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Mazda CX-9 gets major makeover

Big new grille certainly gives the updated Mazda CX-9 plenty or road presence.

So important is the Australian market to Mazda that the 2012 Sydney motor show saw the global debut of the revised CX-9 model. The Japanese marque with a reputation for quality is going gangbusters in Australia at the moment, having recently moved into third place overall in the sales race. The Mazda3 has been the number one selling car several times in the past 12 months.

The most obvious feature of the latest version of the Mazda CX-9 is the huge grille that transforms it from looking like a sensible people mover into a standout model with plenty of road presence. But there’s a lot more to the large seven-seat Mazda than simply it’s bold new frontal look.

It has been upgraded inside and out and carries minor refinements to the engine and its ancillaries that are said to have reduced its fuel consumption. For example, the Mazda usually only charges its battery when the load is off the engine, such as when it’s slowing down or running downhill, thus avoiding fuel use when that can be done.

The previous Mazda CX-9 did like a drink, we are yet to carry out a road test on the latest update to the CX-9, so will measure the consumption for ourselves. The infotainment system in the big Mazda SUV has been upgraded and now features the latest audio, navigation and speech-recognition systems in what Mazda calls it’s HMI (Human Machine Interface).

Mazda Australia is very strong on safety, so the CX-9 has had electronic stability control and rollover protection to help prevent crashes since its introduction in 2007. The suite of safety features has been greatly expanded, particularly in the crash avoidance field. Forward Obstruction Warning (FOW), Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and High Beam Control (HBC) anticipate danger and help the driver avoid it.

Though it’s technically a Japanese vehicle, Mazda CX-9 is aimed at the American market. This will suit Australian buyers as we tend to lean more to the American automotive culture than to the Japanese one. This is a large vehicle with good interior space and plenty of punch from a large 3.7-litre V6 engine. Mazda CX-9 can certainly be used in light-duty running on forest trails, perhaps even at the beach, but almost all owners will use it as a spacious people mover.

There's room for seven adults without them being overly cramped, though four adults and three children is more realistic. The centre set of seats can slide back and forward to let you vary the amount of legroom available in this seat and the third row seats. With the centre seat in its rearmost position there's almost limo-like legroom.

The third row of seats fold flat very simply to give a useful increase in luggage space. Even with the seats in use there's still space for a couple of fair-sized suitcases. Though it’s similar in overall dimensions to large 4WDs like the Nissan Patrol and Toyota LandCruiser the Mazda looks smaller and less intimidating. However, parking it in tight spaces can be tricky at times. To its credit, this big Mazda has a good turning circle for its class and this can be a real help.

Suspension and steering haven’t been altered in the new model. Though Australian imports have slightly more dynamic settings and firmer steering than the American models, the CX-9 is still relatively soft. In previous road tests we have commented that steering feel isn’t bad for a big people mover and there's little understeer until it’s going quite hard at bends. We will check this out when we carry out a full road test.

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