporary good looks. But don’t think the CX-9 is just style with no substance.
In fact the opposite is true – in both front-drive and all-wheel-drive, the MazdaCX-9 delivers the sharp, sporty driving dynamics you expect from the ‘Zoom-Zoom’ brand. We’ve heard some colleagues say the Mazda CX-9 is a little too sporty and tight for family buyers – we don’t agree with that point of view, but there’s no denying this seven-seater will bring a smile to face of enthusiast drivers.
The Mazda CX-9 Luxury also scores points for both its useable interior space (including the third row of seats), quality look/feel for the interior and comprehensive standard kit.
Mazda CX-9 The Competition
While there are smaller seven seat wagons like the excellent Peugeot 308, Nissan Dualis, Mitsubishi Outlander, Holden Captiva7 and Kia Ronda…size and price means the Mazda CX-9 is slugging it out with seven seat versions of the Toyota Kluger and Ford Territory. All three have excellent credentials so you need to do your homework on detailed specifications and specials at individual dealerships.
Our Mazda CX-9 Luxury FWD, stickered at $51,725, competes with Kluger KX-S or Grande and Territory TS or Titanium. In those grades, there’s no doubting the Mazda’s value proposition.