Car NewsComparison Tests

Holden Acadia LTZ-V Vs Mazda CX-9 Azami LE

Dan DeGasperi puts the recently arrived Holden Acadia LTZ-V to test against the segment darling, the Mazda CX-9 Azami LE.

Holden Acadia LTZ-V Specifications

Price $67,490+ORC Warranty five-years, unlimited km Safety 5 stars Engine 3.6-litre petrol V6 Power 231kW at 6600rpm Torque 367Nm at 5000rpm Transmission nine-speed automatic Drive all-wheel drive Dimensions 4979mm (L) 1916mm (W) 1767mm (H) 2857mm (WB) Seats seven Boot Space 292L (with all 7 seats in use), 1042L (5 seats), 2102L (2 seats) Kerb Weight 2032kg Towing 2000kg (braked) Fuel Tank 82 litres Thirst 9.3L/100km combined-cycle claimed

Mazda CX-9 Azami LE Specifications

Comprehensive Car Insurance

Price $66,490+ORC Warranty five-years, unlimited km Safety 5 stars Engine 2.5-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder Power 170kW at 5000rpm Torque 420Nm at 2000rpm Transmission six-speed automatic Drive all-wheel drive Dimensions 5075mm (L) 1969mm (W) 1747mm (H) 2930mm (WB) Seats seven Boot Space 230-810 litres Kerb Weight 2000kg Towing 2000kg Fuel Tank 74 litres Thirst 8.8L/100km combined-cycle claimed

AUSSIES are a curious bunch. We love a small hatch that European markets crave but the US rejects. We adore dual-cab four-wheel drive utes that are too big for the van-loving Continent yet are too small for Uncle Sam. But then we also want large seven-seat SUVs, bold and brash and born for stars-and-stripes territory.

Holden, clearly, is acutely aware of this. It has pulled its latest large SUV from the Tennessee plant of General Motors (GM), where it emerges as a left-hand drive GMC Acadia for the States and right-hand drive Holden Acadia for across the Pacific.

It must share showroom space with a European-built Astra hatch, and Thai-made Colorado ute, just to name two examples of the product planning attempts to best match Aussies’ taste.

Nobody has done that better than Mazda. Its CX-9 might be produced in Japan, but the 5.0-metre-long behemoth doesn’t even sell there. It instead follows its rival’s path to Oz and the US, in particular. With the latest update of the (perhaps until now) class-leading Mazda CX-9, a more lavish Azami LE flagship model grade has been added, so it’s the one tested here.

A mid-$60K-plus pricetag might seem steep, but its Lion-branded rival has a similarly priced answer in the form of the LTZ-V also gathered here. At this level, both must deliver more than just cheap Yank take-out for a family of seven…

What Are The Holden Acadia LTZ-V And Mazda CX-9 Azami LE?

Each of three Acadia model grades get a 3.6-litre petrol V6, nine-speed automatic and front-wheel drive (FWD) , with the LT asking $42,990 plus-on road costs, the LTZ $53,990+ORC and LTZ-V $63,990+ORC. And in each case add a hefty $4000 for all-wheel drive (AWD).

If the Holden starts sharp then offers bizarrely sizeable $10K-plus steps up, then the CX-9 provides sharp relief. All five model grades nab a 2.5-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder, six-speed auto and FWD, with the Sport at $44,990+ORC, Touring at $51,390+ORC, GT at $59,390+ORC, Azami at $60,990+ORC, and in all cases Mazda also asks $4000 for AWD. It’s also standard with this Azami LE at $66,490+ORC.

Holden Acadia Vs Mazda CX-9

So, the Acadia LT starts $2000 cheaper while matching its rival with seven seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane-keep assistance, speed-sign recognition, a blind-spot monitor, rear parking sensors with cross-traffic alert, rear camera, satellite navigation, digital radio and tri-zone climate control, while exclusively adding keyless auto-entry. Yet it lacks the rain-sensing wipers, head-up display and adaptive cruise control of a CX-9 Sport.

The tables turn further up, where a CX-9 Touring is $800 cheaper than an Acadia LTZ, which still lacks two of those features (only adding automatic on/off wipers). Both add foglights, front parking sensors, leather trim, and electrically adjustable and heated front seats, though the pricier Holden adds an electric tailgate, wireless smartphone charging and auto reverse-park assist absent from its mid-tier rival.

Holden Acadia Vs Mazda CX-9

The Mazda’s secret is the CX-9 GT, which does get a power tailgate plus 20-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, heated rear seats and premium Bose audio all reserved for this now-$4100-pricier Acadia LTZ-V. Admittedly it also adds a 360-degree camera and ventilated front seats to match the next-step-up CX-9 Azami, but that model grade is still $2500 cheaper and it still gets a head-up display as well as auto-adaptive high-beam over its foe.

All of which gives the CX-9 Azami LE room to flex with real wood trim and Nappa chroma brown leather – yet still it’s $1000 cheaper than an AWD LTZ-V…

What about ownership?

The Holden asks $817 in servicing to three years or 36,000km (as the intervals are annual or 12,000km) or $1176 to four years or 48,000km, versus the Mazda’s $1048 to three years or 45,000km – thank those annual or 15,000km intervals.

What’s Are Their Interiors Like?

Clues abound as to how these two similarly sized large SUV models accommodate seven occupants.

The first comes in their shape. The bluff front of the Acadia is matched by a big, boxy behind, whereas its rival is rakish and racier – note the tiny rear-side glass.

Holden Acadia Vs Mazda CX-9

Open the power tailgates and the CX-9 is beautifully finished with lush carpet, but the tailgate slope impinges on boot space and indeed rear seat headroom. Likewise, the third-row is best with its thick and supportive, tilted-up bench that allows taller occupants’ legs to relax. But there’s less headroom, reduced visibility and no air vents compared with its rival.

Holden Acadia Vs Mazda CX-9

The LTZ-V’s boot is finished in cheap plastic, though in addition to greater luggage height (perfect for tall baggage to stand upright) it also has underfloor wet storage. The sixth and seventh seat may be flatter, and less accommodating than its rival, but the airier ambience is significantly better, and there are both overhead air vents, map lights and a side fast-charge USB port. This is as functional as SUVs come and, brilliantly, it’s all standard on LT and LTZ too.

It’s just a shame that Holden has left the 60 percent larger portion of the split middle bench on the passenger side … which would be the driver’s side in America where the smaller and easier-to-slide portion would be on the kerbside, which is safer for kids to hop in from; but that’s a drive market hangover that many other vehicles suffer from. Mazda nails this point and wins the entry-and-egress race via those centre doors because the 40 percent of the rearseat opens on the kerb side.

Otherwise, picking between these two is probably a matter of how tall your kids are, and how often the furthermost row will be used. That’s also the case because in a five-seat format both have enormously similar boot volumes and pretty much the same (stacks of) third, fourth and fifth passenger legroom. But that’s especially the case because the further up-front you go, the more the CX-9 Azami LE starts reeling its rival in.

Holden Acadia Vs Mazda CX-9

With broad seats, tactile controls, and immaculate fit-and-finish common to every model grade, this flagship injects an emphatic does of premium-ness into the equation with superb leather and wood. It’s hard to believe it costs less than its rival, because it feels $10K pricier in here.

Holden Acadia Vs Mazda CX-9

The Acadia LTZ-V is out of its depth at this level. Even the LT shares the superbly slick 8.0-inch touchscreen, which bests its competitor’s infotainment thanks to higher quality graphics and camera quality, a quicker response rate and predictive-text nav address entry.

It really is brilliant, but heck, the $21,000-cheaper LT even shares the fake grey-wood trim of this supposedly top-spec model. Other than a bit of leather on the seats, and a colour driver screen, you wouldn’t pick it visually from the cheapest version.

Holden Acadia Vs Mazda CX-9

It’s also potentially problematic because the LTZ-V’s cabin – as with its rear packaging – is focused on functionality, with more storage including a huge centre console bin and middle-row sliding draw the highlights, plus rubbery controls and average switchgear all feeling more $45K than $65K-plus. Sealing that impression was poor fit-and-finish, particularly around the shutlines of the lower console and door trims, plus wavy rooflining where it meets the windscreen.

Holden Acadia Vs Mazda CX-9

Whether bottom or top specification, Mazda would have none of that – its product feels beautifully built, a real high-quality investment. Conversely, though, it arguably doesn’t focus heavily enough on third-row room and amenities or boot space like the Holden expertly does.

What Are They Like To Drive?

Only an Acadia LTZ-V with FWD could be supplied for this test, but we then tried an LT and LTZ AWD for good measure. And not just for those cheaper models’ better value, they’re the driving picks as well.

Rolling on 20-inch tyres mandates an Australian-tuned adaptive suspension that is mostly impressive in isolation. The only caveat is that in Comfort mode the Holden is about as cushy as the single-setting CX-9’s suspension (which also deals with 20s. Yet a driver must flick to Sport to match that rival’s level progress and general body control tightness – in other words, less sea-sick behaviour – because otherwise there’s a bit too much head toss.

Holden Acadia Vs Mazda CX-9

Testing the LT then LTZ on 18s with single-setting suspension draws sharp relief, it feels firmer yet the chubbier tyres round off sharp-edged potholes and craggy country surfaces with aplomb. This is the suspension to challenge Mazda, and it’s worth noting up front…

Whether buying this Azami LE or a base Sport, mid Touring or upper-mid GT, the ride quality and body control is utterly sublime, teaming beautifully with standard AWD, crisply mid-weighted steering, and a flawless auto in Sport mode to feel like the most dynamic two-tonne hatchback you’ve ever driven. This Japanese large SUV is a driver delight, and if anything it just needs a more energetic engine.

With only 170kW of power at 5000rpm, but 420Nm of torque at 2000rpm, the 2.5-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder has a diesel-like calmness only with added refinement. It doesn’t have to work hard, unless performance is requested. Then it pants a bit – though near-silently, mind.

Tellingly, it used comparable fuel on test (12.5 litres per 100 kilometres versus 11.4L/100km) despite the theory that a downsized turbo-four should slurp less than an old-school petrol V6 (albeit one with cylinder deactivation and stop-start tech).

Holden Acadia Vs Mazda CX-9

There are a few contrasts with the Holden, which has much lighter but quicker and dartier steering, and more reactive throttle response no doubt in part due to a short first gear inside the nine-speed auto. Low road noise levels are actually competitive with its rival, as is the general country-touring waftiness – though these aspects don’t quite gel with the over-eager steering/throttle, nor the rev-happy V6.

Holden Acadia Vs Mazda CX-9

With 231kW at 6000rpm and 367Nm at 5000rpm, the Acadia feels much faster, keener and all-round revvier than its rival. Just forget about FWD here though – if we were its product planners we wouldn’t have imported it as an option, given the woeful degree of front wheelspin that occurs due to that toey engine and short gearing. We’re not talking traffic light drags here, but just merging out of T intersections makes the tyres squeal…

The solution, thankfully, is simple. The one rung down LTZ AWD for just under $60K has the traction smarts to gel with a sporty chassis. The Holden handles well, eagerly and enthusiastically, even if its controls still don’t quite gel as well.

Holden Acadia Vs Mazda CX-9

That extends to the nine-speed auto, which is smooth and also smart when alerted to hills; but on hills you do have to wake it up via the throttle, or else speed plummets even on gradual freeway inclines where it sits plump in ninth at idle where the engine is making very little torque.

Compared with the other supremely intuitive auto, it’s a problem, and it adds to a distinct lack of consistency in its overall execution here. Yet consistency is king with every CX-9…

What Are Their Safety Features Like?

They both score autonomous emergency braking (AEB) as standard, but the Acadia’s blind-spot monitoring works better than its rival’s.

Conversely, the CX-9’s lane-keep assistance works better. Both also get traffic speed-sign recognition, and are 5-star ANCAP performers, evenly matched in the safety stakes.

So, Which One Wins And Why?

The best Acadias are the LT or LTZ AWD for under $60K. Well-equipped, without trying to be premium, they ride more smoothly than this overpriced LTZ-V, handle better than the FWD models, emphasising the nicely packaged cabin and reducing expectations of premium-ness.

Holden started with sharp pricing at the entry level, but $10K-plus gaps between model grades is absurd, and a flagship that costs more than the top CX-9 is insane.

The Mazda is not as well packaged, but it embarrasses not only its rival here, but also the likes of an Audi Q7 or Mercedes-Benz GLE in terms of real luxury and quality, and smooth drivability. Its seats are also brilliant, its cabin classy, its auto flawless, its ride smooth, handling engaging and the ‘step up’ through the range is completely and utterly enticing.

Either way, the CX-9 Azami LE is by some margin the better large SUV here – it really does wipe the floor with its rival, given that it’s the only one that feels properly premium and suitably indulgent.

Holden Acadia Vs Mazda CX-9


Dan DeGasperi

Dan DeGasperi