WE turn the spotlight on automotive's newest and brightest stars, as we ask the questions to which you want the answers. Ultimately, however, there is only one question that really needs answering -- would you buy one?
What is it?
Mazda's big seven-seater people mover/cum sports utility vehicle. The big difference with this particular one is that it is two-wheel drive instead of all wheel drive. This cuts cost and reduces the weight which bodes well for a vehicle of this size.
Our test vehicle, the top of the line Luxury with Satellite Navigation FWD, is $59,233 - but you can pick up the front wheel drive entry level model from $44,425. The fronty is $4908 less than the all-wheel drive model.
What are the competitors?
Explore the 2011 Mazda CX-9 range
Anything with seven seats really, people mover or SUV. You can get a top of the line diesel powered Kia Carnival for less than this, so that's worth considering.
What's under the bonnet?
All CX-9s continue to be powered by a 3.7 litre V6 engine mated to a 6-speed Activematic transmission. FWD models offer fuel economy of 11 litres per 100km while the fuel efficiency of AWD models has improved to 11.2 litres per 100km. Power and torque figures remain unchanged at 204kW and 367Nm respectively.
How does it go?
Like a jet. Make sure you don't plonk it the wet though because the front wheels will start scrambling before it gets going.
Is it economical?
No. In no stretch of the imagination could you call 11.0 litres/100km economical. That's on a good day _ with a full load and plenty of hills you can expect to see a lot worse. Needs a diesel option like its little brother the soon to be discontinued CX-7.
Is it 'Green?'
The front-wheel drive model has not been rated by the Government's Green Guide, but the all-wheel drive gets three out of five stars (with fractionally better fuel economy it might pick up half a star)
Is it safe?
Not rated by ANCAP, but comes with a full complement of safety gear including six airbags (offering protection for all three rows), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Roll Stability Control (RSC) and a reversing camera.
Is it comfortable?
Yep. Plenty of room inside. Comfortable seats. Plenty of vision from the high driving position.
What's it like to drive?
Deceptively small. Park it in the driveway and you will soon discover just how big it is, especially across the girth.
Is it value for money?
Luxury model adds 20-inch alloy wheels, a power-sliding and tilt glass sunroof, heated power mirrors with 3-position memory and reverse tilt-down function, power adjustable leather seats with 3-position memory function and a premium Bose audio system with 10 speakers. Satellite Navigation option adds a large 7-inch touch-screen satellite navigation system and Bluetooth with audio streaming.
Would we buy one?
Yep. Fit and finish are first rate. Don't miss all-wheel drive. Has got plenty of get up and go, but you the cost of running it could be a worry?