By: Jag Dhatt
Aaahh…three-row SUV’s, probably one of the most important segments in the auto industry with respect to families. Being a family hauler yet still being nimble for city driving isn’t an easy combination for any SUV, let alone one that can carry seven passengers. However, the Mazda CX-9 may have just found that perfect combination because it delivers on every aspect with only one or two misgivings. And if talking about the Signature trim, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something better.
Mazda doesn’t have a plethora of vehicles – in fact, they only have six models in total. But what they build, they build well. In fact, I admire the brand for putting in their efforts in vehicles that last a long time, sell well, and deliver exceptional value. And in the last few years, Mazda’s styling cues have resonated well with the buyers, as shown by the number of their vehicles on the road.
So, is this the three-row SUV to buy? It just might be and here’s why.
When Mazda had the CX-7, I wasn’t a huge fan. And even when the first iteration of the CX-9 came out, the styling was too rounded for my taste. However, the current generation CX-9 (and in fact, even the CX-5 and CX-3) are examples of great styling. The long hood, aggressive front end, LED lighting, raked windshield, and perfect body proportions make this SUV look the part. The Signature trim adds large 20” wheels that nicely fill out the wheel well. The best part of the CX-9 is that it looks sleek and not overbearing.
Remove all Mazda badging and place any person in the cockpit and I’d bet that every single one would think they were sitting inside a luxury (German) vehicle. Materials are top notch, fit and finish is exceptional and a clean layout really place the CX-9 above the competition. The Signature trim adds Nappa leather contrasted with metal trim, Santos Redwood-trimmed centre console panel and door panels, a premium cross-stitched leather steering wheel, heated and vented front seats (heated outer second row seats) and Signature badging.
Want even more? Keep reading because on the Signature trim, you also get a heated steering wheel, front heated and ventilated seats, heated outboard second row seats, and a pretty impressive Bose sound system.
Overall Room & Cargo Space:
No, it’s not a full-size Durango or Jeep Grand Cherokee, but the 2019 Mazda CX-9 boasts pretty good interior space. The front seats are comfortable and can accommodate tall adults; yes, I will admit that I wish the center console area were slightly narrower to give more knee room, but it’s a minor detail. The second-row seats are again comfortable and they move fore and aft; in addition, the second row seats recline slightly for those longer rides. Now, unless you’re in a Ford Expedition, the third row in most SUV’s in this class aren’t built for adults, unless there’s seven of you who are late to a get-together that’s less than half hour away.
The power tailgate opens up the cargo area and although it’s generous, it’s slightly less than the competition. I will add here that for most average family, the cargo area in most of these vehicles is more than enough for 90% of the time. One aspect in the cargo area that I really like was the hidden underfloor storage space. I wish more manufacturers did this.
That SKYACTIV-G 2.5L 4-cylinder with Dynamic Pressure Turbo (DPT) Engine
Yes, it’s a long name, but the technology is impressive. A couple of years ago, I was in Laguna Beach at Mazda headquarters to view and drive the new SKYACTIV-G engine while it was still being phased in. I thought it impressive then and now, testing it in the newer Mazda vehicles, it shines. While this class usually offers a six-cylinder under the hood, Mazda took a chance by offering ONLY a four-cylinder and I think the gamble paid off. The Mazda SKYACTIV-G is a new generation highly-efficient direct injection engine that achieves the world’s highest gasoline engine compression ratio of 14:1. What this means is better fuel economy and more torque, two concepts that most don’t believe can go together. And we’re more than excited to know that Mazda is now working on SKYACTIV-X, a revolutionary engine that offers the best of both diesel and gasoline engine technologies with none of the disadvantages. We can’t wait!
Last year, we had the opportunity to test the Mazda CX-5 for over five months and it was impressive. Bigger brother CX-9 Signature is equally, if not more, impressive. It’s one of the few three-row SUVs that not only offers a great ride, but great driving dynamics. It feels like you’re driving a smaller SUV; it’s nimble, easy to maneuver around town, but at the same time, offers great stability and comfort on the highway. The retuned suspension is on the stiffer side, but because of engineering, ride quality is quite good. Steering for this size of vehicle is good; it’s not as precise as some of the other models in the Mazda line-up, but come on, it’s an SUV. I had no problem taking any corners with ease and confidence.
Getting in and out of the CX-9 was also simple, for all three rows. My daughters were comfortable during short and long drives and had little to complain about.
The one aspect that some may notice is the engine grunt. I’ve mentioned that I found the new four-cylinder to be a gem. For all intents and purposes, it does everything, but I did find that sometimes, throttle response was slightly on the soft side. Yes, using Sport mode will make things better, but it’s not a V6. What is a bonus here is the because of added sound-deadening materials, you don’t hear the engine much when you punch it.
The 2.5L turbo puts out 227 HP and 310 lb-ft of torque, which as alluded to a few times, is more than enough for 95% of buyers.
What’s New in Tech?
One of the biggest gripes I had with Mazda vehicles was lack of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration into the multimedia interface. Well, it’s here now and works quite well. During a demonstration, I found it quite useful how Mazda separates the telephone interface with Mazda’s built-in system. In simple terms, you can switch between the two by a simple press of a button.
I’ve told many a people who asked which SUV in this category is the best buy, and I’ve maintained that the CX-9 is one of, if not the, top choice. The Signature edition offers a luxury interior that rivals the German brands. Combine that with great looks and a great four-cylinder engine, and you’ve got a winner with the CX-9.