A three-row crossover SUV is the hauler of choice for a lot of families, but many of the models in this class can come across as pretty boring. If that's your opinion as well, then Mazda has an alternative: the stylish and sporty (but still sensible) CX-9.
New or used, a Mazda CX-9 punches above its price range. Its cabin is upscale and the fun-to-drive factor is high. The latest-generation CX-9 is more polished and fuel-efficient than the original model, but either way we think the CX-9 is a great choice for shoppers wanting something that's both practical and fun to drive.
Current Mazda CX-9
The Mazda CX-9 is available in Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and Signature trims. All are powered by a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. It's rated at 227 horsepower, or 250 hp when run on premium gas. Front-wheel drive is standard on the first three trims. All-wheel drive is standard on Signature and optional on all others.
The base Sport is respectably equipped with features such as alloy wheels, three-zone automatic climate control and a 7-inch touchscreen. Touring models add leather seating, power front seats with heating, keyless ignition and entry, a power liftgate, blind-spot monitoring and low-speed automatic braking. The Grand Touring gets you 20-inch wheels, a sunroof, a Bose stereo, navigation and more safety features, while the Signature model tops out the line with all of above plus premium leather upholstery. Many of the features offered on the Grand Touring model are offered as options on the Touring.
In our reviews, we have found the Mazda CX-9 enjoyable to drive. It might have a four-cylinder engine (most rivals have V6s), but it's punchy and provides suitable acceleration when you need it. The CX-9 also has a solid connection to the road. You'll enjoy how this Mazda seems to have been designed with drivers in mind. The only significant drawback is utility; the third-row seat and cargo area aren't as big as what you'll find on some rival crossovers. First- and second-row seats, however, are roomy and comfortable, and the CX-9's classy and well-finished interior sets a new benchmark. Overall, we think this Mazda is a great choice for a three-row crossover.
Used Mazda CX-9 Models
The current Mazda CX-9 represents the model's second generation, which debuted for the 2016 model year. Compared to the earlier CX-9, the latest model is more stylish and upscale. It also has more advanced safety and technology features.
The first-generation CX-9 was introduced for 2007 and was produced through 2015. In its debut year, the CX-9 was powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that made 263 hp. A more powerful 3.7-liter V6 (with 273 hp) replaced the 3.5 in '08, but the original CX-9 was hardly lacking for power, so we wouldn't discourage anyone from purchasing the smaller V6. For the rest of its model run, Mazda made only minor adjustments, which included refreshed exterior styling and revised availability of standard and optional features.
Like most other Mazda models of the time, the CX-9 was offered in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trims. All were well equipped, but look at Touring to get leather upholstery, power-adjustable and heated front seats, and more safety features. Grand Touring versions added 20-inch wheels, automatic wipers, a power liftgate, and keyless ignition and entry. Common options included navigation, a rear-seat entertainment system and a premium Bose sound system.
We liked this CX-9's roomy interior and strong V6 engine. And like other Mazda models, this CX-9 boasted a sporty feel when going around turns. However, the ride quality (particularly when fitted with 20-inch wheels) was rather firm by segment standards. Also, this CX-9, because of its long production run, became increasingly uncompetitive in its last few years. Rival crossovers of the time typically offered newer technology features, better fuel economy and superior crash test scores.