Mazda’s big crossover continues to impress in every way.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Pricing: 2021 Mazda CX-9
Base price (Kuro AWD trim): $50,150
Options: $200 Polymetal Greg Metallic paint
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $52,400
I have long been impressed with this model. It’s no secret that I’m a big Mazda fan as it is, their CX-5 being one of my most-recommended vehicles to people asking for my advice. But its big brother, this CX-9, is a fantastic vehicle too.
Should you need the extra space and luxury, put it on your shopping list.
This is the knock-out punch in this category, in my opinion. The CX-9 is the best-looking three-row SUV/crossover on the market. I love it, and although its lines are starting to mellow with age, it still looks fantastic.
LED headlights, driving lights and fog lights brighten the way up front, and the headlights are adaptive. The tail lights are also LEDs.
This Kuro trim adds some awesome aesthetic bits, namely the two optional colours – this Polymetal Grey or a Jet Black Mica, gloss black grille inserts, dark trim bits inside and out and those stunning 20-inch rims finished in Black Metallic.
Nothing has changed inside the CX-9 – and that’s mostly a good thing. The design is clean and things work well here. Materials are high-end, with plenty of nicely textured soft-touch points around the cabin.
The heated steering wheel feels great in hand, and the Garnet Red leather seat upholstery is eye-popping and beautiful. The seats are heated and ventilated, highly comfortable and supportive.
Dominating the upper dash is Mazda’s 9-inch wide touchscreen which handles navigation, your phone and the 12-speaker BOSE sound system, which is awesome. The interface along with the rotary HMI control knob for this system is slowly getting tired in my books. I don’t like how I have to rotate and dig through menus for everything and I’m hoping Mazda has something fresh and new up their sleeves soon when it comes to ICE.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are integrated here, and a new trick is the wireless CarPlay. Very slick! Speaking of wireless, there’s also wireless charging.
A standard-sized sunroof can be found overhead – this is one of the things that needs to change. Most competitors have been offering panoramic sunroofs for ages, and the dark-ish interior of the CX-9 would really benefit from a bigger opening to the sky.
My review vehicle was absolutely loaded up for driver assistance technology, all of which worked nicely. There’s a heads-up display, a 360-degree camera (the picture could be much sharper), front and rear parking sensors, smart city brake support, automatic high beams, lane departure warning and lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, driver attention alert, traffic sign recognition, pedestrian detection and forward obstruction warning, rear cross traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring.
Second and Third Rows
Second row passengers get a set of heated captain’s chairs which are adjustable and recline, and they are very comfortable – it would be a great place to be for a road trip.
The second row gets a nice extension to the front centre console complete with cupholders and a separate climate control panel – for charging devices, there are 2 USB ports in each of the second and third rows.
The third row remains tiny, and thus not suitable for adult passengers unless it’s an emergency. But it is cool to see it beautifully upholstered in that red leather to match the other rows.
I wish there would be a couple of additional spots to drop my stuff around the cabin. There’s an open bin at the front of the console, along with a sizeable bin under the armrest’s clamshell lid.
Pop the power liftgate (it has a hands-free function too) and you’ll find a usable 407L behind the third row. Drop the third row and you end up with a large, flexible 1082L space.
Under the Hood
The CX-9’s 2.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder carries over, rated at 250HP and a jaw-dropping 320 lb.ft of torque. Of note, those numbers are on premium fuel – with regular fuel, they drop to 227HP and 310 lb.ft of torque, also good numbers. Surprisingly, Mazda has stuck with a 6-speed automatic for many years, and of course there’s an all-wheel drive system driving all four corners.
The CX-9 is rated at 11.6/9.1 L/100 km (city/highway). We averaged a very sobering 14.5L/100 km which is not good at all, and nowhere near the vehicle’s rating. We mostly drove in the city, which doesn’t help, but we also took it easy – so overall, this was not impressive, and strangely this was way worse than we’d averaged in previous stints in a CX-9. Not sure what went south this time, but that’s a tough mileage number to live with for this vehicle.
The engine may be small but it’s mighty. It propels the CX-9 with enough gusto for most drivers. It’s not a rocket, to be sure, but frankly it has enough power to be competitive in this segment. Could it be quicker? Sure. Does it need to be? Nope. If you really need to pick things up a bit, Sport mode definitely tightens up the performance a tad.
The ride and handling are well sorted – it’s plush enough to soak up the hits, firm enough not to feel spongy and handles with enough athleticism to be satisfying, particularly for its size and heft.
I mentioned the relatively conservatively-geared 6-speed transmission earlier – it’s honestly hard to find other transmissions with such few gears nowadays. But Mazda’s continues to feel current and performs well. Also, although it might not be quite as efficient as something with 2-4 more gears, Mazda ranked at the top of one reliability rating chart for the last year. It beat out Toyota and Lexus. That means that its tried and true approach is paying off. Gears can be changed manually using paddles, but this isn’t necessary. The unit does a fine job being in the right gear nearly all the time.
There’s an off-road traction assist which is pretty silly as none of these will ever go off-road, unless we’re talking about a gravel road to the cabin. If you’re towing, the CX-9 can pull up to 3,500 pounds.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) is high. My girl has always liked the CX-9 and this iteration was no exception. She likes how it drives and says it feels like a very expensive vehicle on the road.
I’ve always been a big fan too – the CX-9 is a looker, it performs well enough and provides plenty of space and utility.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Mazda Canada.
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