Which SUV? Ι Mazda’s Latest CX-9 Is The Large 7-seater SUV New Benchmark

I had just finished a meeting within walking distance of the Mazda showroom when I suddenly decided to have a quick look inside.

I was not expecting what would eventually be one of the most exciting showroom visits I’d ever experienced and I’ve been here several times before. This visit ended up lasting for over an hour.

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I swung open the glass doors and was immediately greeted by an SUV that had caught my eyes many times before on the road.

The Mazda CX-9 literally stopped me in my tracks. It was jaw-droppingly gorgeous. I was speechless!

After about an hour of going through the CX-9, assisted by a very helpful and knowledgeable Sales Consultant, Md Khairul Anwar A Emran, I was convinced that this is the new large 7-seater SUV benchmark, especially after hearing the price. I found myself asking Khairul several times “how much is it again?” just to be sure I heard it correctly.

A Classy Exterior

The CX-9 doesn’t look generically Japanese at all. Swap the logos on the hood, boot lids and wheel centre caps with that of a premium European brand’s and I’d be convinced it was a new release from that manufacturer.

After a couple of minutes of admiring it from a distance I got closer to the CX-9 and immediately noticed how much Mazda’s build quality, material selection and finishing had improved. It was flawless!

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The lines seemed to gracefully flow from every angle. My favorite perspective has to be the front end with the long hood and the short overhangs, those beady-eyed adaptive LED headlights and the chrome accents surrounding the massive grille. It definitely demands the presence that it rightfully deserves.

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Moving toward the rear, the chrome accents that surround the window panels and the chrome “Samurai” blades that run the entire length of the bottom of the front and rear doors really makes the 5.1 metre long CX-9 look more aggressive and sportier. Supporting all that beauty are the sporty multi-spoke 20” wheels wrapped in 255/50R20 Falken tyres.

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From behind, you’ll find further testament to Mazda’s prowess. The chrome “Blades” running across the automatic boot lid and the bumper along with the twin chrome exhaust tips reaffirms everything positive about the entire package. I’ve also noticed the similarity of the rear LED tail lights to the Mazda MX-5 roadster which is a nice touch.

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Interior Luxuries

Since the interior is where you’ll be spending the most time in, it helps that the front driver and passenger seats are equipped with ventilated seats (cool and heated) and the soft leather used throughout just looks and feels luxurious.

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The one in the showroom had a gorgeous creamy white leather which contrasted the black and aluminium panels perfectly. The front seats are power adjustable with 2 memory settings for the driver.

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The dashboard is a nice combination of high quality soft touch plastic with an aluminium trim that wraps around the centre air-conditioner vents and extends towards the passenger side. Personally, I’d have preferred the dashboard to be wrapped in leather but, looking forward, this will stand up better to the heat and UV rays that can quickly damage the leather.

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The instrument cluster is pleasingly simple and has managed to stay somewhat retro with three circular dials encased in brushed aluminium. The first two are analog dials for the tachometer and speedometer. The third one is a TFT display that shows useful driving and vehicle information. This can be accessed by pressing the info button on the steering wheel.

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Starting the CX-9 is as simple as pressing the big “START/STOP” button to the left of the instrument cluster while stepping on the brake pedal.. Just make sure you have the key fob with you.

The controls for the automatic dual-channel air-conditioners are neatly placed under the vents and I like the fact that I can quickly twist the dial to adjust the temperature.

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Just above the instrument cluster and steering wheel, there’s a Heads Up Display (HUD) unit, or what Mazda calls Active Driving Display, that displays safety and driving information such as your speed, safety warnings and turn by turn directions. It’s very clear and can be adjustable for height and angle.

The steering wheel is just the right size and is elegantly wrapped with soft leather. The audio and phone controls are on the left spoke with the cruise control switches on the right. Not the correct height and reach? The steering wheel manually adjusts for height and reach.

Just behind the steering wheel, you’ll find the light switches on the left stalk and the wiper switches on the right stalk. The CX-9 does come with light and rain sensors so if you’re like me, just have them set on auto.

The centre console is a pleasant mix of chrome, high gloss black (like those expensive pianos) and soft leather. Just ahead of the gear shifter is a storage tray big enough for any size smartphone. Placed neatly around the shifter, you’ll find the MZD Connect System’s dials and switches along with the electronic parking brake and “Sport” switches. Just behind that, you’ll find two cup holders.

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I found the armrest to be of the right height and wide enough to share with the passenger. Lift up the armrest covers and you’ll find plenty of room for the usual stuff we seem to lose forever. This is also where you’ll find 2 USB and 1 AUX sockets.

I found the driver’s seat very comfortable with great support especially after adjusting the lumbar pressure. Everything is within easy reach so you can keep your eyes on the road.

Opening the rear doors, you’ll find the soft leather again on the door panels along with a nice mix of chrome, soft vinyl padding and more high gloss black panels elegantly housing the power window toggle switches.

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As a 7-seater, the second-row seats are equally posh and will comfortably seat 3 adults as leg, knee and shoulder room seem rather ample. These seats can be manually adjusted to recline and slide forward and back.

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This middle seat folds down as an armrest which has two drink holders along with two USB sockets in the compartment under it. However, I do see a small problem if you need to charge your phone with a third passenger present but I’m sure that can easily be overcome with some patience while the phone is being charged and it’s set on silent.

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There’s also a separate control panel for the air conditioner which allows second-row occupants to manually or automatically adjust the temperature and fan speed; essentially making this a 3-channel air-conditioning system. There are two vents just below these controls. For extra shade and privacy, there are also manually retractable sun shades that cover the entire windows of each rear door.

Unfortunately, the third-row passengers don’t benefit from air vents but I’m very sure full blasting all the air-conditioner vents will quickly cool down the entire vehicle.

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Speaking of the 3rd row, the seats are easily folded up or down by pulling the release lever on the back of the seat backs which can be accessed from the rear boot. And, because the second-row seats slide forward and back, getting in and out of the third-row seats is reasonably easy. Although recommended for children, I’m quite sure most adults will find them comfortable for a few hours before stopping for a stretch.

You know Mazda designed the last row with kids in mind by making sure there are big, deep pockets and drink holders on both sides. There’s also a 12V charging socket in the cargo area should the game console need to stay charged for those long road trips.

Infotainment

Right in the centre of the dashboard, you’ll find an 8-inch touch screen which displays the MZD Connect System with controls for Communication, Navigation, Applications, Vehicle and Entertainment settings.

It is a touch screen but will only work when the vehicle is stationary and this is, in my opinion, a very good thing. However, the rotary dial input system behind the gear shifter makes it easier to maneuver through Mazda Connect.

It also responds to voice commands and, of course, you can connect to your smartphone Android Auto or Apple CarPlay either via Bluetooth or the dedicated USB socket in the armrest.

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Thankfully, the current models do come with a 12-speaker BOSE audio system. Just imagine how good your favourite music will sound inside the entire cabin especially with a massive bass speaker neatly fitted within the spare tyre.

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Generous Luggage Space

Accessing the boot space is as easy as pressing a button under the handle to automatically lift up the boot lid or you can also press the button on the key fob. Just like any 7-seater SUV or MPV, you don’t get much cargo space with all seats up but surprisingly there seems to be a bit more in the CX-9 than others I’ve seen.

With all seats up you get a respectable 408 litres and 1,082 litres with the 3rd row seats down. Still, need more space? Lower the 2nd row seats and you get a whopping 2,016 litres. Have a look at this guy carrying garden supplies and a 40 inch wide armoire.

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You get a 60/40 split for the 2nd row and a 50/50 split for the 3rd row. That’s a lot of versatility for your various cargo and lifestyle needs. The 3rd row seats are folded down manually by pulling a lever behind the seatbacks.

The CX-9 has lots of additional storage boxes, a cargo area lamp, under floor storage, cargo net anchors points, a good-sized glove compartment and many storage pockets throughout.

What Moves It?

The CX-9s we get here comes equipped with the latest SKYACTIV-G 2.5T petrol engine, an integral component of Mazda’s latest SKYACTIV vehicle architecture. This 2.5 litre inline 4-cylinder turbocharged engine produces 230 horsepowers and an impressive 420 Nm torque effortlessly moves the 1,834 kg CX-9 from 0 – 100 kph in 7.9 seconds. Not bad at all.

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SKYACTIV-G: The world’s first gasoline engine for mass production vehicles to achieve a high compression ratio of 14.0:1

For daily driving scenarios where you have to carry people and cargo, something this big has to be able to start off from a traffic light, go uphill and occasional do some overtaking, torque is important and 420 Nm is more than enough.

The amount of torque this CX-9 has is usually found in either a turbocharged diesel, a turbocharged 6-cylinder petrol or a naturally-aspirated V8 petrol engine. In short, what the Mazda engineers have achieved with this engine is pure brilliance and class-leading.

I was also very surprised when I found out that it’s compression ratio is 14.0:1; not a common number for petrol engines as it can generate extra heat and engine knocking. This video by a top Malaysian car reviewer, Bobby Ang, convinced me otherwise. To my knowledge, the only other production car with a compression value this high in a petrol engine is the Ferrari 458 Speciale.

The SKYACTIV-G 2.5T engine works in tandem with SKYACTIV-DRIVE, their 6-speed automatic transmission, SKYACTIV-CHASSIS which takes care of ride comfort, stability and safety, and i-ACTIV AWD that’s responsible for keeping the CX-9 moving on practically every road surface.

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SKYACTIV-DRIVE: All the Advantages of Conventional Step CVT, Dual Clutch, and Step AT

It Handles Like A Superstar

The CX-9 also got their improved AWD system, the i-ACTIV AWD, which was mainly designed for on-road and light off-road conditions to make sure the vehicle stays planted and handles well. However, I’ve found some video reviewers who have actually done some serious off-roading in this without much fuss at all.

Essentially, the CX-9 is driven by the front wheels but the rear wheels will be activated when any of the sensors detect wheel slippage to distribute more torque to the rear wheels or any other wheel for more traction.

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Torque is automatically distributed between front and rear wheels

G-Vectoring Control Technology

G-Vectoring Control (GVC) is Mazda’s proprietary technology that is built on radical thinking – improving chassis performance by controlling the engine output. It was developed based on Mazda’s pursuit of the ‘Jinba-Ittai’, a Japanese phrase that translates to ‘horse and rider as one’, and their belief that the car and the driver should respond in unison.

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G-Vectoring Control Technology: Controlling loads on each tire.

I don’t blame you for still being confused because I was until I found this very simple explanation on carlist.my which simply says;

“It will take a few sentences to establish what G-Vectoring Control is; we will start with establishing that it is not torque vectoring control nor does not operate with any form of brake intervention commonly employed by many high-performance FWD cars today to rein in understeer. It also does not employ the use of any trick differentials.”

“Your car’s weight shifts to the back under acceleration and shifts forward under deceleration or braking. GVC harnesses this pitching effect by effecting a slight reduction in engine torque, resulting in a subtle front-ward shift of the vehicle’s weight, in turn pressing the front wheels down harder on the road and making it respond more naturally to steering inputs.”

Still confused? Hope this helps.

Is It Safe?

It’s very reassuring to know that governments all over the world are insisting on basic safety features that even 10 years ago would seem impossible to find on some premium models. For instance, you’d be lucky to find Electronic Stability & Traction Control, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, six airbags (much less two) and Blind Spot Detection features in sub-$30,000 cars. These days, they’re pretty much standard features on almost every new car.

The latest Mazda CX-9, however, takes safety to a higher level usually reserved for premium and luxury brands such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo and has earned the IIHS 2018 TOP SAFETY PICK award as well as a close-to-perfect 5-star score from ANCAP and EURO NCAP.

In addition to the ones mentioned above, the CX-9 also comes equipped with the following Mazda proprietary safety systems:

Adaptive LED Headlights (ALH)

The system increases visibility at night to help drivers stay vigilant by combining three technologies: Glare-free High Beams which automatically dim part of the illuminated area to avoid dazzling other drivers, Wide-range Low Beams which light up a wider area at low speeds and Highway mode which helps you see further when traveling at speed.

Lane Keep Assist System (LAS)

LAS promotes safer driving by providing appropriate steering assistance. The system allows drivers to choose between Lane-Trace, which provides steering assistance early in order to help keep the vehicle centered in the lane and Lane Departure Avoidance, which only comes into play if the vehicle begins to leave its lane. LAS uses a windshield-mounted camera to recognize lane-markings on the road and activates at speeds above 60 km/h.

Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS)

The Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS) detects line marking on the road surface and warns the driver of unintentional lane departures.

This system is particularly effective in situations where the road is continuously straight and drivers have a tendency to not pay sufficient attention to the road.

When the lane change is accompanied by turn signal operation or acceleration, the system recognizes the maneuver as intentional and does not sound an alarm.

Smart City Brake System [Reverse] (SCBS R)

Smart City Brake System [Reverse] (SCBS R) uses two ultrasonic sensors mounted on the bumper to keep track of obstacles when reversing at low speeds (approximately 2 – 8 km/h). If there is a risk of a collision, the system applies the brakes automatically, minimizing damage resulting from any impact.

In addition, SCBS R features Acceleration Control for AT. When the car is stopped or reversing at speeds of 10 km/h or less and the accelerator pedal is pressed suddenly, as if the driver really intends to brake, an alarm is sounded and engine power is cut off, stopping the car from lurching backward.

Advanced Smart City Brake System (Advanced SCBS)

Advanced Smart City Brake Support system assists you in applying the brakes to reduce damage in the event of a collision. Think of it as a form of autonomous emergency braking. This actively helps the driver avoid a potential collision, or at least reduces the speed of impact and therefore the risk of injury.

The system uses a forward-facing camera to watch the road ahead and operates between 4 and 80km/h. It can automatically stop or reduce the speed of the car when there is a risk of colliding with a vehicle or pedestrian in front.

Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM)

Have you ever tried to change lanes, only to realize at the last moment that there is a car in your blind spot? Such close calls are not uncommon and can be dangerous. Mazda’s Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) uses radars mounted in the rear bumper to detect vehicles approaching from behind and in the adjacent lane.

It alerts drivers to the presence of vehicles in the blind spot on either side by displaying an icon in the appropriate door mirror. If the driver indicates to change lanes with a vehicle in the blind spot, the icon flashes and a warning beep is sounded.

Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA)

Have you ever had to hit the brakes suddenly when backing out of a parking space because you didn’t see a vehicle coming from the side? Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) is designed to help you make sure it’s safe to start backing up. The system uses the same radars and indicators as BSM to watch for vehicles coming from both sides and alert the driver when they come near.

Child & Baby Seats

For child and baby seats you’ll find three top-tether anchor points across the second row and two in the third, while there are ISOFIX points in the back as well and two in the second-row window seats.

What this means is that you’ll be able to install a total of five child and baby seats, three in the second row and two in the third row, with ISOFIX points in the second-row outer seats beside the windows. Great for daycares that offer pickup and delivery service for their clients.

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Second Row Seats With Baby/Child Seats [Source: babydrive.com.au]
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Third Row Seats With Baby/Child Seats [Source: babydrive.com.au]

Fuel Consumption

Khairul shared that one of his customers fills the 72-litre tank once every nine or ten days and averages a range of 680 kilometres.

At $0.53/litre for RON 97, a full tank will cost $38.00 or $114.00 a month!

That’s an impressive 0.105 L/km or 10.5 l/100km, very close to Mazda’s claimed 10.6 L/100km in the city, 8.4 l/100km on the highway and 9.6 L/100km combined.

Our 2017 automatic Kia Cerato which has a 50-litre tank averages 9.4 L/100km and we get about 470km out of a full tank.

“How Much Is It Again?”

The reason why I was in disbelief the first time I heard the price was because over the past week, I’d been doing some research on some European 7-seater SUVs. I found out that their fully equipped models with front-wheel drive and slightly smaller, are priced around $60,000 on the road (OTR).

This top-of-the-line Mazda CX-9 starts at $54,600 OTR with free scheduled service for 50,000 kilometres. You can extend that to 100,000 kilometres for an additional $2,000 which I highly recommend.

Mazdas generally hold up their value quite well just like Hondas, Toyotas, Hyundais and Kias. However, a big part still depends on how well they’re maintained mechanically and aesthetically. With the 100,000 service package, you’re halfway there.

Now you see why I got so excited about the latest Mazda CX-9. It’s gorgeous, classy, and generously equipped for the price. Would I recommend it? You can count on it!

Full disclosure: I was not able to arrange a test drive of the CX-9 as it wasn’t available but look forward to the test drive review here and on our YouTube Channel, so be sure to subscribe.

For the meantime, experience it for yourself by asking any of the nice people at Grand Motors Mazda for a test drive. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

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