2019 Mazda CX-9 review with video


The basics: 
Starting price: $36,700 + taxes
As tested: $51,800 + taxes
Average fuel economy over a week: 10.1 L/100 kms (23 US MPG)
Competitors: Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander, VW Atlas, etc.

This week, we’re back in a long-time favourite of ours on the channel, the Mazda CX-9. Since its redesign back in 2016, this car has been wowing auto journalists around the world. In fact, the CX-9 has become the flagship vehicle for the brand – meaning that it’s the car meant to showcase what Mazda is capable of. And for 2019, the CX-9 has seen a healthy refresh, taking care of a lot of the minor but still annoying beefs that I had with it. For our full take, make sure to watch the video above and then scroll through the report card below.

– While the CX-9 has a starting price at $36,700, that number is a little deceiving because the base GS model is just front wheel drive. Pile all wheel drive into the mix and this car starts at an even 40 grand. And for that price, you’re looking at quite a lot of car: three rows of seating, three zones of climate control, 18 inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, an 8 way power driver’s seat, heated front seats and blindspot monitoring. And new for 2019, it’s the first Mazda to ever offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. All CX-9s with all wheel drive also now come with Mazda’s iActivsense safety features – lane keep assist, adaptive cruise, auto high beams and autonomous braking. There’s a lot of value there!
– The GS-L adds on a power lift tailgate, bigger 20 inch wheels, a sunroof, leather, a slightly larger infotainment system screen, and a heated steering wheel – and at $43,300 that seems like the real value buy.
– The GT is the best seller in Canada, making up almost 40% of CX-9 sales, and it layers on a whole bunch of new features that weren’t previously available in this car: ventilated front seats, a 360 degree parking camera, a new digital instrument cluster in front of the driver and power folding side mirrors
– And our as-tested top-tier Signature trim piles on the luxury appointments like Nappa leather, real rosewood inlays and new for 2019, a frameless rear view mirror. And the Signature trim interior is one of the my absolute favourites on the market these days. It looks and feels amazing
– And what I like about this line-up is that there’s a choice for anyone – from the value conscious buyer who wants excellent standard features, all the way up to the luxury buyer who wants all the bells and whistles
– But even still, 51 grand for what you’re seeing as tested is phenomenal value and has the CX-9 playing in the same sandbox as the Acuras and Lexuses, but at a much more reasonable price point
– Meanwhile, regardless of the trim you choose, you’re getting, I think, the best looking seven passenger SUV in this class. I love that long, sweeping athletic hood, the sharp drop-away off the nose. And Mazda designers pulled of some trick of the eye here. It really doesn’t look like a big, hulking three row family hauler
– But it still manages to have a top safety pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
– All trims are given the same powertrain – a 2.5 litre turbocharged 4-cylinder – which, on paper, sounds like it just wouldn’t be enough engine for a car of this size. But it’s actually quite eager, putting out 227 horsepower and a nice kick of torque for some surprisingly good off the line performance or passing prowess on the highway
– And while many other SUVs are going up to seven, eight or even nine speed automatic transmissions – the CX-9 seems stuck in the past a bit with a lowly six speed. But the big reason why these companies are increasing the number of gears is because they want to improve fuel economy. And despite this transmission, Mazda has managed to do quite well on that front. We’ve averaged 10.1 L/100 kms this week – that’s 23 US MPG – which puts it well ahead of the tests we’ve done on all of its major competitors (Pathfinder, Highlander, Pilot)
– And despite those stronger fuel economy results, it’s the most exhilarating to drive in that pack as well. Mazda’s G-Vectoring control, which helps keeps the car feel planted and under control through the corners, has been further enhanced for 2019. The company has reworked the CX-9’s suspension to reduce body roll in the corners, they’ve also improved the steering feel. And it all comes together to give you an SUV that really doesn’t feel like a big SUV
– Noise dampening has been further improved for 2019. Some thicker sounds absorbing materials have been put into the ceiling and cargo area. And we’re seeing 65 decibels at 100 kms/hr – which isn’t whisper quiet – but we’re also sporting some beefy winter tires on our test vehicle this week
– Elsewhere in the interior – seat comfort is good but fairly firm – which may not not be everyone
– And the Mazda Connect infotainment interface – which uses a click wheel when you’re in motion or can be controlled by a touchscreen when you’re at a stop – is fairly straightforward to use. It’s great to see Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for 2019 – because I know that can be a deal breaker for a lot of people these days
– The second row is roomy enough for me at 6’2 to happily spend some time back there and it’s fantastic that heated second row seats come on all but the base trim

– One thing that this small engine just can’t muster compared to its competitors is towing capacity. While the Highlander and Pilot can bench 5000 pounds and the Pathfinder kicks that up to 6000 pounds, the CX-9 tops out at 3,500 pounds – which would definitely limit you to a smaller trailer
– I was disappointed to see now paddle shifters on the steering wheel. We’re seeing them put into everything these days – even that Honda Odyssey minivan we were in over the summer had them- and given how surprisingly sporty the CX-9 feels, this would be a prime candidate
– While I generally like the infotainment system, I would like to see a better home screen display, showing navigation, what’s playing through the sound system and your phone information all in one snapshot
– And while it’s great that a 360 degree parking camera is now an option, it’s one of the most grainy we’ve come across – which makes it much less helpful than many others on the market these days
– While there’s plenty of space for front facing car seats, rear facing mode will make it a bit tight for passengers up front. We’re measuring out 28 inches from the back of the front passenger seat to the glove box, which puts it on par with the Toyota Highlander
– Third row space in this size class of SUVs is always a bit cramped but it seems particularly tight in the CX-9 with just the Highlander measuring out less space. If your second row passengers don’t need as much room, you can slide that second row forward, at which point, space back there will be fine for younger kids but still not great for adults
– With that third row up, by the way, trunk space is limited to 407 litres – which meant there had to be some seriously creative packing to fit our standardized trunk test
– Flip that third row down and cargo room balloons up to 1082 litres. But that’s still less than you see from its big competitors, with the Honda Pilot measuring out 500 more litres
– And while it’s cool that an auto-lift tailgate comes on all but the base trim of the CX-9, even when you adjust it to go as high as it can, it’s still to low for taller adults. I’ve bonked my head more than once this week loading up the trunk

Family Wheels report card:
Family Wheels driver comfort score: 4.5/5
Family Wheels interior layout score: 3.5/5
Family Wheels infotainment system score: 3.5/5
Family Wheels interior noise score: 3.5/5 (65 dB at 100 kms/h)
Family Wheels performance score: 4/5
Family Wheels rear passenger score: 3.5/5
Family Wheels trunk score: 4/5
Family Wheels fuel economy score: 4/5
Family Wheels build quality score: 4.5/5
Family Wheels value score: 4.5/5

Family Wheels overall score: 39.5/50= 79%

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