Car Reviews

2017 Mazda CX-9 Azami Review

Alex Rae’s 2017 Mazda CX-9 Azami Review with specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.

In a nutshell: A well rounded offering in its segment which offers plenty of kit in the higher grade

2017 Mazda CX-9 Azami Review

PRICE $59,390 WARRANTY 3 years/100,000 km ENGINE 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol POWER 170kW at 5000rpm TORQUE 420Nm at 2000rpm TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic DRIVE front-wheel or all-wheel drive DIMENSIONS 5075mm (L); 1969mm (W INC MIRRORS); 1747 (H) TURNING CIRCLE N/A  KERB WEIGHT 1858kg SEATS 7 FUEL TANK 72 litres SPARE space saver THIRST 8.4 L/100km

MAZDA’S FIRST GENERATION CX-9 (2007-2016) hung around for almost a decade before the big SUV saw its first update. Coming into a competitive market the second generation arrived with sharp styling and a pointy nose which has become synonymous with Mazda’s latest models.

It’s no off-road rival but this big family wagon is Mazda’s largest SUV and is a strong competitor in its class against the likes of the Toyota Kluger, Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorrento.

What is it?

The CX-9 is a large seven-seat SUV and comes in either front-wheel or all-wheel drive configuration. The Azami is the top model in the range and we have the $59,390 (+ORCs) front-wheel drive model on test which drops $4000 off of the all-wheel drive model’s price.

Given the CX-9 lineup starts at $42,490, the Azami on test is almost $17,000 more expensive but it does come with a fair bit of extra kit including front and rear parking sensors, heated and electric leather seats, three-zone climate control, 8-inch infotainment screen with sat nav, heads-up display, 12-speaker Bose sound system, proximity unlocking, sunroof, 20-inch alloys… the list goes on.

But the Azami also gets the best bits of Mazda’s safety technology too, which includes AEB (standard in all models), active radar cruise control and lane keeping assistance.

So, it’s well kitted then, and if you don’t need all-wheel drive there’s $4000 to save by opting for the front-wheeler (we’ll cover how it drives later).

It’s moved along by a reasonably powerful 170kW/420Nm (that’s a fair amount of torque) 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. It’s also pretty frugal, sipping a claimed 8.4L/100km combined cycle, given it needs to pull 1858kg of weight. Directing the power to the wheels is a six-speed automatic transmission.

The CX-9 measures 5075mm long, 1969mm wide and 1747mm tall, which makes which is similar to its rivals, but its 2875mm wheelbase is 175mm longer than the Santa Fe, 140mm longer than the Kluger and 75mm longer than Sorento, so it should feel spacious inside.

What’s the interior like?

The CX-9 is a big car – and feels as much on the road – which means it affords a spacious cabin space with plenty of room for all seven occupants. There room afforded upfront and for the second row is quite generous too, thanks to that long wheelbase.

There’s ample storage areas, most with large or deep openings to store spare drink bottles, wallets, phones, gaming devices… all the stuff a bigger family needs to safely put away. Every row gets two cup holders (two in the third row via flip out holders) and there’s two USB ports in the front and two in the second row on the flip down armrest.

With the third row folded down there’s a very large 810-litres of boot space and we had no issues fitting a full sized bassinet pram into the back… one of the only cars to swallow the device with ease, so far. Pop the seats up and you’ll have 210 litres of space, not great but it’s workable for a bit of extra gear or shopping when running around.

Upfront are two electrically adjustable and heated seats clad in leather which features throughout the cabin. The driving position is high and vision is somewhat obstructed by the thick A-pillar, but it’s nothing distracting. The steering wheel is fully adjustable and a reasonably good driving position can be obtained, although it does feel a little like sitting in a large four-wheel drive.

The centre console has a rotary dial and buttons for controlling the 8-inch infotainment screen which features sat nav and only basic media function connectivity when connected to a phone via one of the two USB ports. In front of that is the electronic parkbrake switch and a good size console bin for throwing keys and wallets into.

The infotainment is easy to navigate and use, and one of the better integrated non-European items, but the software does feel a bit old compared to some class-leading units and the 8-inch screen is not as wide or well resolved as the best. Connected to the infotainment is a 12-speaker Bose sound system which improves sound quality over standard speaker systems and in testing had good clarity and fidelity for both Bluetooth and USB connected audio sources.

The rear occupants have plenty of legroom, even with the driver’s seat set back to accommodate a 6ft tall driver, and both second and third rows have separate climate control (with pollen filter). The second row also gets manually retractable sunblinds which is a nice touch when ferrying a baby or kids.

What’s it like on the road?

The high driving position and large dimensions of the CX-9 that afford the terrific space inside also mean it feels large to maneuver around urban and city areas, particularly when parking in tight spaces or lurking about shopping centre malls – but that’s the compromise to buy a big wagon over a ‘normal’ one, and there’s nothing which can be both large yet drive like a hatchback.

That said the CX-9 does drive easily and its light, accurate steering and terrific, if almost frantic, engine response makes the almost 2 tonnes of body weight feel as light as it can be. Most notable is the engine which is a real surprise, and although the 170kW isn’t high the 420Nm is, and it launches the CX-9 rather quickly. The six-speed auto keeps up well, too, and was smooth through all of the gears without hesitation to act in traffic.

For a very large family on holiday, it should provide enough grunt to tow a small trailer of gear if using all three rows. The CX-9’s braked towing capacity is rated at 2000kg.

On top of sharp acceleration and steering is a well composed body and compliant ride over varied surfaces. NVH was also quite good and the CX-9 does it’s best to again feel as small as possible when driving on the open road, where it’s easier to forget how large the car really is.

Our test car is the front-wheel drive version of the top-spec Azami, and it handled well without much torque steer upfront. Perhaps slightly unwieldy if pushed, that shouldn’t be noticeable in normal driving conditions. At $4000 cheaper than the all-wheel drive version, it’s a compelling reason to save a few dollars unless you will make the most of the improved traction in wet weather and on unsealed roads.

The CX-9 has 222mm clearance which is rather high, but we didn’t test its offroad ability because it’s front-wheel drive and it’s also not really made for that kind of stuff. The tall stance does help with moving loads in and out of the car, however.

What about the safety features?

The second-generation CX-9 was tested by ANCAP in 2016 and has been awarded a five star ANCAP rating.

Along with the usual raft of airbags and safety features required for a five star ANCAP, the CX-9 has head-protecting side curtain airbags which extend for all-rows and all seats have advanced seat belt reminders.

All CX-9 models get AEB (autonomous emergency braking), and the Azami gets extra safety tech such as active radar cruise control (stop and start cruise control with radar monitoring for safe distances), lane keeping assistance, adaptive LED headlights and driver attention alert.

Why would you buy one?

It’s a big wagon for a big family, and because all three rows are well appointed and looked after the extra two seats aren’t just an add-in. It ticks all of the boxes – a good engine, smooth auto, well mannered on road and spacious and comfortable cabin – but it’s not cheap for the Azami spec model.

Budget conscious buyers might want to consider the entry spec Sport at $42,490 (+ORCs) which provides the same front-wheel driven engine as this model but without the luxurious interior appointments or safety tech. If you don’t need the safety in the Azami then the $57,390 GT model brings most of everything the Azami has for a (only slightly) lesser price.

Ownership is not class-leading with servicing intervals every 12 months or 10,000km, which ever comes first, and Mazda’s three years/unlimited kilometres warranty applies.

Editor's Rating

What's the interior like?
What's it like on the road?
What about safety features?
Practical Motoring Says: The CX-9's spacious interior and strong driveline are highlights and the later makes driving the big SUV wagon that much easier. The Azami gets the best tech and safety but it is pricey and it means top spec model competitors which offer similar levels of luxury are worth a look too.

  • Galaxy Being

    No electric folding mirrors… WTF?

    • David Coates

      Second this. They’ve put them on all grades of the CX-5, but not on their largest/widest vehicle? WTF indeed. We don’t all have 3.5m wide garages.

  • Jacques LaFeet

    No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto either.

  • Harry

    I can’t believe how expensive these are. People spending this much money on a Mazda SUV is mind boggling.

  • Steve-O

    “both second and third rows have separate climate control….”

    Nup. No third row climate control nor air vents. The Kia Sorento has these; even the base model

  • Hungry (like the wolf)

    A $60k plus SUV and it comes with a space saver spare.

    This is a joke right?

  • Jacques LaFeet

    No electric folding mirrors and no Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Mazda, these are dumb feature misses that should be fixed.

Alex Rae

Alex Rae

Alex Rae grew up among some of the great stages of Targa Tasmania, an event that sparked his passion for all things mechanical. Currently living across Bass Strait in Melbourne, Alex has worked for the last decade in the automotive world as both a photographer and journalist, and is now a freelancer for various publications. When not driving for work Alex can be found tinkering in the shed on of one his project Zeds or planning his next gravel rally car.