When I booked the all-new 2016 Mazda CX-9 for a test, it just so happened to be arriving the week after I drive the new Lexus RX 350. I thought to myself, although not absolute competitors, they are similar vehicles and a CX-9 completely decked out in Signature trim could make for an interesting comparison to the luxurious Lexus.
In other words, is it worth spending nearly $20,000 more for the Lexus in full gear versus the Mazda? After picking up the Mazda unfortunately, it is not a fair comparison to Mazda so I'll avoid it -- the Lexus is more expensive and it shows and it is difficult to un-see what I have seen in the new RX 350.
So let's judge the CX-9 on its own merit this week. That is a mainstream seven seater crossover that offers families some style, some luxury and a lot of space for a reasonable price of $50,000 even in this loaded Signature model that I am testing.
The CX-9 is powered by a 2.5L turbocharged four-cylinder engine and there are no other engine choices for the model, it is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. It is a little weak in the horsepower department at only 227, but makes up for it with torque at 310 lb-ft at only 2,000 rpm.
The Signature model comes with most of the latest goodies, such as Lane departure warning / assist, radar cruise control, navigation, climate control, back-up camera and more. It does have a sunroof, but no panoramic roof that some of its competitors have and no ventilated front seats (only heated).
The CX-9 is a seven seater so it's only fair I start at the back of the vehicle and move my way forward. Behind the third row there is a good amount of space; I was quite surprised when I saw what was available, much more depth than most of the competition, but this does mean that the rear seats are a little tighter as a result – that space has to come from somewhere.
I also noticed when I lifted the hatch that the hatch barely lifted above my head – in fact I had to duck. After using the automatic opening mechanism I had to reach up and push the door even further up – perhaps a previous journalist set it to open to this height in their garage. The power trunk opener can be programmed to open to full or three-quarter height.
The third-row seats can be flipped up and down easily from the trunk area via a lever on the back of the seat. The seats are light enough that they require very little effort. Access to the third row is easy enough with the second row flipping and sliding forward, but the second row seats are heavy so they do require some effort to move back into place. Seat space in that third row is actually not that bad! The second row is adjustable so you can kindly ask the person in front of your third-row seat to also squish themselves a little bit – the result is not bad for someone under 5'10", at least.
The second-row seating is then left with about as much room as a typical compact sedan, so a reasonable amount of room. Up in the front row, leg room is very spacious as expected, but the lack of an adjustable centre console arm rest is missed – by me at least, taller drivers should be fine.
The multi-coloured interior with black and brown accents is interesting to look at while not being too over the top. The materials are okay for the class: with the combination of soft and hard plastics you can tell this is a $35,000 vehicle that is feature priced to $50,000 rather than a $50,000 vehicle to start.
There has been some discussion about an inadequate air conditioner on our forums. It has been mentioned by some journalists but I personally haven't noticed that it is not cold. I have noticed that the fans stay on for a longer time at full blast then you would expect. Perhaps this is what others are noticing? You also notice because the fans are ridiculously loud on full blast.
The seats are very firm and not very comfortable over long periods -- at least not to me, and getting a good driving position seems to be elusive to me, I feel too high, then too low, then too close then too far. There are lots of adjustments with the power seats and tilt and telescopic steering, but for some reason I'm having a hard time with this vehicle comfort wise.
I'm always surprised when car designers can offer good visibility in a vehicle with a small greenhouse, and the CX-9 is no exception here. Mazda has done a great job by offering large mirrors and large enough rear windows despite the sloping design of the vehicle to ensure visibility in traffic is good.
Of course everyone wants to know how the 2.5l performs in the CX-9. Under normal everyday driving you are never left wanting for more, the 2.5 delivers seamlessly. When you get on the loud pedal more aggressively it does make more noise than I would like to hear, but it is up to the task. With 310 lb-ft of torque the CX-9 moves swiftly when prodded.
Cruising on the highway road noise is very low as is wind noise, resulting in higher than legal cruising speeds if you don't pay attention. Suspension is typical Mazda, on the firm side but not overly so, with great compliance and comfort, I typical enjoy Mazda suspension tuning and the CX-9 is no exception. Brake feel is very positive as well and easy to modulate; another trait that Mazda carries over their lineup with driver oriented dynamics.
Overall the CX-9 performed well for me during the week. The A/C does cycle on and off (high and low) to keep the temperature consistent so that is annoying but I overrode the auto climate and set the fan low and temperature lower to avoid it.
The hatch opening and cargo capacity is pretty impressive. The opening is just about 30 inches in height which allowed me to slide a full sized stove into the back!
Fuel mileage wasn't horrible for the week either with an average of 10.0 L/100 km. That average was over 600 km including a 200 km trip, the on-board readout hovered around 10.2 all week until the highway trip so it was pretty consistent, both highway and city.
I was hoping for a little better fuel economy but despite the small engine this is a large vehicle equipped with all-wheel drive so the average I achieved is good for the size and features offered here.
Model: 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature
Options: Grey Metallic paint $300
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $52,395