Rarely do you buy a three-row crossover SUV because it is fun to drive. Comfort, convenience, utility and plenty of seat belts are top priorities. However, these attributes normally arrive at the expense of handling, acceleration and fuel efficiency. The all-new 2016 Mazda CX-9 covers all bases. It’s a three-row SUV that won’t leave driving enthusiasts wishing they didn’t have to grow up.
The Mazda CX-9 is a four-door, seven-passenger crossover SUV that’s been completely redesigned for 2016. It’s available in four trims: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and Signature. The front-wheel drive crossover is powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that’s paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is available on all trims and is standard on the Signature model.
All-new for the 2016 model year, Mazda’s midsize crossover proves you don’t have to give up driving fun just because you need comfortable seating for seven. Affordable pricing and dynamic styling inside and out add to its broad appeal.
The 2016 CX-9’s striking grille immediately evokes Mazda’s spirit. Lifted from the fun-loving sedans and hatchbacks, the oversized grille and contemporary front fascia provide curb appeal that should please younger buyers. At the same time, mature shoppers will appreciate the tasteful execution and premium design.
The CX-9’s proportions are nearly perfect. It is difficult to design a three-row crossover that looks trim and sleek while offering enough room inside to house seven passengers. Mazda calls the look “Kodo – Soul of Motion,” and the new design theme is bold, curvy and attractive.
The outgoing CX-9 was handsome enough but tended to fade into the background. The 2016 CX-9 is ready to take its place in the spotlight. The new profile and premium touches had many passersby inquiring if Mazda’s crossover was actually a much pricier, premium SUV. Their look of disbelief when we pointed out the Mazda badges and the CX-9’s starting price should be reassuring to the brand’s top brass. If the goal was to create an upmarket crossover capable of stealing attention from European automakers, that mission has been accomplished.
The base Sport model comes with standard 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and taillights, daytime running lights, power side mirrors, a body-colored roofline spoiler and dual exhaust outlets. Higher trim models are equipped with 20-inch alloy wheels, a moonroof, chrome molding, LED fog lights and more.
While the CX-9 bends the rules and offers plenty of fun behind the wheel, most shoppers investigating the three-row crossover segment are looking for a spacious, well-appointed cabin. Thankfully, Mazda’s crossover doesn’t disappoint.
The front seats are roomy and comfortable. Base models are wrapped in attractive cloth, while higher trims receive exclusive leather treatments. Second-row passengers will find the accommodations equally inviting, and are treated to a reclining 60/40 split-folding seat that has a center armrest with cup holders. Third-row seats are not quite as generous, but are useable for two adults under the right conditions. Two smaller children will find them adequate, especially if the second row is adjusted closer to the front seats to provide additional legroom for the third-row occupants.
Cargo space is decent, but trails that of rival three-row crossovers. The CX-9 offers 14.4 cubic feet of cargo room with all seats in place, and this expands to 71.2 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded. The space is great for most needs, but it’s on the small side when compared with that of certain rivals. The 2016 Honda Pilot offers up to 16.5 cubic feet with all seats in place and up to 83.9 cubes with the second and third rows folded. Meanwhile, the Dodge Durango provides 17.2 cubes behind the third row and 84.5 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity.
The 2016 Mazda CX-9 is powered by a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 227 or 250 horsepower depending on whether you fill it up with 87 or 93 octane gasoline. Regardless of your choice at the pump, the CX-9 generates 310 pound-feet of torque. The CX-9 uses a six-speed automatic transmission that sends the power to the front wheels, or all four when optioned with all-wheel drive.
The CX-9 accomplishes what most competitors need a couple extra cylinders to pull off: It delivers peppy performance and provides excellent acceleration.
Fuel economy is very good when compared with that of rivals with equivalent power. Front-wheel drive models are rated at 22/28 mpg city/highway and all-wheel drive versions achieve mileage of 21/27 mpg.
Mazda has a reputation for building affordable cars that are fun to drive. Known as a youthful brand, the manufacturer’s philosophy translates well into a three-row crossover. The steering feel is precise and rewarding, the suspension is a strong balance of sport and comfort, and the brakes are more than adequate for the weight, size and performance of the vehicle. While many crossover SUVs attempt to provide carlike driving dynamics and come up short, the CX-9 truly feels like a sedan from behind the wheel, a fact that can be attributed in part to the CX-9’s smaller dimensions and sport-tuned chassis.
The 2016 Mazda CX-9 is equipped with a premium level of standard technology equipment. The base six-speaker audio system sounds good, and Mazda’s infotainment system has features on the base model that rival those of many top-tier non-premium vehicles. A 7-inch full color touch screen, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, HD radio and access to smartphone applications such as Aha and Pandora are included. All models feature keyless entry, three-zone automatic climate control and more.
Our Signature model included a Bose Centerpoint 2.0 Surround System with 12 speakers, navigation, LED interior accent lighting, a power liftgate, keyless start/stop, rear USB ports and a long list of active safety technology.
The Mazda CX-9 contains a full battery of air bags, antilock brakes, and stability control as standard equipment. All Mazda CX-9 models come with a standard rearview camera.
Higher trim levels are equipped with active safety equipment that includes blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, rear parking sensors and forward collision warning with automatic braking.
Offering excellent standard equipment, plenty of utility and impressive performance, the base CX-9 Sport’s starting price of $31,520 represents superlative value. Opting for all-wheel drive adds $1,800 to the base price.
Our top-trim Signature all-wheel-drive model includes all the tech equipment listed above, a power moonroof, Nappa leather seating, 20-inch alloy wheels, rosewood interior trim and much more for $44,015. Prices do not include a $900 destination charge.
When it comes to optimizing value, the sweet spot might be the one-step-up Touring model that adds leather seating, an 8-inch LCD touch screen, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and a power liftgate for $35,970. Considering the CX-9 takes more than a few cues from the premium crossover playbook, the Touring model is priced significantly below offerings from Infiniti and Lexus and competitively with models like the 2016 Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe and Toyota Highlander.
If you’re a parent who needs the usefulness of a three-row crossover with decent cargo space, you will find the all-new 2016 Mazda CX-9 to be a refreshing take on the modern family vehicle. In a segment that includes some of the best three-row crossovers of all time, the CX-9 emphasizes driving performance over sheer utility, winning favor from enthusiasts along the way.
The CX-9 is designed for drivers who need lots of utility but crave a vehicle that feels connected to the road and is rewarding to drive. The exterior design is fresh and new, even aggressive. The turbocharged engine provides a good balance between power and efficiency. Its 310 pound-feet of torque is enough to make highway passing a breeze, and it allows you to tackle traffic maneuvers without breaking a sweat.
If you’re in the market for a seven-passenger vehicle that looks great and is a blast to drive, the 2016 Mazda CX-9 should be at the top of your shopping list.