Mazda is known for building cars that look good and are a heck of a lot of fun to drive. They’re for people who want more from a car than just a way to get from point A to point B. Delivering that in a three-row SUV is quite a challenge and that was Mazda’s goal with the all-new 2016 CX-9.
They started by making the CX-9 look as little like a big box on wheels as possible. The hood is long and the grille is huge with a giant Mazda logo. They even lit it up with LED lighting in the new top-of-the-line Signature trim to be sure your SUV won’t go unnoticed. Add 18- or 20-inch wheels, nice curves and you’ve got one attractive vehicle.
The interior is extravagant with leather, aluminum, and Japanese rosewood trims that push the CX-9 toward luxury car territory. It looks good. The seats hit the mark, too. They’re incredibly comfortable without being stiff even after hours behind the wheel. I spent many hours behind the wheel.
Sitting in the driver’s seat feels more like being in a sedan than a three-row SUV. Everything is within easy reach with the Mazda Connect infotainment touchscreen mounted high on the dashboard so it’s easy to see. It is also intuitive to use. Audiophiles will love the Bose sound system, which was designed specifically for this vehicle and provides rich, vibrant sound.
There is also a head-up display placed at the perfect distance to be within your line of sight. It adjusts up and down so no matter how you position your seat you can adjust the display so that it’s visible without being intrusive.
Two USB ports are tucked into the center armrest, which is a much better location than the back of the center console where you’ll typically find these. Third-row seating is snug, which is to be expected, but access is easy with second-row seats that slide well forward.
If it’s cargo instead of people, then there’s 71.2 cubic feet behind the first row, 38.2 cubic feet behind the second row, and 14.4 cubic feet behind the third row. The third row split-folds 50/50 while the second row split-folds 60/40 to give flexibility for both cargo and passengers. It also has a flat load floor so sliding large objects in and out of the vehicle is more of a truck like experience.
A new 2.5-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged Skyactiv-G engine with 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque powers the CX-9. Mazda designed this engine to give you the power you need the moment you need it and they succeeded. Hit the gas and this car moves.
The CX-9 isn’t small and sporty, but it works hard to make you forget it’s a three-row SUV. It’s as fun to drive on curvy back roads as it is on the highway. Even during quick lane changes the CX-9 is controlled and never sloppy.
Safety is a priority in a family vehicle and the CX-9 offers plenty of safety features like lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, rear backup sensors, and lane keep assist. Lane keep assist can be jarring in some vehicles with what should be a little nudge to the steering wheel feeling so aggressive that it startles the driver. The CX-9 manages the task smoothly so you’re less likely to turn the feature off out of pure annoyance.
You can choose from four trims. The base Sport starts at $31,520 while the top Signature trim will set you back $44,015. You’ll have the same great driving experience no matter the trim level. It’s only a matter of how much luxury you want to add.
The all-new 2016 Mazda CX-9 stays true to Mazda’s roots as a company that builds cars for people who like driving. The experience of driving an affordably priced SUV with premium luxuries is sure to put a smile on your face.