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Mazda CX-9 2018 review

EXPERT RATING
7.8
You know what you’re doing, don’t you? Well, you’re here at the Mazda CX-9 range review and we both know that looking for a big, seven-seat SUV doesn’t happen by accident.

You know what you’re doing, don’t you? Well, you’re here at the Mazda CX-9 range review and we both know that looking for a big, seven-seat SUV doesn’t happen by accident. Yep, there’s never been a case of somebody just being ‘seven-seat curious’.

Nope, this is next level stuff and you’re probably at the stage where it’s a case of which seven-seat SUV. There’s the Toyota Kluger, the Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe and of course the Mazda CX-9 - and if you’re fairly sure it’s a CX-9, then which one? There are four of them.

That’s what this review is for – it’s the CX-9 mother ship which will help you find the right CX-9 for you.

Mazda CX-9 2018: Sport (FWD)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.4L/100km
Seating7 seats
Price from$39,990

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

The CX-9 looks stunning... okay, sure, its headlights and tail-lights seem disproportionately small, but look at that long bonnet, big grille, the bumper with its ‘aerodynamic’ folds, the paper-crease sharp lines running down the sides – this prestige-looking work of art is a five-metre long middle finger to Benz and BMW SUV drivers.

Actually, it’s longer than that: 5075mm end to end, 1969mm across and 1747mm tall. Is your garage/carport/parking space/loungeroom big enough to deal the CX-9’s dimensions? Get the tape measure out. It's longer than a Toyota LandCruiser Prado.

The Sport and Touring grades of the CX-9 have 18-inch wheels. The Sport and Touring grades of the CX-9 have 18-inch wheels.

Something smaller to consider is the Hyundai Santa Fe which is also seven-seater SUV but is 37cm shorter at 4700mm bumper to bumper and narrower too at 1800mm across.

The Toyota Kluger is closer in size to the CX-9 at 4865mm long, 1925mm wide and 1730 tall, while the Sorento is in between them at 4780mm in length, 1890mm wide and 1690mm high.

How do you tell the difference between the CX-9 grades visually? It’s trickier than telling magpies apart (there are nine sub-species of Australian magpies if you were wondering).

The base spec doesn’t have fog lights or a chrome grille (the rest do) and when you step up to the top two grades the front lip and the base of the doors are trimmed with a chrome strip too, and they also both have a sun roof. The top grade is also the only one to come with LED DRLs.

Storage throughout the cabin is excellent. Storage throughout the cabin is excellent.

The only exterior change the August 2017 update brought was a new colour - Soul Red Crystal Metallic, which is a $300 option. There’s six others to choose from: Machine Grey Metallic (also $300), Snowflake White Pearl Mica, Sonic Silver Metallic, Jet Black Mica, Deep Crystal Blue Mica, Titanium Flash Mica.

The CX-9’s cabin has an excellent fit and finish, with a premium feel even on the entry level Sport with its cloth seats and chrome trim around the air vents. As you step up through the ranks the leather upholstery makes the cockpit even more prestige feeling. Black leather is standard with the light-coloured Natural Stone leather as option - although if you have kids I’d steer of it as marks are hard to clean off it. I may have found that out the hard way.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

The CX-9 is a seven-seat SUV. Now, other SUVs make that claim too, but those rear two seats are really just a bonus – I’m talking about the Hyundai Santa Fe. Even at 191cm tall I can sit in the rear row of the CX-9 with enough head and legroom to be fairly comfortably. That said, I wouldn’t want to be back there for longer than 30 minutes - especially considering there are no third-row air vents, so it can get stuffy back there.

Legroom in the second row is excellent: I can sit behind my driving position with about 10cm of air between my knees and the seat-back. Headroom is great, too – although the 'coupe' styling means getting small kids in and out of their car seats a bit harder because of that sloping roofline.

  • I can sit behind my driving position with about 10cm of air between my knees and the seat-back. I can sit behind my driving position with about 10cm of air between my knees and the seat-back.
  • Even at 191cm tall I can sit in the rear row of the CX-9 with enough head and legroom to be fairly comfortably. Even at 191cm tall I can sit in the rear row of the CX-9 with enough head and legroom to be fairly comfortably.

The 2017 update also added more practicality in the form of better access to the third row thanks to the second row being able to tilt further forward and the seat itself is easier to slide and tilt, too.

Storage throughout the cabin is excellent. The centre console storage bin with its double-door lid is big and in the back seat all grades above the entry Sport comes with a fold-down armrest with storage and two USB ports. All CX-9s come with six cupholders (two up front, two in the second row and another pair in the back) and bottle holders in all the doors.

The CX-9’s boot has an 810-litre (VDA) cargo capacity with the third row folded flat. The Kluger can only manage a luggage capacity of 529L.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

The Mazda CX-9 has increased in price by $1400 since it arrived in July 2016, and that goes for all grades in the model line-up. The price rise comes with improvements to the car (which I’ll get to later) but the features list stays very much the same.

The most affordable CX-9 is the front-wheel drive Sport grade which lists for $43,890, or $47,890 if you want the all-wheel drive.

That 2017 update did see a change in standard features: the outside seats in the second row of the GT and Azami are now heated. That 2017 update did see a change in standard features: the outside seats in the second row of the GT and Azami are now heated.

Standard features in the Sport include a 7.0-inch touchscreen (with rotary controller), sat nav, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, six-speaker stereo, DAB+ digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity, push-button ignition, three-zone climate control, LED headlights, cloth seats and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Stepping up to the grade above – the Touring – costs $50,290 for front-wheel drive and $54,290 for all-wheel drive. It may feel like a pretty big price jump but on top of everything in the Sport you’re rewarded with a bigger 8.0-inch screen, leather seats (heated and power adjustable in the front), auto headlights, auto wipers and proximity key.

The GT grade is directly above the Touring and costs $58,790 for the front-wheel drive and $62,790 for the all-wheel drive. The GT gains all the features of the Touring, but adds head-up display, power tailgate, a 12-speaker Bose sound system, front parking sensors and swaps the alloys for bigger 20-inch rims.

If you’re thinking of adopting a CX-9 then also check out Toyota’s Kluger, the Kia Sorento, and the Hyundai Santa Fe.

The Azami is the king of the CX-9 range and lists for $60,790 in front-wheel drive form and $64,790 if you want all-wheel drive. The only difference between this grade and the GT below is the advanced safety equipment – it gets an impressive suite of tech which you can read all about below in the safety section.

That 2017 update did see a change in standard features: the outside seats in the second row of the GT and Azami are now heated.

If you’re thinking of adopting a CX-9 then also check out Toyota’s Kluger which ranges in price from $42,190 to $69,906; there’s the Kia Sorento too for $40,490 to $58,490 (but with diesel at the high end, not petrol); and the Hyundai Santa Fe which starts at $40,990 and heads north to $64,250 (again, with diesel high-end offerings). 

On our family holiday I found that the engine had to work hard when confronted by steep hills with all of us and our luggage on board. On our family holiday I found that the engine had to work hard when confronted by steep hills with all of us and our luggage on board.

Also, and this one is something you may not have considered – the Skoda Kodiaq. A seven-seater SUV which ranges from $42,990 to $48,990.

I’ve also done a thing on the best seven seat SUVs which you might like to check out here.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

All CX-9’s use the same 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine. If you’re wondering how such a small engine can cope with powering an-almost two-tonne SUV, then fear not. The engine is small but has outputs of 170kW and 420Nm, which is plenty of grunt. You won’t find a manual gearbox – all CX-9s come with a six-speed automatic transmission.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

If you’re ruling out the all-wheel drive because you think it’s probably a lot thirstier than the front-wheel drive, then you might be surprised to read that the all-wheel drive only uses 0.4L/100km more according to Mazda. Yup, the all-wheel drive’s official consumption is 8.8L/100km while the two-wheel drive’s is 8.4L/100km over a combination of open and urban roads.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

Does my CX-9 look big in this? I’m not going to lie to you – the CX-9 felt large, particularly as I negotiated my way through multi-story carparks, but out on the open road that size wasn’t as apparent, and it was as easy to pilot as any Mazda with good visibility, light and accurate steering, and great brakes and pedal feel.

All CX-9’s use the same 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine. All CX-9’s use the same 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine.

The four-cylinder engine is powerful and much more fuel efficient than the V6 that was in the last-gen CX-9, but on a family holiday I found it had to work hard when confronted by steep hills with all of us and our luggage on board.

Handling was good and so too was the ride which, while comfortable for the most part, did get a little bit uncomposed on patchier roads.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The CX-9 scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2016. Auto emergency braking (AEB) that works going forwards and in reverse, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert come standard on even the entry grade Sport. The top spec Azami comes with adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, along with all the safety tech in the Sport.

  • The CX-9’s boot has an 810-litre (VDA) cargo capacity with the third row folded flat. The CX-9’s boot has an 810-litre (VDA) cargo capacity with the third row folded flat.
  • The Kluger can only manage a luggage capacity of 529L. The Kluger can only manage a luggage capacity of 529L.

The 2017 update brought pedestrian detection for the AEB with the effective speed range increasing from 4-30km/h to 4-80km/h. The GT and Azami grades also had traffic sign recognition technology added.

Top tether anchor points have now been fitted to the third-row seats, these join the three across the second row and the two ISOFIX points in the outside seats of that row, too.CX-9

All CX-9s have a temporary spare wheel – it’s not ideal as they have a limited range and are speed restricted to 80km/h.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

The warranty for the CX-9 is a three-year, unlimited kilometre agreement. Servicing is recommended every 10,000km or 12 months and costs the same regardless of whether the CX-9 is an all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive. Services are capped and alternate from $329 for the first service to $371 for the second all the way up to the fifth service.

Verdict

The Mazda CX-9 is hard to fault – it’s fuel efficient, practical, comfortable, good value, packed with safety gear and looks stunning. If I could point to a few drawbacks it’d be that the best safety equipment only comes on the top-spec car, and the ride could be more composed. 

The sweet spot in this range would be the Touring – the bigger screen, the leather, the USBs in the back – but not the all-wheel drive version, not unless you can afford it.

Is the Mazda CX-9 way out ahead of the rest of the 7 seat large SUVs? Or would you prefer the Kluger or Sorento? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$53,888
Based on 184 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$39,990
Highest Price
$64,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Azami (AWD) 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $51,977 – 59,900 2018 MAZDA CX-9 2018 Azami (AWD) Pricing and Specs
AZAMI (AWD) (5YR) 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $52,550 – 60,750 2018 MAZDA CX-9 2018 AZAMI (AWD) (5YR) Pricing and Specs
Azami (FWD) 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $51,900 – 57,999 2018 MAZDA CX-9 2018 Azami (FWD) Pricing and Specs
AZAMI (FWD) (5YR) 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $53,977 – 59,888 2018 MAZDA CX-9 2018 AZAMI (FWD) (5YR) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.8
Design8
Practicality8
Price and features8
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption8
Driving7
Safety8
Ownership8
Richard Berry
Senior Journalist

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