Read the 2016 Mazda CX-9's introduction to our long-term fleet.
See all of the 2016 Mazda CX-9's long-term updates.
What We Got
The Mazda CX-9's evolution was a long time coming. It had just two refreshes in the nine years before the 2016 model year came along, which made us eager to get behind the wheel. For one, the V6 engine was gone, replaced by a turbocharged 2.5-liter engine whose fuel efficiency made it an instant segment leader. More driver assist technologies and an advanced touchscreen navigation system rounded out the major updates.
The 2016 CX-9 came in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring variations, similarly equipped to the previous year's trims. And a top-tier Signature trim was added in 2016, using nicer leather and accents but otherwise identical to the Grand Touring.
We decided on a CX-9 Grand Touring, well-equipped with standard features including push-button start, four USB jacks, heated and power-adjustable seats, an 8-inch touchscreen, 20-inch wheels, a sunroof, a navigation system, a premium sound system, a head-up display, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
The new turbo engine was rated at 24 mpg combined, 5 mpg better than the outgoing model. We had the option of adding all-wheel drive to the car for $1,800, which we did but which knocked 1 mpg off the combined rating. We also went for a $450 trailer hitch. Machine Gray paint tacked on another $300, bringing the total for our 2016 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD to $43,620.
"A four-cylinder engine in a big three-row crossover? For a lot of people, that might sound like a recipe for pokey acceleration. But the CX-9's turbocharged mill has enough power to satisfy. There's no lag or softness at low rpm when you first accelerate from a stop. Mash the gas for a highway entrance ramp, and the CX-9 gets up to 60 or 70 mph respectably well. True, our acceleration testing shows that the CX-9 is ultimately a bit slower than the Honda Pilot and some other big crossovers with V6s. And maybe that slowness would be more pronounced if you're towing a trailer. But for normal driving, the CX-9's turbo-four is powerful enough for my needs." — Brent Romans, senior editor
"This thing handles great. It feels light on its feet, and the steering is pretty spot-on in terms of feel and feedback. And the 20-inch rubber on our Grand Touring seems much more absorbent than the 20-inch tires that were fitted to the last generation. Not only is the ride better than I remember from the last generation, the cornering grip feels more secure on uneven surfaces." — Dan Edmunds, director of vehicle testing
"This déjà vu road trip set a couple of new high-water marks for the CX-9. I drove it 461.4 miles on a single tank, up from the previous best of 408.9 miles. The best calculated fuel economy I saw was 26.7 mpg, which beat the EPA highway rating and destroyed the previous best of 24.5 mpg set in December. In fact, the entirety of this 1,956-mile trip went down at an average of 25 mpg and beat that previous best tank." — Dan Edmunds
"We averaged 20.6 mpg in August, which knocked our lifetime average down a bit. Still, I'm satisfied seeing mileage in the low 20s. It's better than the fuel economy we got from our 2016 Honda Pilot (20 mpg) and 2014 Toyota Highlander (19.8 mpg) long-term test vehicles." — Brent Romans
"The decisions the automatic climate control makes are sort of maddening. I always wanted it to be moving more air around, except for the times it decided to turn the A/C on full blast when it seemed utterly unnecessary. I wound up just switching to manual climate control and was much happier for it." — Will Kaufman, staff writer
"The driver's seat felt fairly comfortable and supportive over the long haul. No complaints. But I don't think I'd buy the light-colored interior. I wear blue jeans often — especially on family trips like this — and the tan leather took on a blue tint by the time the trip was over." — Dan Edmunds
"I used the CX-9 to pick up a rolling toolbox I'd abandoned at my mom's house around a decade ago. The two-part box stands roughly 4 or 5 feet tall when assembled, so I was a little concerned about fitting it inside, but I didn't need to be. It fit perfectly. The top part went on the folded second row, and the bottom part just squeezed between the second row and rear hatch. The only problem was the rattling I endured over the eight-hour drive back home." — Carlos Lago, senior writer
"We loaded four suitcases and two of those flip-top storage boxes behind the second row, and then piled in our coats and a couple of backpacks. And there are numerous other gifts hidden in an underfloor compartment. The numbers suggest there is less cargo space than the last generation, but it doesn't feel like it." — Dan Edmunds
"Our CX-9 has a feature for the second-row seat that I think parents of young children will appreciate. The right side of the Mazda's 60/40-split seat (the smaller 40) has a special function that allows you to move the seat forward to provide access to the third-row seat even if you have a child safety seat installed. Normal operation is that the seatback tilts forward and then the seat slides. An installed safety seat can hinder this. In the CX-9, though, the special operation allows the whole seat to tilt up a bit and then slide forward. The 'walk-through' space isn't quite as big compared to the normal operation because the seatback isn't tilted forward as much, but it's a lot better than not being able to move the seat at all." — Brent Romans
"The design looks great but certainly seems to put style ahead of functionality. Not that it isn't functional — there's a good-size center console and I like the small bin in front of the shifter — but compared to the Toyota Highlander and its storage shelf that spans nearly the entire width of the dashboard, the CX-9 is less accommodating." — Ed Hellwig, senior editor
Audio and Technology
"I'm a fan of our new Mazda CX-9 overall, but they've simply failed on the adaptive cruise control system. One of the main advantages of having adaptive cruise in the city is to ease the pain of the rush-hour slog, yet the CX-9's system will not work below 20 mph. I can't think of a reason why this is a good idea." — Jonathan Elfalan, road test manager
"If I were deciding between three-row family haulers, it would be a hard choice because everything on the market now is just so good. When just about everything is solid, sometimes a small thing like a butt-kicking stereo can be the tiebreaker. I'm a sucker for a hearty audio system and this thing delivers." — Matt Jones, senior consumer advice editor
"The right front tire was low ... I also found the culprit: a nail in the tire's tread. I pumped up the tire back to spec and drove over to a local tire shop. They patched it for me in about an hour. Total cost: $20." — Brent Romans
"Drove to San Diego County for a wedding this past weekend and the Mazda CX-9 was a great road trip companion. It was quiet, comfortable and had plenty of power for passing on the highway. I liked the head-up display we have in our Grand Touring model. It keeps your eyes trained on the road as all the pertinent information is displayed on the windshield. It was also a hot weekend and the tri-zone climate control cooled the cabin nicely." — Ron Montoya, senior consumer advice editor
"'Wow,' my passenger said, unprompted. 'Mazda went luxury with this thing, eh?' Why, yes, it did, or at least that was the idea. But you never know until the real-world reactions come in. In this case, I think my passenger's right: Mazda has imbued the CX-9 with a genuinely upscale feel. Is it as nice as an Acura MDX? My advice to crossover shoppers would be to drive both and see what you think." — Josh Sadlier, senior manager, content strategy
Maintenance & Repairs
Mazda recommended routine service on the CX-9 every 7,500 miles. There were three such visits, averaging out to $100 each during our test, consisting of oil changes and tire rotations. Those were our only dealer stops because the car otherwise kept its nose clean. Three hundred dollars is just a little better than what we spent on our last Honda Pilot ($343) and Acura MDX ($384), though it can't touch the Toyota Highlander ($0, free maintenance plan).
There was just one recall in the past year. It was an issue the service center handled without us asking. Apparently, there was a service bulletin (MSP48) out for loosening bolts on the liftgate. Those were inspected and torqued to spec under warranty, all while our car was in for an oil change.
Fuel Economy and Resale Value
Observed Fuel Economy:
Our CX-9 Grand Touring AWD was EPA-rated at 23 mpg combined (21 city/26 highway). We averaged 20.9 mpg after 22,000 miles. We broke the 26 mpg barrier on a half-dozen occasions. One such time, we set a range record of 461 miles. But the highway miles were neutralized by a slew of fill-ups in the high teens.
Resale and Depreciation:
The MSRP on our 2016 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD was $43,620. In one year we rolled the odometer up to 22,326 miles. In this condition, the Edmunds TMV Calculator valued the CX-9 at $31,096 based on a private-party sale. Depreciation was rather high, at nearly 29 percent of the original MSRP based on a private-party sale.
Capable of over 400 miles between fuel fill-ups and higher mpg than most rivals. A driver's seat supportive enough to remain comfortable over those long drives. Thoughtful family touches, namely for those in the child car-seat years.
Despite a combined rating of 23 mpg, we averaged just 21 mpg in 22,000 miles. Its four-cylinder engine is not as fast as some six-cylinder competitors. Interior space is not as functional as others.
The Mazda CX-9 is worth consideration for its differences. Our as-tested mpg is among the best in the three-row SUV class, even if the EPA says it should be better. The Mazda also feels more nimble than many of its peers. It's arguably the most stylish. But don't buy it for the resale value since it doesn't historically hold up well.
|Total Body Repair Costs:||None|
|Total Routine Maintenance Costs:||$318.79 (over 12 months)|
|Additional Maintenance Costs:||$20 to repair a flat tire|
|Warranty Repairs:||Tighten liftgate bolts (technical service bulletin MSP48)|
|Scheduled Dealer Visits:||3|
|Unscheduled Dealer Visits:||None|
|Days Out of Service:||None|
|Breakdowns Stranding Driver:||None|
|Best Fuel Economy:||26.7 mpg|
|Worst Fuel Economy:||14.8 mpg|
|Average Fuel Economy:||20.9 mpg|
|Best Range:||461.4 miles|
|True Market Value at service end:||$31,096 (private-party sale)|
|Depreciation:||$12,524 (29% of original MSRP)|
|Final Odometer Reading:||22,326 miles|
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.