What's New for 2010
For 2010, the Mazda CX-9 undergoes a mild exterior and interior styling refresh to reflect the company's latest design identity. Other changes include a revised multi-information display with a rearview camera, real-time traffic functionality for the navigation system, improved interior materials and updated rear ventilation controls with a readout.
One of the most notable changes to the 2010 Mazda CX-9 is a restyled front end that follows the brand's newest upturned grille aesthetic first established on the new Mazda 3. If the latest CX-9 appears to be smiling, there's good reason -- it's a standout crossover among an increasingly crowded field. This large crossover sets itself apart from the competition with tasteful styling, a roomy interior and athletic driving dynamics.
When the CX-9 debuted three years ago, we were immediately impressed with its nimble handling -- it's certainly one of the best three-row vehicles you'll find in this regard. By comparison, other crossovers in this class can come across as rather soulless to drive. We're also fans of the Mazda's driving position -- it's more carlike than the competition's upright minivan posture. Add in easy access thanks to wide-opening doors, excellent build quality, plenty of features and attractive styling inside, and the 2010 Mazda CX-9 becomes a vehicle you'd enjoy driving even if you don't have a family to haul around.
Few competitors can match the roster of positives the CX-9 has to offer, but there are plenty of other crossovers vying for buyers' attention. The Ford Flex is our other top favorite, thanks to its high-quality interior, excellent third-row seat and funky exterior style. Other possible choices include the smaller but more fuel-efficient Toyota Highlander or the Buick Enclave/Chevy Traverse/GMC Acadia triplets, which are roomier but not as enjoyable to drive. In the end, we're sure that if you pick the 2010 Mazda CX-9, it'll put a smile on your face as big as its own.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Mazda CX-9 is a large seven-passenger crossover SUV that's available in three trim levels: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. The entry-level Sport model includes 18-inch alloy wheels, three-zone automatic climate control, full power accessories, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, a trip computer, Bluetooth and a six-speaker CD player with an auxiliary audio jack. Stepping up to the Touring version adds heated mirrors, leather upholstery (for front- and second-row seats) and heated power front seats. The range-topping Grand Touring adds 20-inch wheels, xenon headlights, foglights, rain-sensing wipers, keyless ignition and entry, driver-seat memory presets, a second-row armrest, dark silver and wood grain cabin accents, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and special blue cabin illumination.
Available options are dependent on trim level and include a sunroof, a power rear liftgate, a navigation system with a rearview camera, a stand-alone rearview camera (with a display in the rearview mirror), remote engine start, roof rails and a rear-seat entertainment system with audio and video inputs. Also available is an upgraded Bose surround-sound system with a six-CD changer, satellite radio and an in-dash audio display.
Powertrains and Performance
All 2010 Mazda CX-9s are powered by a 3.7-liter V6 that produces 273 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic with manual shift control is the only transmission available, but buyers can choose between front- or all-wheel drive. Properly equipped, the CX-9 can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
In testing, a front-wheel-drive CX-9 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds, while an AWD model required 8.5 seconds. Compared to competing models, these figures are just about average. Fuel economy is slightly below average, though, at an EPA-estimated 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 18 mpg in combined driving for front-wheel-drive models. All-wheel-drive CX-9s drop by 1 mpg across the board.
Standard safety equipment for all 2010 Mazda CX-9s includes antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control with a rollover sensor, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active head restraints. An optional rearview camera is available on Touring and Grand Touring models, while a blind-spot warning system is standard on the Grand Touring. In government crash testing, the CX-9 scored a perfect five out of five stars for frontal and side crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also awarded the CX-9 its highest rating of "Good" for both frontal-offset and side-impact crashworthiness.
Interior Design and Special Features
For 2010, the Mazda CX-9 receives incremental improvements in terms of interior materials and usability. New leather and cloth seating surfaces along with wood and chrome trim pieces add just a bit of distinction to the already sporty styling. A reworked split-lid center console bin improves access, and a redesigned steering wheel facilitates easier Bluetooth, audio and cruise control operation. Returning are the two-tone leather, red and blue instrument lighting and piano black trim that we're partial to, but so are a few things we don't like, such as subpar plastics and a lack of useful storage cubbies.
The CX-9's second- and third-row seats can easily accommodate normal-size adults. The second row's sliding and recline adjustments provide plenty of legroom for 6-footers, though headroom may be the limiting factor. Access to the third row is easy, thanks to large rear-door openings and a fold-and-slide second row, but the larger doors can be troublesome in tight parking spaces. With the second and third rows folded flat, the CX-9 offers up 101 cubic feet of cargo capacity.
Like many large crossovers, the 2010 Mazda CX-9 provides a comfortable ride for long road trips. Surprisingly, the CX-9 also performs admirably on curvy roads. From behind the driver seat, it feels like a much smaller vehicle, aided by a precise and communicative steering feel -- though it is a bit light on-center. While driving dynamics are a hit on winding back roads, those capabilities also translate well to the tight confines of a city. The compliant suspension soaks up bumps and potholes to provide a smooth, comfortable ride, but we would steer buyers away from the Grand Touring's 20-inch wheels, which tend to make the ride somewhat choppy over the rough stuff.