Test Drives

Mazda CX-9 Review 2017

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Mazda’s colossal seven-seat SUV returns with premium positioning, tonnes of space – and a very convincing price point


A large sport utility vehicle (SUV) with room for seven people, the new, second-gen Mazda CX-9 has no direct rival in Singapore. At just a shade under $200,000 with COE, or $188k, it’s larger and more expensive than seven-seat SUVs such as the Mitsubishi Outlander or Kia Sorento, but is still less costly than premium models like the BMW X5 and Volvo XC90, which usually start at $300k with COE.

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Dis-counting the Mazda BT-50 pickup truck, which is actually a Ford Ranger in disguise, Mazda’s biggest car has always been the CX-9. So there’s no getting around the car’s size: It’s huge. At 5.08-metres long, 1.75-metres tall and 1.97-metres wide, it is slightly bigger than an Audi Q7.

The good thing is, Mazda’s designers prove here that they’re just as good at sexing up SUVs as they are at fun and sporty cars like the MX-5 and Mazda6 wagon. The only thing we don’t like, as a consequence, is that the thick, raked A-pillars and third-row passenger seats obscure the driver’s vision.

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But the design will be a winning point for most buyers in the now extremely fashion-conscious SUV segment. Parallels can be drawn to the latest CX-5, itself a very handsome car, both featuring the angled grille and sculpted ‘stick out’ lights. Like the CX-5, the CX-9 is a good-looking crossover with plenty of road presence, and as close to elegant as a big SUV can be.

Watch More: Want to know how to Mazda CX-9 looks and feels in real life? Watch our walkthrough video here

Amazingly, Mazda has kept the kerb weight just under 1.9-tonnes, which is why the drivetrain never feels strained under the scale of the vehicle. Under the bonnet is a notable powerplant, Mazda’s first modern turbocharged engine, a 2.5-litre inline four with 231hp and a gutsy 420Nm of torque.

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In contrast, the first-gen CX-9 had a huge 3.7-litre V6 engine (with 273hp and 366Nm) and only a handful were sold here as a result. With its ‘second life’ incarnation and much more acceptable 2.5-litre turbo, it’ll suit many more families this time around.

Like other ‘new age’ Japanese turbos – as found in the official Toyota Harrier and new Lexus LS 500 – there’s an emphasis on maintaining that Japanese naturally-aspirated character, which is all about smoothness and civility. Most times the drivetrain is merely a soft whine, it operates smoothly in conjunction with the six-speed automatic, so much so that it emulates the peaceable progress of a non-turbo engine with a CVT. Sporty Mazda fans shouldn’t get too excited, as it’s not hearkening back to the days of the RX-7 FC turbo.   

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There’s no arguing with that 420Nm though. Without it the CX-9 couldn’t get its mass moving, but it’s a good thing the 2.5 turbo is well up to the mark, and can even deliver punchy, quick progress when you need it.

There’s no ‘i-Stop’ start-stop system on the car, but if driven gently you can approximate the official fuel consumption figures quite easily. All-wheel drive is available, for $10,000 more, but it reduces efficiency and acceleration and is nigh useless in Singapore or even Malaysia.

As a Mazda, we expect a little more out of the CX-9 in the driving fun department. While it’s no MX-5, it behaves very well for a car of this type. The ride quality is firm – like many other seven seat SUVs and MPVs – a choice that makes sense when the car is fully loaded. The steering does feel a little lifeless in a straight-line, but it loads up nicely, and the CX-9’s body follows your intentions more faithfully than many a seven-seater does.

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On the inside, the CX-9 embodies its upper-crust ambitions in an obvious manner. There’s lots of leather, premium-feeling plastics and nothing feels entry-level or cheap. Mazda’s soft leather is present in all the primary interaction surfaces (wheel, seat, gearshifter), while gloss black and a two-tone colour scheme further raise the tone of the well built, well-designed cabin.

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Importantly, the car also comes with a premium-filled equipment list. The newest safety features, like Smart City Active Braking, blind spot monitors and Mazda’s vomit-reducing G Vectoring Control are all present. These go a long way to justifying the asking price, as do other niceties such as the sunroof, automatic tailgate, infotainment system and Bose hifi.

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Of course what families want to know is how many will fit. Unlike lesser seven-seaters, the CX-9 claims to be able to fit real people in the third row, those up to 1.6-metres tall. In reality, it is roomy enough for adults maybe up to 1.7-metres tall for trips within Singapore, and that’s already more than less expensive seven-seaters can say.

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With a full load of seven, there’s 230-litres of luggage space, which expands to 840-litres and finally, 1,848-litres with both passenger rows folded away, while the folding system is easy to figure out and does not require mental or physical gymnastics to operate.

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Overall, the CX-9 is a good-looking SUV that’s very much in trend, drives quite well for a seven-seater and comes packed with good, useful features for a reasonable price that offers a superb middle ground for those looking for something a step-up from the usual East Asian seven-seat SUVs, but don’t want to spend big bucks on a luxury European.

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Mazda CX-9
Engine 2,488cc, 16V, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 231hp at 5000rpm
Torque 420Nm at 1000rpm
Gearbox 6-speed automatic
Top Speed 210km/h
0-100km/h 8.2 seconds
Fuel efficiency 9.3L/100km
CO2 213g/km
Price $188,800 with COE
Agent Eurokars Mazda
Availability Now

Verdict: Premium features, technology and style with a not-so-premium price, the Mazda CX-9 is a seven-seat SUV in a class of its own

Also Consider: Kia Sorento, BMW X5

about the author

Derryn Wong
CarBuyer's chief editor has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. He's particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats.