MAZDA CX-9 REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Large SUV
Price: $57,485 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy listed: 11.2 l/100km | tested: 13.7 l/100km
As one last hurrah before it’s replaced with an all-new model, Mazda has taken the brush to its family-sized CX-9.
There’s a few key feature upgrades, but the changes are otherwise largely cosmetic - the big Mazda now sports the company's familiar frontal gape and a revised rear.
But, by virtue of a capacious cabin, there's still has plenty of appeal for buyers looking for a large, versatile seven-seat wagon.
The CX-9’s downside however is a thirsty engine and an interior fit-out that’s now a bit old-hat. So, is Mazda’s big family hauler still a compelling proposition?
Quality: Interior changes extend to a new ‘Bordeaux’ coloured trim highlight that’s similar to that found in the new Mazda6, along with a new gearknob and the addition of a USB input for the audio system.
But by and large, this is still the same CX-9 interior that has served since the model was introduced in 2007.
On the upside, this is a very solidly assembled car, with good materials used throughout the cabin.
Comfort: Space, space and more space. That’s the mantra that must have been pinned to the cubicle wall of whoever penned the CX-9, because this is one big ol’ car.
With three rows of seating, the CX-9 has enough room for seven people. Scratch that. Seven adults.
Yep, the CX-9’s third row is spacious enough to accommodate two adults of moderate size. Slide the middle row forward, and those third-row passengers will be surprised to find there’s even reasonable foot-room there.
The middle row itself can easily seat three across its broad, well-padded cushions. Up front, there are two plush leather-upholstered chairs separated by a very wide centre console/armrest.
The driver’s seat gives a commanding view of the road ahead, and a three-position memory function. Both electrically-adjusted front seats are also heated.
With a steering column that’s adjustable for reach and rake, it’s easy to get comfortably settled in behind the CX-9 Luxury’s leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Equipment: The midpoint in the CX-9 range, the Luxury comes with a healthy feature list.
Besides the tri-zone climate control, cruise control, reversing camera, keyless entry, dusk-sensing headlamps and rain-sensing wipers of the base CX-9 Classic, the CX-9 Luxury also gets sat-nav and a powerful 10-speaker Bose audio system.
Externally, the CX-9 Luxury is equipped with heated wing mirrors, 20-inch alloy wheels, chrome door handles and a glass sunroof.
Storage: With all seats raised and in place, there’s only 267 litres of cargo room behind the CX-9’s third row.
Drop the third row (which fold to form a flat floor), and cargo space swells to 928 litres. Fold down the second row, and you could fit an apartment’s worth of flat-pack in there.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The CX-9 is only available with one engine - a naturally-aspirated 3.7 litre petrol V6.
And, with over two tonnes to haul in AWD form, this engine has an immense thirst.
Its listed consumption shows an average of 11.2 l/100km on the combined cycle, but we found that figure more than a little optimistic. No matter how tentatively and frugally we drove, we couldn’t nudge the trip computer read-out lower than 13.7 l/100km.
And that was with one person in the car for the majority of the time.
But, fuel consumption aside, the CX-9’s V6 is both powerful and torquey. Its 204kW and 367Nm is nothing to sneeze at, and the CX-9, despite its colossal weight, can get up to speed with consummate ease.
The six-speed automatic is smooth-shifting and a good pairing with the big V6. It tries its hardest to keep the engine revving low, but as our on-test fuel economy shows, it simply can’t stave off the engine’s prodigious thirst for fuel.
Refinement: The engine is smooth and quiet during regular driving, and so well balanced you’ll wonder if its running when at idle.
Other unwelcome intrusions are also well-deadened. Even though the Luxury model under test here rolls on big 20-inch wheels, there’s enough tyre sidewall to quell road roar.
There’s a bit of wind rustle at high speeds, but with a shape as big and bulky as the CX-9’s, that’s hardly surprising.
Suspension: Comfort around town is excellent. The suspension is soft enough to provide a rattle-free ride, yet the damping tune means it doesn’t wallow too much after encountering larger bumps.
It can feel a bit top-heavy when asked to corner hard, and there is some expected understeer if pushing things along - but for a big car, it’s pretty good. Handling, generally, is predictable and well-sorted for family driving, if not terribly exciting.
Although we didn’t get the opportunity to drive this one in gravel, we found the CX-9’s AWD drivetrain to give excellent grip under power in wet conditions - an important attribute, considering the high output of the V6 under the bonnet.
Braking: Stopping performance is good, but the pedal is a little softer than we’d prefer. Hardware consists of ventilated discs all around, with a foot-operated parking brake.
ANCAP rating: Not tested
Safety features: Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD and brake assist are all standard across the CX-9 range, as is a reversing camera.
The front seatbelts feature pretensioners, while all other seats are equipped with three-point belts. Front, front side and full-length curtain airbags are standard.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years, unlimited kilometres
Service costs: Service intervals for the CX-9 are set for every six months/10,000km. Servicing costs can vary, so contact your local Mazda dealer.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Like the CX-9 it’s a big, heavy seven-seater with a large-capacity V6 as its sole engine option. It’s got markedly less torque than the Mazda, but is refined although similarly thirsty. (see Kluger reviews)
Interior quality is not so great, but you do get better value in the significantly cheaper Outlander. Not only does it have a far more fuel-efficient diesel engine, it’s in no way bare-bones in terms of standard equipment. (see Outlander reviews)
With 140kW and (more importantly) 440Nm, the Territory diesel can haul virtually anything with ease. A full load of seven people plus a boat would not faze it.
The interior is getting terribly dated by now, but as a large family-friendly tow vehicle, the Territory is pretty hard to beat. (see Territory reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
But, as with the similarly thirsty Toyota Kluger, the absence of a diesel option can’t be overlooked.
With two tonnes of SUV to haul - plus passengers - that big 3.7 litre petrol V6 delivers fuel figures on par with a V8 sedan.
And, while the petrol-powered Ford Territory, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Kia Sorento are nearly as thirsty, those three also offer well-specced diesel options under $60,000 - as does Mitsubishi’s new Outlander.
At that point, unless you really hate the diesel pump, it becomes difficult to recommend the CX-9.
It’s a shame, really; it spoils a very nice car. But, until Mazda decides to put a diesel in its largest SUV, we think there are better buys at the diesel end.
- 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.