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Car reviews - Mazda - CX-9 - Luxury

Our Opinion

We like
Cosseting ride, quiet cabin, versatile interior space, lovely V6 engine, appealing exterior design
Room for improvement
Gets thirsty, more expensive than rivals, big turning circle, no standard parking sensors

Mazda logo12 Jun 2013

By TIM NICHOLSON

Price and equipment

WHILE Mazda’s smaller CX-5 is the most popular car in its class, the CX-9 occupies a slightly less lofty sales dais.

The range kicks off at $44,525 for the entry front-drive Classic and goes to $63,828 for the flagship all-wheel drive Grand Touring, but the variant tested here is the mid-spec Luxury AWD petrol model (Mazda doesn’t offer a diesel CX-9) that retails for $57,480 plus on roads.

This is more than the equivalent Ford Territory TS diesel ($55,240), Hyundai Santa Fe Elite diesel ($46,490), petrol Toyota Kluger KX-S ($55,990) and Holden Captiva 7 CX AWD ($38,490).

A quick comparison suggests the seven-seater is similarly equipped to a number of aforementioned competitors – meaning lots of fruit.

Standard features include sunroof, leather upholstery, powered and heated front seats, eight-way power seat memory for the driver, heated exterior mirrors with automatic tilt for reversing, 20-inch alloy wheels and a powerful 277-Watt 10-speaker Bose premium audio system.

It also extends to a reversing camera, automated headlights, Bluetooth telephony and streaming, satellite navigation and chrome door handles and heated exterior mirrors.

Interior

MAZDA has put together a pretty impressive interior package that offers quite a premium feel, but it’s not without its quirks.

Sliding into the supportive driver’s seat, you are immediately aware of the impact of the sloping windscreen. While the base of the dash seems miles away, the top of the windscreen feels quite close to the drivers head.

The Japanese car-maker has created a sleek, swoopy and very attractive exterior design for the CX-9, but unsurprisingly, that comes at the cost of head-room in the front of the cabin.

A six-foot tall passenger commented that he felt the interior was too cramped up front and was unimpressed by an intrusive plastic panel in the passenger-side foot-well.

We found the location of the power window and mirror controllers on the downward-slanting door handle next to the dash to be a touch too far out of reach and drivers with less gangly arms than your correspondent might find the reach tedious.

But none of these quirks, even the inclusion of a dreaded foot-operated park brake, fundamentally remove the gloss from what is a well laid out, spacious and luxurious interior.

It’s given a premium lift with the addition of leather upholstery and wood-grain (love or hate here) and chrome highlights that also find their way to the door inserts, as does a velour-like trim.

In keeping with most current-generation Mazdas, the contemporary dash is pleasing to the eye and functional, with the user-friendly touch-screen that houses the standard reversing camera sitting just below the climate control display.

The 10-speaker Bose stereo is a winner and has cracking sound quality, especially when matched with the Bluetooth system that is quick and easy to set up.

A large rear window, massive windscreen and no obvious blind spots ensure the CX-9 gets a big tick for visibility and the eight-way adjustable driver’s seat combined with tilt and telescopic adjustable steering wheel ensure an ideal driving position is easily found.

The lack of parking sensors is a significant oversight, though. On a car that is as long (5106mm) and wide (1936mm) as this one, they’re essential.

Rear seat passengers fair well in the CX-9 with excellent leg and knee room and air vent controls, but the middle seat backrest is pretty stiff and would not be a fun place to sit on a lengthy drive.

Lowering and sliding the second row allows for relatively easy access to the third row, which has a decent amount of space for smaller humans and keeps occupants warm with heating ducts under the second row seats.

All seats have adjustable headrests and there are a sufficient number of storage compartments and drink holders in the front and rear doors, rear centre arm-rest and even in the third row.

The big Mazda can pack in 267 litres with all seven seats up and 928 litres with the third row stowed in the floor of the cargo area. Another competitor, the Kia Sorento, has a 258-litre capacity with all seats up and 1047 litres with five seats up.

The cargo area also features very handy shopping bag hooks and additional storage compartments to each side, while under the cover lies a temporary spare wheel,

Engine and transmission

WHEN Mazda updated the CX-9 late last year, it focused on exterior design and specification upgrades rather than the vehicle’s driving dynamics and powertrains.

As with all three variants in the range, the Luxury is powered by a 3.7-litre V6 producing 204kW of power and 367Nm of torque.

The fact that Mazda does not offer a diesel engine for the CX-9 will automatically turn some potential buyers to competitors with more efficient diesel variants.

Still, the lusty petrol engine has enough power to cope with all 1939kg of kerb weight, and offers braked towing capacity of 2000kg.

The Mazda is 9kW more powerful than the 4.0-litre, six-cylinder petrol Ford Territory.

The CX-9’s colossal dimensions are quite apparent when accelerating from a standing start, but higher up the rev range it feels more comfortable. In saying that, a 0-100km/h sprint time of 8.5 seconds is nothing to be sniffed at for a big, heavy SUV.

So what is the pay-off for the performance? That will be the fuel use.

Mazda’s official combined figure for the Luxury AWD variant is 11.2 litres per 100km. We couldn’t get near this number, managing average fuel use of 14.6L/100km for predominantly urban driving around inner city streets and freeways.

Ride and handling

IN A straight line, the CX-9 is a great performer and you can forget momentarily that you are behind the wheel of an SUV that weighs close to two tonnes.

Thankfully the Mazda also performs fairly well when the roads get a touch more twisty. There was very little body roll even around tight corners and on the occasions it felt a tad top-heavy, we were never rocked by head-shake.

While it has the requisite high driving position, you get a feeling of sitting in the vehicle rather than on it, as is the case with some SUVs.

The cabin is super quiet, and the ride is supple and refined, smoothing out potholes like a cruise liner over a king wave.

The huge 20-inch wheels offer a decent amount of grip without letting those low-profile tyres overwhelm with road noise.

The power-assisted steering is direct and has a solid feel, although we did notice a pretty substantial turning circle.

Safety and servicing

Unfortunately the CX-9 Luxury misses out on some active safety gear such as blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning and rear parking sensors that are all standard in the top-spec Grand Touring.

However it does get six airbags, three-point seat-belts for all seats, emergency brake assist and roll stability control.

Surprisingly, the CX-9 has not been rated by ANCAP or Euro NCAP for crash safety.

Mazda offers a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty for all CX-9 variants.

Verdict

DOES Mazda’s facelift disguise a car that is fundamentally six-years old?

As ever, the CX-9 offers a pleasant mix of stylish design, supple ride and space. As ever, it’s also thirsty (the lack of a diesel may hurt sales) and costs more than some rivals.

Competition is tough at this end of town, but we still reckon this big beast is a worthy contender.

Rivals

Ford Territory TX AWD – From $48,240 plus on road costs.
Segment benchmark and it’s made in Australia. Terrific ride and handling at a reasonable price.

Hyundai Santa Fe Elite AWD – From $46,490 plus on road costs.
Surprise package from the South Korean car-maker. Very reasonably priced and has an extensive features list. Great value.

Toyota Kluger KX-S AWD – From $55,990 plus on road costs.
Very popular model despite lack of diesel option. Heaps of space and priced competitively against the CX-9.

Specs

Make and model: Mazda CX-9 Luxury AWD
, Engine type: 3.7-litre V6
, Layout: AWD
, Power: 204kW
, Torque: 367Nm
, Transmission: Six speed auto
, 0-100km: 8.5 seconds
, Fuel consumption: 11.2L/100km
, CO2 rating: -
, Dimensions: 1728mm high 5106mm long 1936mm wide 2875 wheelbase
, Weight: 1939kg
, Suspension: Front – MacPherson Strut, rear Multi-link
, Steering: Power assisted steering
, Price: $57,480

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