MAZDA CX-9 REVIEW
What’s hot: Refreshed new styling; big car ride, big car comfort
What’s not: A diesel would be useful; petrol V6 a tad thirsty
X-factor: What family buyer wouldn’t like this car? Seven seats, quiet, strong and comfortable.
Vehicle style: Large SUV
Engine: 3.7 litre petrol V6 | Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel consumption listed: 11.0 l/100km (2WD), 11.2 l/100km (AWD)
Fuel consumption tested: 13.1 l/100km (both 2WD and AWD)
There’s something a little old-fashioned and nicely reminiscent about Mazda’s 'new' CX-9. It’s the way it feels on road.
It has that loping, comfortable, softly-sprung feel of the now-departed Ford Fairlane.
Yes, you could drive the CX-9 to Tibooburra or Meekatharra, and you’d barely notice the road surface below - the juddering of the corrugations reduced to some minor distant intrusion.
The new model brings little change under the skin – the same 3.7 litre V6, the same six-speed transmission and 2WD and AWD variants – and little change, really, in exterior lines.
Ditto for the interior; it was always one of the better places to find yourself in, and remains that way.
Perhaps Mazda missed a chance by not introducing a diesel with the new model, but, if the thirst of the petrol V6 doesn’t deter you, the CX-9 remains among the better ones.
For both interior style and tactile surfaces, Mazda rarely mucks it up.
From the soft suede inset into the door-trims, the leather seats and arm-rests, the wide and uncluttered soft-feel dashboard, and the solid feel to the switchgear and controls, the impression is one of very high quality and durability.
Only the ‘plakky’ steering-column casing and the short-ish seat squab in the entry-level CX-9 might be considered debits.
The seats in the Luxury and Grand Touring models are better shaped and provide better under-thigh support. But all are serenely comfortable, and can be readily adjusted for any shape and driving preference.
The wheel – reach and rake adjustable – sits a bit high, even at its lowest setting, but the driver’s seat can be raised to compensate.
But the ergonomics are spot-on. I like the window controls set vertically in the driver’s door, and the arm rest and grab handle are positioned just right.
The controls in the centre-stack are similarly ‘right’ and the information is clear and easily legible in the round sports-dials ahead of the driver.
Second row seats are comfortable and offer good legroom.
The third row is easily accessed (we worked it out in a couple of seconds), and there is enough room there for teens or even adults for a shorter trip – kids will fit no problems.
And Mazda is not parsimonious when it comes to its features. You’d barely know you were in a ‘base’ model from the standard feature list of the $44,525 CX-9 front-wheel-drive-only Classic.
Bluetooth with audio streaming (and improved noise suppression) is now standard across the range, as is USB connectivity, and voice recognition technology.
A reversing camera, automatic headlights and wipers, tri-zone climate control, 18-inch wheels, six airbags, electronic stability-control and roll stability-control are also standard fit, as is forward obstruction and lane-departure warning systems.
Step up to the Luxury model ($52,980 2WD, $57,480 AWD) and you can add 20-inch alloy wheels, sat-nav, leather trim, 10-speaker Bose audio, power adjustable and heated front seats, memory driver's seat, and heated exterior mirrors (with auto tilt when reversing).
The $63,828 CX-9 Grand Touring flagship loads up with higher-grade trim, bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights and automatic high beam, keyless entry and start, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, forward collision warning and rear parking sensors.
Rear storage capacity is good. With all three rows in place there is a 267 litres behind the third row, growing to 1911 litres with the second and third rows laid flat (1887 litres in Luxury and Grand Touring models).
ON THE ROAD
If you like your cars comfortable, you’ll find Mazda’s big bus is more than a half-decent drive.
The CX-9 feels big from the wheel, but offers a commanding view over the raked bonnet and there are few blind spots.
The standard reversing camera also adds to its family-friendly nature (no excuse then for the shrubbery we backed into…)
It’s also mechanically strong and certainly swift enough for family driving.
The proven 3.7 litre petrol V6 engine produces a very useful 204kW and 367Nm of torque. It’s got ample power not to be troubled by a load, and accelerates briskly away from the line or when overtaking.
Left in auto though, it won’t kick down without a hefty shove on the accelerator and can feel a little doughy when pulling out of a corner as a result.
But pull it back a cog or two on the sport-shift and it will quickly lift its skirts.
There is affair amount of body roll when cornering, which might alarm some passengers if travelling quickly, but it hangs on surprisingly well although the tendency is to want to run a little wide.
With struts up front and a multilink rear, the big CX-9 is sensibly tuned for Australian road conditions (and for family buyers who value comfort).
There is a nice ‘long-travel’ feel to the suspension, and, even giving it a belt on gravel, it had no trouble soaking up bumps and corrugations without getting unsettled or ‘crashing’ finding its way through to the cabin.
For most driving conditions, there is little to separate the feel and grip of the 2WD and AWD drivetrains. On gravel, the AWD is better, can more easily run a tighter line and pulls out of a corner more eagerly.
On dry bitumen though, you'd barely pick them apart. If it's a 'wagon' you're after, the 2WD is fine. For running to the snow or getting a little way off the beaten track, the AWD is the pick.
A downside of both is the fuel consumption, which is a little heavy. In both the AWD Grand Touring model and the 2WD Classic, we returned the same 13.1 l/100km consumption – which suggests that you might expect similar in ‘the real world’.
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
Yes, Mazda might be Australia’s secret – it does better here than in any other of its global markets – but it’s hard to fault its new CX-9 family wagon.
It’s now better looking, the new lines remove some of the dumpy look of the old model, and its interior and feature list have been further improved.
It’s not cheap, you’ll be hitting the $70k by the time you get the range-topping Grand Touring on the road, but it’s quiet and comfortable, and looks and feels a quality drive.
And yes, it’s no ground-breaker, but it does what it does very well: if you’re looking for quiet comfortable family transport, you can certainly do worse than the CX-9.
We’d love to see a diesel under the bonnet though.
- 2013 Mazda CX-9 Classic FWD - $44,525
- 2013 Mazda CX-9 Luxury FWD - $52,980
- 2013 Mazda CX-9 Luxury AWD - $57,480
- 2013 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD - $63,828
Note: pricing excludes on-road costs.