Buy it! There aren’t any good reasons to not buy this SUV if you’re in the market for 3-row midsize crossover. No one else blends an excellent driving experience with everyday practicality like Mazda. Tack on class-leading safety technology and rock-solid reliability and you get the driver’s choice of midsize SUVs: the Mazda CX-9.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better-looking SUV on any budget. The CX-9 sports a fantastic design inside and out that rivals those of SUVs that cost thousands more. Combine this with above average reliability, efficiency, and driving dynamics, and you have an SUV that offers phenomenal value. If you’re looking for an SUV that can haul 7 passengers without being boring to drive, there’s no better choice than the Mazda CX-9.
Mazda claims to design their vehicles for the driving experience first, everything else secondary. The CX-9 is no exception although it’s a rather large SUV. Many competitors put V6s in a vehicle of this size but Mazda chooses to instead place a turbocharged and inter-cooled dual overhead cam inline 4 with direct injection in the CX-9. The result is an engine that makes 250 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 310 lb-ft of torque at just 2,000 rpm. The latter figure is an important one. Mazda claims they conducted extensive research into consumer driving habits and found that most don’t exceed 3,000 rpm in typical daily driving. They chose to engineer this engine to produce its peak torque at everyday revs. That means you don’t need to rev the hell out of your engine when you need power. The consequence is a driver-friendly powerband that also provides excellent fuel economy at up to 27 miles per gallon.
At 7.2 seconds to sixty, it’s not slow either. There are quicker SUVs on the market, but they can’t compete with the passing power available in this torquey engine that makes this SUV quicker in real-world driving than a stat sheet may suggest. We haven’t even got to the best part: handling. The electrically assisted power steering provides excellent feedback and accurate placement. The suspension is firm without being uncomfortable and controls body lean better than most competitors when pushed hard in corners, especially in “Sport” mode. The suspension still handles rough roads well, thanks to a thickened floorboard that deadens sound better than most of the class. The cabin is one of the quietest in the class while remaining lively to drive, that’s no easy feat. If we had to pick a 3-row SUV to drive every day at this price point, it would most likely be the Mazda CX-9 for its remarkable driving dynamics, frugal fuel economy, and dazzling design.
Inside the CX-9, you’ll find a high-end interior with a mix of soft-touch materials and hard plastic. The latter are mostly out of sight, and higher trims receive better, more plentiful soft touch panels and real wood trim. The cockpit may be a bit cramped for some, the console is wide and intrudes upon taller drivers’ knee. The gauges are brightly lit and easy to read, top trims receive a highly functional “Head Up Display” that allows the driver to see the information they need without taking their eyes off the road. However, headroom and legroom are plentiful.
Second-row seats are even better with a reclining function that allows passengers to find the perfect position. There’s enough legroom to comfortably seat adults. The third row, like many 3 row SUVs, is best left to children because headroom and legroom are nearly nonexistent despite the sliding second row. Some complain that the Mazda CONNECT infotainment system can be difficult to use, despite offering internet radio integration standard.
Mazda has yet to offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto integration. On a high note, the available Bose surround sound system will please audiophiles and NPR junkies alike. The touchscreen locks while driving, forcing you to use the iDrive style dial control that takes time to master. At least a rearview camera is standard. There are definitely simpler systems on the market, but we recognize this isn’t Mazda’s focus. The second two rows can fold flat for up to 71.2 cubic feet of space, a bit below average for the class but enough for most hauling needs. Overall, the interior of the CX-9 is nicer than most SUVs at a similar price point, but it loses marks for seat adjustability and an unintuitive infotainment system.
Look at the CX-9. It’s gorgeous. Its design matches Mazda’s upmarket aspirations. They’ve succeeded in making an SUV that looks every bit as beautiful as many of the luxury brands. A stylish, oversized chrome grille sporting the Mazda M dominates much of the front fascia. Modern projector headlights grace the edges, while a wide lower intake takes up a majority of the lower bumper. Higher trims receive vertically integrated LED fog lights that further enhance the front profile. Look at it from the side and you may mistake this Mazda for an Audi Q5, with its restrained, clean sloping roof line.
The rear features modern LED taillights reminiscent of the MX-5. Below, dual exhausts provide symmetry and an aggressive appearance to the rear. To complete the sporty appearance, the roof wears a tasteful body-colored spoiler. The CX-9 sits on either 18 inch or 20 inch aluminum alloy wheels that match the SUV’s appearance perfectly with their simple design. Many midsize SUVs have gimmicky wheels, so we applaud Mazda’s restraint. There aren’t many SUVs in any segment that can match this Mazda’s artistry.
The latest generation Mazda CX-9 receives exceptional safety ratings. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded this SUV with “GOOD” ratings in all crash test categories. The available front collision prevention technology receives a “SUPERIOR” rating, the highest available.
The Insurance Institute for Highways Safety also gave the CX-9 the “Top Safety Pick+” designation, their most prestigious award. The only thing not rated perfectly is the headlights, which receive an “ACCEPTABLE” rating. This is the second highest rating and higher than most SUV headlights that most often receive “MARGINAL” or “POOR” ratings. The previous generation CX-9 isn’t rated quite as highly, due to a “POOR” small overlap front test. In this test, the side curtain airbags failed to deploy and the dummy’s head made slight contact with the front airbag before smacking the A-pillar. However, many SUVs suffered a similar fate, which is why many have been redesigned in recent years to perform better on this test and provide better protection in the event of a small overlap collision.
The previous generation also had a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recall for corrosion of the front suspension ball joint. This issue affected certain 2007-2014 models, so it’s a good idea to ensure the recall has been resolved before buying used. All you have to do is run the VIN on the NHTSA website. We believe the Mazda CX-9 is a very safe SUV and should protect you and your loved ones in the unfortunate event of a vehicle accident.
The Mazda CX-9 has an exceptional reliability record for all its years in production. Despite its flawless track record, Consumer Reports offers just a 3 out of 5 predicted reliability score and JD power awards an even lower 2.5 out of 5 predicted reliability score. We think these ratings do a poor job of reflecting this SUV’s reliability. According to our research, we don’t think we’ve seen another SUV with such a long production run with so few NHTSA complaints.
There hasn’t even been a recall since 2015. The most serious known issue is a transmission that, at times, shifts hard or slips after warming up. In most cases, a simple software update can fix the problem. In cases where this fails, fixing the transmission can require costly repairs. The previous generation has been on the road longer and has more known issues as a result. Common complaints range from poor infotainment integration to misaligned suspension and transfer case in AWD models that are prone to failure. Most of these problems arose in CX-9’s with high miles. Given the presence of only one serious issue, we’d recommend the CX-9 as an SUV with solid reliability.
The Sport trimmed Mazda CX-9 has an MSRP of $31,520 and includes 18 inch aluminum alloy wheels, LED headlights and taillights, LED daytime running lamps, Body-colored rear roofline spoiler, power side mirrors with integrated turn signals, rear privacy glass, dual exhaust outlets, three-zone automatic climate control, power windows with one-touch auto open/close on all windows, power door locks with speed sensing auto lock, remote keyless entry, cloth-trimmed seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-wrapped shift knob, 6-way manual driver’s seat, trip computer, outside temperature display, cruise control, tilt and telescopic steering column, rearview camera, 6-speaker audio system, auxiliary input jack, 2 USB ports, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming capability, Mazda CONNECT infotainment system with 7 inch full-color touch screen display, multifunction commander control, infotainment system voice command, HD Radio, Aha internet radio integration, Pandora internet radio integration, Stitcher internet radio integration, Radio Broadcast Data System program information, SMS text message audio delivery and reply, E911 automatic emergency notification, dual 12-volt power outlets, 3 rows of seating for up to 7 passengers, 60/40 split fold-down second-row seats with reclining and tilt and slide functions, 50/50 split fold-down third-row seats, rear cargo area underfloor storage, roll stability control, trailer stability assist, and engine immobilizer. All Wheel Drive is an additional $1,800. The Heated Power Driver’s Seat and Heated Side Mirror Package, as you may expect, adds heated front seats and heated side mirrors. It also installs a power driver’s seat with power lumbar support for $950.
The Touring trim costs $25,790 and provides a power rear liftgate with programmable height adjustment, heated side mirrors, an 8 inch Mazda CONNECT infotainment system, Mazda Advanced Keyless entry and start system, heated front seats, leather trimmed seats in the first and second rows, 8-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar support, 4-way power passenger seat, second row center folding armrest with integrated storage and 2 USB charging ports, auto dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink, dual illuminated visor vanity mirrors with extensions, advanced blind spot monitoring system, and rear cross traffic alert. The Touring Premium Package equips a Mazda Navigation System, Bose 12-speaker Centerpoint Surround Sound System with AudioPilot, SiriusXM, automatic on/off headlights, LED fog lights, power sliding glass moonroof with one touch open feature and interior sunshade, second-row retractable window sunshades and rear backup sensors for $1,745. For $1,800, All Wheel Drive can be equipped.
The $40,470 Grand Touring trim adds 20 inch aluminum alloy wheels, a power sliding glass moonroof with sunshade, automatic on/off headlights, adaptive front lighting system, LED fog lights, chrome lower body moldings, rain sensing windshield wipers, aluminum roof rails with satin chrome finish, windshield projected active driving display, Bose 12-speaker Centerpoint 2.0 Surround Sound System with AudioPilot, SiriusXM, Mazda Navigation System, driver multi information display, LED interior illumination, genuine aluminum interior trim, driver’s power seat memory function, second row retractable sunshades, distance recognition support system, High Beam Control, lane departure warning system, lane-keep assist system, Mazda Radar Cruise Control, Smart City Brake Support, and rear backup sensors. No additional packages are available, but All Wheel Drive can be added for $1,800.The Signature trim installs All Wheel Drive, LED grille accent lighting, LED overhead accent lighting, Nappa leather-trimmed seats, Auburn colored interior accents, leather wrapped steering wheel with unique stitching, and genuine rosewood interior trim for an MSRP of $44,315.