Designed to cater to the needs of busy Canadians with a keen focus on delivering key Mazda driving attributes, the latest-generation CX-9 is the largest vehicle in the Japanese automaker’s portfolio.
For its latest generation, which hit the road in 2015, the CX-9 offered up standard turbocharged power for fuel-efficient performance, a slick all-wheel drive system, the latest in sensor-driven safety technology, and a knockout cabin designed to hit above its weight while delivering upscale touches to spare.
Look for three rows of seating and premium content like Bose audio systems, a head-up display (HUD), automatic exterior lighting, windshield wipers, and climate control, climate-controlled leather seating with memory, and more.
Some owners say that a top-line CX-9 is a worthy alternative to pricier luxury SUV models, and most report a pleasing blend of comfort and confidence, as well as space to spare.
Consider a used CX-9 alongside other large crossover models like the Hyundai Santa Fe XL, Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, and GMC Acadia, noting that many owners say the CX-9 effectively wowed them into a purchase by way of its well-sorted drive and comfortable, feature-rich cabin.
Running the debut-edition of Mazda’s SKYACTIV Turbo engine, all CX-9s from this generation are powered by a 2.5L four-cylinder that runs high compression on regular-grade fuel for 227 hp and a mighty 310 lb-ft of torque. Look for an automatic transmission and an automatic all-wheel drive system that works with no driver decision-making.
What Owners Like
Many owners rave about the CX-9’s rich and colourful cabin, with plenty of metal and stitching, and lots of glossy surfaces that keep the eyes and fingertips busy. As three-row crossovers go, many owners say the CX-9’s rearmost row is surprisingly flexible and roomy, even if best left for smaller passengers. A smooth and quiet engine, as well as respectable fuel consumption and a comfortable ride, help round out the package.
What Owners Dislike
Some owners wish for a slightly taller door opening to ease entry and exit for taller occupants, and others wish for a more pleasing engine sound. Note that some owners have reported that the shape and overhang of the CX-9’s front bumper may limit off-road clearance in some situations, too.
Pro Tip: When is Low Mileage Too Low?
Beware ultra-low mileage units, remembering that extended periods of non-use may be harmful to certain parts of any vehicle. If you come across an older used CX-9 from this generation with an extremely low odometer reading, be sure to carefully assess the tires, brakes, and battery for signs of trouble, seeking professional assistance if required.
Pro Tip: AWD Maintenance
Check the all-wheel drive system before you buy for maximum peace of mind. First, have a professional check the power transfer unit for signs of unlikely fluid leakage or other issues, and be sure to check the CX-9 owner’s manual to familiarize yourself with the ongoing maintenance requirements of the system, if applicable. Talk to a Mazda service advisor if you have any questions.
Some vehicles have “full for life” fluid in their all-wheel-drive componentry, which claim to never require servicing. Still, many owners change the fluid regularly, perhaps every two years, as added protection against wear and trouble. We’d suggest considering it – an AWD system fluid change is cheap insurance against potentially pricey problems down the road.
The Test Drive
Check Around the Wheels
Though owner reports are largely inconclusive, test driving shoppers are advised to spend a few moments checking the CX-9’s wheels and tires closely for signs of excessive damage and wear. Inspect the finish of each wheel carefully, looking for signs of flaking, pitting, bubbling, or corrosion. Warranty converge may be available to address wheel corrosion.
Second, inspect the sidewall surfaces of each tire, being on the lookout for bubbles, lumps, gouges, or tears. These are signs of tire damage, possibly caused by a pothole strike. Units with up-sized wheels and thinner-profile tires may be more prone to this type of damage. Call any damage into pricing negotiations if applicable, as damaged tires need to be replaced.
Here’s more reading on the matter.
Play with Everything
The best time to confirm that all of the CX-9’s electronics and features are in proper working order is before you sign the bill of sale. Protect yourself from surprise repair bills by systematically working through all on-board features, systems and interfaces, paying close attention to the central command system.
Some owners have reported crashing, lagging, and non-responsiveness from functions associated with the central touchscreen. Here’s some more reading.
If you notice any problems, give this a read for easy instructions on how to perform a hard reset, which often fixes problems with performance and connectivity. If the CX-9 you’re considering is still under warranty, a dealer technician is the best person to diagnose any issues.
More information can be found here.
Confirm Adequate A/C Performance
Here’s a lengthy discussion about the CX-9’s air conditioner, which some owners say is insufficiently powerful to adequately chill the vehicle’s large cabin. Some owners say the air conditioner is too weak to properly chill the cabin, others report satisfactory performance, and others still have installed window tinting with some degree of success at boosting the cooling capability of the system.
Many factors are at play, and this problem looks somewhat sporadic, despite plenty of online discussion. Your best defence? Check the HVAC system as best as you can on a test drive, confirming it’s able to deliver adequately cold air, even while parked but running on the hottest day possible.
If you notice any issues during ownership, have a dealer investigate, as some fixes may be possible without replacing system components. Using the owner’s manual as a reference, check the CX-9’s remaining air conditioner warranty coverage against the vehicle’s age and odometer, and report any issues to a service advisor as soon as possible to help speed future warranty repairs if required.
Air conditioner problems are among the most commonly reported issues with owners of this generation CX-9.
Get It Scanned
A small number of owners have reported dramatic electronic problems, which may result in the need to suddenly pull over and stop the CX-9’s engine, just after the illumination of a multitude of warning lights and error messages.
A possible culprit seems to be a potentially defective wiring harness, which may require some resoldering of one or more connections. This issue seems most likely on newer used units in this generation, perhaps 2017 and 2019 models. In other cases, tightening the connections to the battery terminals seems to be the solution.
Be on the lookout for signs of trouble like this, and have a dealer investigate if you notice any similar issues.
If you have any concerns, protect yourself with a pre-purchase onboard diagnostic scan. If this wiring problem has previously affected the CX-9 you’re considering, it may show up in this scan – possibly by way of a multitude of stored error codes. Proceed with caution.
Skip the Tune
A small portion of CX-9 owners have installed non-factory engine computer software to the engine computer that’s designed to increase power output. In some cases, this software can cause engine and driveline damage. In virtually all cases, it also voids any remaining powertrain warranty coverage. The average shopper is therefore best to avoid a used CX-9 that’s ever been “chipped” or “tuned.”
Confirm Seat Comfort Carefully
On your test drive, plan to spend a few minutes achieving the most comfortable possible seating position for yourself and anyone else who may be driving the CX-9 you’re considering. Some owners have reported limited seat and steering wheel adjustability that may lead to difficulty achieving a proper driving position, or may limit comfort on longer distance drives. Here’s some more reading.
You can check if any recall work is outstanding on the vehicle you’re looking at by looking up its VIN (vehicle identification number) on Mazda’s website.
The majority of owners report no alarming issues with their second-generation CX-9s, though test drivers are advised to carefully work through the checks and tests mentioned above for maximum peace of mind. Confirming proper operation of the air conditioner and central touchscreen interface are among your best defences against the CX-9’s more commonly reported problems.
IIHS: Top Safety Pick + (2017)