2019 Mazda CX-9 Review
Dan DeGasperi’s 2019 Mazda CX-9 Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, ownership, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: The CX-9 large SUV gets updated with all active safety technology for all models, plus it becomes the first Mazda to boast Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard.
2019 Mazda CX-9 Specifications
Price $44,990-$66,490+ORC Warranty five-years, unlimited km Safety 5 stars Engine 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol Power 170kW at 5000rpm Torque 420Nm at 2000rpm Transmission six-speed automatic Drive front- or all-wheel drive Dimensions 5075mm (L) 1969mm (W) 1747mm (H) 2930mm (WB) Seats seven Boot Space 230-810 litres Weight 1878-2000kg Towing 750-2000kg Fuel Tank 72-74 litres Thirst 8.4-8.8L/100km claimed combined
EVER since it launched two years ago, the Mazda CX-9 has been creeping upmarket.
It has been an almost imperceptible drift higher, as slow as an iceberg shifting in the seas, but Mazda’s yearly improvements to its large SUV have now culminated in a base model that costs $2500 more than in 2016 and a maximum spend $3100 higher than back then.
This isn’t the Japanese brand being greedy, however, because with revised steering and suspension also comes a whole swag of extra convenience and active safety technology in an attempt to make the freshened-for-2019 Mazda CX-9 more convincing than ever.
What’s In The Range And What Does It Cost?
The CX-9 is still available in Sport, Touring, GT and Azami model grades, each available in front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). However, now an Azami LE – or Luxury Edition – sits atop the range with AWD only. We’ll get to that new top model in a moment.
Firstly, however, while the Sport ($44,990+ORC FWD/$48,990+ORC AWD) costs $2500 more than it did in 2016, it now includes automatic on/off headlights and wipers, electric-fold door mirrors, windscreen-projection head-up display, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity. But it doesn’t end there, because it further adds auto up/down high-beam, adaptive cruise control, active lane-keep assistance, traffic sign recognition, tyre pressure monitoring and driver attention alert as standard for the first time. That’s heaps.
Both the Touring ($51,390+ORC FWD/$55,390+ORC AWD) and GT ($63,390+ORC FWD/$63,390 AWD) also pick up the latter active safety technology for a $2500 and $2000 hike compared with the original launch respectively. The Touring also including keyless auto-entry and front parking sensors, while the GT now features rear heated seats.
The Touring still gets leather trimmed, electrically adjustable and heated front seats, larger 8.0-inch touchscreen (up from 7.0in), foglights and rear USB ports, while the GT still gets 20-inch alloys, electric tailgate, sunroof and 12-speaker Bose audio. The Azami ($60,990+ORC FWD/$64,990+ORC AWD) used to be the active safety flagship, but it now rises $1600 yet adds a windscreen de-icer, heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, 360-degree camera and 7.0-inch driver display to its adaptive-auto high-beam already standard.
That leaves the newly added flagship, the AWD-only $66,490+ORC Azami LE, sitting $1500 higher again and for the first time offering real wood trim, a special stitched-leather steering wheel, Chroma Brown nappa leather, centre console ambient lighting and unique rooflining.
Mazda has done well to improve the value of all models, but the Sport now seems like the standout, despite only securing 10% of customers. The Touring (25%), GT (27%) and Azami (30%) are evenly mixed, but Azami LE will only target 8%, while the FWD/AWD split is 57:43.
What’s The Interior And Practicality Like?
A single downside to the CX-9 is still its lack of air-vents for third-row passengers. This is an enormous five-metre-long large SUV, yet the fact much smaller (4.8m) models – such as the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe – can package vents back there is a disappointment here.
Otherwise, though, this Mazda maintains its status quo as one of the roomiest, most comfortable and most premium SUVs for the price. A Toyota Kluger is fractionally more spacious, but it feels cheap inside, while an aforementioned Santa Fe can feel as premium but it isn’t as roomy. So in some ways the now five-tier CX-9 range presents a fine blend.
The front seats are broad and plush, offering plenty of shoulder room that most benefits the three-across centre seats. Those passengers will enjoy a third climate control zone standard across the range, plus a sliding bench that delivers enormous legroom in five-seat mode. Access to the third-row is easier than before, and once back there, sixth and seventh passengers will still enjoy a nicely thick and supportive seat with decent room. The 230-litre boot behind still remains generous, while 810L with five seats is still simply ginormous.
What Are The Infotainment And Controls Like?
The updated CX-9 is the second Mazda (after the BT-50 ute) to get integrated Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology standard, although the unchanged MZD-Connect software still remains the benchmark in the segment anyway. Sure, some of the graphics are feeling old, but the voice control can pick up a ‘one shot’ destination entry for nav, while a digital radio is standard across the range, and the Bose audio sounds good.
Also standard is a superb head-up display that is crisp in resolution and clear with graphics. The fact it comes for $45K on the base model shames so-called ‘premium’ SUVs, and indeed the CX-9 does in other ways as well. From the knurled-silver infotainment rotary dial flanked with shortcut buttons – that remains so easy to use – to the tactile surrounding switchgear and soft-touch dashboard plastics, this is a luxury interior masquerading as mainstream.
The Azami’s new 7.0in driver display is a nice touch, as is the LE’s real wood trim, but where this updated Mazda does fall down is with that $66.5K top-end pricing. While this is a premium cabin for below that price, the Azami LE should replace some of the hard lower plastics with nicer trim materials for the price. Right up there, it starts to feel stretched.
What’s It Like On The Road?
Mazda has lightly revised steering and suspension for the updated CX-9, but it drives little differently compared with before. That’s absolutely no bad thing, thankfully, because this is a superbly refined large SUV in terms of low road noise, distant engine roar and – particularly on the Sport and Touring’s 18-inch tyres – comfy yet controlled suspension.
The 20in tyres of the tested Azami LE (and also on GT/Azami) still deliver hushed progress, but they’re a little firmer over a bumps and it seemed to have fractionally looser steering compared with the Touring FWD driven before it. That model is lighter (at 1878kg) than the Azami LE AWD (2000kg) and indeed the 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder felt peppier and quicker. The downside is some FWD torque steer likely exacerbated in wet conditions, and that could be reason enough – more than for off-road exploits – to spend extra on the AWD.
In a two-tonne vehicle, the 420Nm of torque gives this petrol engine an almost diesel disposition, trumping the more modest 170kW of power. What that means is effortless, rather than sterling, performance. On a flowing drive through country Tasmania, the CX-9 Touring FWD averaged 12.0L/100km – almost 50% above its claim – to prove that being diesel-like still can’t quite deliver proper diesel efficiency. At least the six-speed automatic is superbly tuned, and the tight steering combines with nicely balanced, engaging handling.
What about ownership?
Having just switched to a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, this Mazda can equal South Korean rival Hyundai for coverage, and it no longer lose points for a lesser three-year deal. Servicing intervals are annual, which is competitive, or 10,000km, which isn’t because 15,000km is the norm. At least the first five alternate between a capped-price cost of $332 then $375 over five years or 50,000km, which is more competitive.
What About Safety Features?
This is where the new CX-9 is so much more competitive than versions of the past two years. Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) in both forward and reverse was already standard, as were rear parking sensors, rear-view camera and rear cross-traffic alert plus full curtain airbags that extend right back to the third row. But now with active cruise, lane-keep and blind-spot gear on all models, it makes a competitive offering even more compelling.