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- Highs Spirited chassis, handsome exterior, enjoying the drive to the soccer field.
- Lows Missing some luxury features, can't carry as much as other three-row crossovers.
- Verdict The Mazda CX-9 proves that three-row SUVs don't have to be dull.
Three-row crossovers are great for hauling kids and cargo, but they aren’t always pleasing to drive. The Mazda CX-9 is a rare example of a crossover that blends utility with driving fun thanks to its well-sorted chassis and communicative steering. The beautifully designed exterior—featuring a long hood, steeply raked windshield, and fastback rear end—offers mainstream appeal. Inside is an equally lovely cabin, dressed in class-above materials and offering plenty of features. We’d be lying if we told you all this goodness came without compromises: The CX-9's cargo capacity and third-row passenger space are among the lowest in the segment. But when a vehicle is this good—it made our 10Best Trucks and SUVs list for 2017—it's easy to make such concessions.
What's New for 2018?
A few changes are in store for the CX-9 this year. Automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and rear-cross-traffic alert are now standard across the lineup, as is Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control, which reduces engine torque imperceptibly as the vehicle enters a corner to help improve stability. The new Sport package for the Sport model curiously offers no sporting features but rather a suite of active safety stuff such as automatic high-beams, lane-keeping assist, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and adaptive cruise control. This package also adds heated front seats with power adjustment for the driver. The mid-level Touring trim gains a tilt function for the driver’s seat and height and lumbar-support adjustments for the front passenger's chair. Grand Touring models now feature heated second-row seats and a heated steering wheel. Lastly, a new color joins the palette: Soul Red Crystal.
- Sport: $33,125
- Touring: $35,955
- Grand Touring: $41,465
- Signature: $45,310
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Engine, Transmission, and Performance
In a segment where V-6 power is assumed, Mazda took a risk in the name of fuel economy, offering a turbocharged four-cylinder engine as the sole powertrain. Mazda engineers tuned the engine to deliver maximum power at low speeds, which paid off: The gutsy-sounding 250-hp 2.5-liter four has crisp throttle response and peppy acceleration. We expect any vehicle wearing the Mazda badge to offer sharp and accurate steering, superior stopping power, and a composed and refined ride. The CX-9 doesn’t disappoint. Surprisingly light on its feet, this family hauler often drives much smaller than it is.
EPA fuel-economy testing and reporting procedures have changed over time. For the latest numbers on current and older vehicles, visit the EPA’s website and select Find & Compare Cars.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The CX-9’s cabin wows with upscale materials and detailed styling, but it’s short on passenger and cargo space. Its lack of second-row captain’s chairs may disappoint some shoppers, too. Mazda has revised the second-row seats to provide easier access to the third row, and we found the Signature model's power-adjustable front seats to be comfortable and reasonably supportive. The CX-9 is missing a few luxury touches, such as a power-adjustable steering column, a heated steering wheel, and heated rear seats. At least the second and third rows fold flat, which makes it easy for buyers to load bulky items.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Sport models receive a 7.0-inch infotainment screen that responds to touch, voice, and rotary-dial commands. Higher trims get an 8.0-incher with the same functionality. The software is easy to navigate and the graphics are crisp, especially on the larger screen, but we'd love to see Apple CarPlay and Android Auto join the lineup. Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, HD radio, and onboard internet radio apps for Pandora, Stitcher, and Aha are standard.
Safety Features and Crash Test Ratings
Overall Safety Rating (NHTSA)
Some older vehicles are still eligible for coverage under a manufacturer's Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) program. For more information visit our guide to every manufacturer's CPO program.