After 30 years of evaluating vehicles, the question The Car Family gets most often is what car we like the best. Good question, but there isn’t a simple answer. We own a Prius Advanced for the mileage and durability. We own a Saab anniversary convertible because it is beautiful and it is a convertible. We own a Porsche Macan because it is the best SUV for those who like to drive. Today, we would add the Mazda CX series to that list if the need arises. Why? It does everything well and is pleasant to drive, handy, and safe.
The 2019 Mazda CX-9, a three-row crossover SUV that seats seven passengers and looks good, checks the four major elements that families are looking for in a vehicle; affordability, safety, interior space, and the ability to handle well so it can be driven with confidence. To all of these, the CX-9 gets a robust affirmative response, especially when considered against the others in its class.
Our test vehicle was the top of the line, seven-passenger SUV Signature model, which impressed us with all facets and also provided good fuel mileage and creature comforts. There were a few weaknesses, mainly the narrow third-row legroom space and the placement of the center console climate and audio controls which seem awkward when adjustments are needed while driving. Also, the warranty does not provide complimentary routine service for the first years of ownership as some competitors do.
There is a vast range of CX-9 versions from the loaded Signature-trim at $47, 285 MSRP to the less expensive but well-equipped Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring editions that range from about $33,000 to nearly $42,000 respectively. We dearly loved the Signature, but the best value is probably the Touring with leather, an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, keyless entry, and push-button start. Moving up to the Grand Touring, yields among other niceties, navigation, automated emergency braking, a 12-speaker Bose, system, and a power sunroof.
The high seating position and a tremendous number of safety features make one feel comfortable diving the CX-9 in all situations. It earned the best safety ratings from national testing services. Mazda offers confidence builders such as automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, automatic high beam headlights, and the optional adaptive cruise control.
This is a terrific family vacation vehicle and equally at home around town. The ride is smooth, the seats comfortable, and the interior quiet, especially considering that other vehicles in this class have a droning sound at speed.
We tested during a heatwave, so we put the air condition to the test. It works well, but there is room for improvement especially if there are five people on board and the temperature approaches triple digits.
The second-row seats were comfortable as well, but the head and foot room in the third row is tight. These seats are best used for younger children. The Mazda CX-9 is light on its feet and is easy to park. Only the roughest of roads disturb its ride comfort.
There is an elegant feel and look about the interior of this Mazda that never disappointed us. All the surfaces in our Signature model gave the impression of being in a much more expensive vehicle. Not only is there an abundance of storage areas, but also the infotainment system is easy to use once the various controls are mastered. The monitor screen is large and bright. However, some navigation screens are too small when the screen is split with other functions.
What I mostly liked about the CX-9’s was how easy it was to enter, even wearing a dress. The doors open wide and aren’t so long as to require a generous parking space, especially in tight mall lots. The Mazda made me feel at ease with the adjustable steering wheel, well-padded armrests, with good visibility in all directions. Overall, one of the best handling seven-passenger SUVs that we have tested. If you like to drive and need the third-row seat, this is a must test vehicle.
Mazda has developed an interesting business model—when it comes to its vehicles, they must be enjoyable to drive and well-priced. The CX-9 fits that inclination providing family transportation in a seven-passenger, all-wheel-drive SUV without sacrificing comfort or ride.
Its turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine works well with the six-speed automatic making merging and passing effortless thanks to 310 pound-feet of torque. While the competition has stayed with six-cylinder powerplants, Mazda went with the smaller engine, and the result is enhanced fuel mileage and nearly identical performance figures with its rivals.
The 2019 CX-9 is clearly the driving enthusiast’s family hauler. Surprisingly nimble on its feet, it often feels as if you’re driving a smaller SUV. The suspension is firm, but it’s still supple enough riding over rough stretches of road.
While not as communicative as smaller Mazdas, the CX-9’s steering is quite good for such a large vehicle and sporty in feel. The braking is stellar with no drama during panic stops. The chassis is more sedan-like and reassuring even on mountain roads. Towing is adequate with a 3500-pound limit.
Young Working Male’s View
The more expensive CX-9 models have an 8.0-inch monitor that can be controlled in several ways from a touchscreen to a rotary knob to redundant buttons on the steering wheel and, of course, voice commands that work quite well. Bluetooth phone and streaming, HD radio, smartphone integration, and internet apps such as Pandora are packaged along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability.
There is more, including some excellent options such as a 360-degree-view exterior camera system, and live traffic. Even the Sport versions have blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic emergency braking system. There are plenty of USB ports. All in all, a really nice driver.
Young Working Woman’s View
Although a hybrid Toyota Highlander will get better fuel mileage, the CX-9 does very well for a traditional powered, all-wheel drive, SUV. We averaged from 20 to 25 mpg driving in traffic and on the highway respectively, using the air conditioning most every minute.
The interior is exceptional with soft-touch plastics, and our Signature version had attractive rosewood trim. Despite not having the larger cargo space of bigger SUVs, it is quite adequate for all but the largest items, with over 71 cubic feet of room with all the rear seats which are easily folded down, leaving a flat cargo floor for easy loading of heavier objects.
There are storage areas in the door pockets and a large center console to hold personal items. The door pockets are even widened to hold larger bottles.
This is a high-quality vehicle with a standard warranty of three years of 36,000 miles and five years and 60,000 on the powertrain. Mazda has made some smart decisions with its family-oriented CX-9.
I genuinely love the extra features in the Signature model. Mazda provides 20-inch wheels, a sunroof, a surround-view camera system, a head-up display with traffic sign recognition, heated and ventilated front seats, a 12-speaker Bose audio system, a power liftgate, keyless ignition and entry, a universal garage door opener, all-wheel drive, exterior LED accent lighting, and premium leather upholstery. A complete package in a very competent family SUV.
This big Mazda drives like a smaller car. It is easy to park and maneuver and has an engine big on torque and gentle on fuel usage. The interior is attractive and welcoming. It is best to do your homework first to see what you need because it may prove tempting to move up to the more expensive Signature-trim, which isn’t a wrong decision. We strongly recommend the CX-9 if you are looking for a seven-passenger SUV.
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*** Photo courtesy of Caricos
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