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2022 Mazda CX-9 AWD reveiw

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Mark Savage
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Mazda’s CX-9 mid-size SUV is among the more attractive three row options with its distinctive beak-like nose.

Family vehicles come in all shapes and sizes, but Mazda’s CX-9 mid-size SUV is among the more attractive three row options with its distinctive beak-like nose.

So many SUVs and crossovers are boxy that it’s nice to see a distinguishing characteristic. Amazingly the CX-9’s design dates back to 2016, yet still looks fresh.

THe Mazda’s CX-9 mid-size SUV reviewed here is a top-of-the-line signature edition in a sedate dark Machine Gray Metallic ($595 extra). Black is the only color that doesn’t cost extra, but the smart money is on the Soul Red Metallic that is Mazda’s absolute best, and if you’re paying extra, well, it only makes sense.

Still, several people complimented the Mazda’s look and this model is fine for transporting six people as there are captain’s chairs in the middle row. I drove it to Indianapolis for the Indy 500, and it comfortably carried three of us and our luggage, then six of us to the racetrack. Oh, the third row is stingy with foot and knee room, but is fine for getting folks around town.

All CX-9 models also now come with all-wheel-drive, which is nice that a favored feature isn’t another add-on.

With just the color being an option here, the signature ended up at $49,030. A base sport model that will seat seven due to its middle row bench seat goes for $36,505 with All Wheel Drive or AWD. There are four other trims between the two extremes, the new Touring Plus trim that adds heated and cooled front seats, 20-inch alloy wheels, plus leather seats, is a prime choice at $41,660.

All will drive roughly the same as the engine, transmission and suspensions are identical.

Mazda’s fine 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G turbo I4 delivers ample power, rated at 227 horsepower on regular gas and up to 250 horsepower. Power is good and smoothly delivered via the SkyActiv-Drive 6-speed automatic, including a console-mounted toggle to engage Sport mode. That firms the steering some and creates more low-end torque for faster getaways from stoplights. In either Normal or Sport, the CX-9 hits highway speeds well before you run out of the entry ramp.

Handling is typical Mazda responsive, making the CX-9 among the most fun SUVs to drive, especially below $50K. And the suspension is adept at soaking up bumps without the ride turning floaty.

Mazda also employs something it calls G-Vectoring Control Plus that adjusts the turbo engine and applies the four-wheel disc brakes based on steering effort. The upshot is that if a driver eases up on acceleration and begins a turn, the power from the AWD shifts toward the front wheels to provide increased traction. Not a big deal in dry summer weather, but it would be helpful in our sloppy winter and fall seasons.

Inside, the CX-9 interior tends toward luxury, yet the pricing is just below entry-level luxury models by other makes.

The gray SUV went with a black over brown interior design, the seats being perforated brown Nappa leather with quilted leather outer edges and bolsters, plus white piping, all to insinuate luxury. Mazda uses real wood, Santos Rosewood, for trim on the dash and doors, but also adds a thin chrome ring atop the console, which is gloss black and therefore reflects on sunny days.

The steering wheel is leather-wrapped with the usual controls on its hub. Plus aluminum trim is used sparsely on the dash and doors, while big Bose stereo speakers fill the front lower door corners. All of this makes the CX-9 look and feel like a luxury vehicle.

Seats are powered up front and include heating and cooling there, with just heated second row seats. Rear seat occupants also get their own climate controls and plug-ins for phones and other electronics in the big center console between the captain’s chairs. Third row folks have plug-ins too.

Everyone enjoyed the seat comfort, except the driver. While hip and back support is good, I found the butt pocket to be too hard and my tailbone was burning after about 100 miles. A lunch break was welcome, but the feeling returned further down the road.

Climate controls are easily adjusted via big buttons and knobs below the center dash air vents. However, Mazda’s radio is still clumsily adjusted via a console knob. There is no touchscreen. This remains a huge source of consternation and makes adjusting the radio and other on-screen activities difficult while driving. Good news? The screen is 10+ inches and mounted atop the dash.

Mazda also includes wireless phone charging beneath the dash’s center stack and a navigation system is standard on Signature. However, the nav screen defaults to a fairly close-up view and reverts back to that even after using that center knob to adjust for a longer, say ¼- to ½- mile view to see what’s ahead. Ugh, if I adjust it, I want it to stay where I set it.

In back is the requisite power hatch and the third row seats easily fold forward to create a reasonable cargo area. There also is storage beneath the cargo floor and there are fairly large indentations to the sides behind the wheel wells, great for placing items you simply don’t want to trundle about.

Mazda delivers a fine smart cruise control system and the safety equipment we’ve all come to love and demand, such as rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot warning, 360-degree monitor, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, front and rear parking sensors, and an adaptive front light system.

Other goodies include manual second-row side window shades, 2 memory settings for the driver’s seat, visors with extenders, an inside release for the fuel door and one-step releases for the second row seats to allow for passengers to more easily slide into the third row.

There also is a sunroof, but it’s among the smallest I’ve seen the last couple years, just covering the front seats. Most SUVs and crossovers now offer dual-pane panoramic sunroofs, which I would expect the next generation CX-9 to include.

Also be aware that the center console is rather wide and leads to a bit smaller footwell space for the driver and front seat passenger.

Finally, on the practical fuel economy front, the EPA rates the Mazda at 20 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. I managed 25.9 mpg in mostly highway driving with three of us aboard and our luggage.

Hybrids will do better, but for its size (nearly 200 inches long) and weight (just over 4,400 pounds) the CX-9’s figures are more than competitive.

For families needing space, comfort and AWD, Mazda’s CX-9 is a solid, stylish, sensible choice.

FAST STATS: 2022 Mazda CX-9 AWD

Hits: Stylish looks, good power, sporty handling and smooth ride. Quiet interior, 3 rows of seats, power hatch, wireless charger, heated/cooled front seats, heated rear seats, smart cruise and solid safety devices, big climate buttons, large screen, sport driving mode, good mpg.

Misses: Console-controlled info screen is a clumsy pain, navigation defaults to close-up view even after adjustment, no touchscreen, small sunroof and firm butt pocket makes driver’s seat tiring on long drives.

Made in: Hiroshima, Japan

Engine: 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G turbo I4, 227 hp/ 310 torque (250 hp, w/93 octane gas)

Transmission: SkyActiv-drive 6-speed, automatic w/Sport mode

Weight: 4,409 lbs.

Wheelbase: 115.3 in.

Length: 199.4 in.

Cargo: 14/4-71.2 cu.ft.

MPG: 20/26

MPG: 25.9 (tested)

Base Price: $47,435 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $45,883

Options:

Machine gray metallic paint, $595

Test vehicle: $49,030

Sources: Mazda, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

Mark Savage writes the auto review column, Savage On Wheels, for WUWM (formerly for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) and Savageonwheels.com. He is the former executive editor of American Snowmobiler magazine and FineScale Modeler magazine, both part of Kalmbach Media in Waukesha.
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