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Mazda CX-9 Azami 2016 review

2016 Mazda CX-9 Azami
EXPERT RATING
8
Richard Berry road tests and reviews the new Mazda CX-9 Azami with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Richard Berry road tests and reviews the new Mazda CX-9 Azami with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Come in weary car hunter, come in … it’s tough out there looking for a large SUV isn’t it? It’d be so much easier if you wanted a small or medium sized SUV – they’re nearly all built for the same purpose and most are so good that you could almost pull one out of a hat blind folded and be happy with it.

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But a large SUV, that’s different. Choose the wrong one and you could end up with a hardcore off-roader that could be so tough to drive it’ll feel as though you’re wrestling a bear daily just to get to work, or something the size of an aircraft carrier but doesn’t have enough seats, or one that’s incredible cheap but only slightly safer than jogging on the freeway.

Don’t worry, we won’t let that happen.

Let’s be clear about what we’re reviewing here – it’s Mazda’s biggest SUV, the CX-9, it’s a seven seater and it’s the top of the range variant called the Azami. It’s also all-wheel drive.

Apart from taking you through ins and outs of this SUV, we’ll also help you weigh up whether it’s worth buying the top spec CX-9 and if all-wheel drive is crucial for you. You may even find you prefer bear wrestling?

Design

First introduced in 2016 this second generation CX-9 was completely redesigned and replaced the one which had been available since 2007. Looking at the CX-9’s dimensions, end-to-end it’s 5075mm while it measures 1969mm across and stands 1747mm tall. That makes it 31mm shorter, 33mm wider and 19mm higher than the previous one.

The Toyota Kluger is one of the CX-9’s direct rivals. Side-by-side the Kluger is 210mm shorter than the CX-9 and not as tall at 1730mm. The important dimension is the wheelbase as it typically affects the cabin space the most, so you should know that the CX-9’s wheelbase is 140mm longer than the Kluger's.

The CX-9 Azami’s cabin is elegant and modern with an extremely high quality build feel.

The CX-9 weighs 1924kg, while a Kluger is about 100kg heavier.

Appearances are important, you’ll probably end up making your final decision about what you’ll buy based on whether you like the way it looks. The CX-9 looks great, gone are the previous car’s big bulbous body shape and instead we have an SUV that’s bold, sharp, tough but also pretty. There’s that aggressive snout, the don’t-mess-with-me headlights, a profile that’s long and sleek, and a bottom that’s symmetrical and uncluttered in its design.

The CX-9 Azami’s cabin is elegant and modern with an extremely high quality build feel throughout. The dash combines a minimalist design with great ergonomics – dials for the climate control are easy to access while all touch points around the driver, from the armrests and the seats to plastic structure of the centre console, are comfortable.

Seven body colours are available including Soul Red Metallic, Snowflake white Pearl Mica, Deep Sonic Silver Metallic. Our test car’s colour was Machine Grey Metallic, which will only add another $250 to the SUV’s price.

Practicality

The only way a CX-9 could be more practical is if it was able to change light bulbs or fix leaky taps around the house. Big back doors open wide for a huge entry way, making getting in and out easy. The elevated ride height makes loading gear into the boot and kids into their car seats easier on the back – without being too high like an off-roader such as a Ford Everest or Toyota Fortuner.

The roofline has a coupe design to it and while it looks great, it does compromise the entry way slightly.

Legroom in the second row is excellent, and at 191cm I can sit behind my driving position with about 10cm between knee and the front seat back. Third-row seating is adult worthy but on the condition that the journey isn’t a long one. While there’s enough room there for me to sit comfortably for 20 minutes, like any third row in an SUV these two seats are best for the kids who will: a) have plenty of room; b) like being as far away from the grown-ups as possible; and c) find climbing into them an adventure.

Up front the cockpit is spacious with increased legroom over the previous model.

What’s unique about the Azami is it adds advanced safety technology.

There’s excellent storage throughout the cabin with a deep tray for phones and keys under the dashboard in front of the shifter, a large bin in the centre console armrest and a fold down centre armrest with a small stowaway area with two cupholders. There’s also two cupholders up front and another two in the third row outboard armrest. You’ll find bottle holders in all doors, too.

The tailgate is automatic and opens up to a boot with a luggage capacity of 230 litres with all seats up and 810 litres with the third row folded flat to the floor.

Things like the two USB ports in the rear centre armrest and the pull-up sun-blinds to protect the kids in the back are small but they’re part of the standard kit and brilliantly thoughtful.

Price and features

The CX-9 line-up starts at $42,490 and steps all the way up to $63,390 for the Azami all-wheel drive we’re reviewing here. The two-wheel drive version is $4000 less.

It’s the most expensive Mazda you can buy, but that fee also opens up the features treasure chest which includes an eight-inch display with sat nav, reversing camera, 12-speaker Bose sound system, front and rear parking sensors, head-up display, leather seats, three-zone climate control, proximity unlocking, sunroof, 20-inch wheels and power adjustable front seats.

OK here’s what you need to know – all of that gear comes on the $57,390 GT specification which is the grade below the Azami. What’s unique about the Azami is it adds advanced safety technology such as active cruise control, lane keeping assist and adaptive LED headlights.

You also should know this – the sweet spot in the CX-9 range is the Touring, while it doesn’t get proximity unlocking, it still comes stacked with standard features and costs $52,890. Seriously worth considering.

The Azami is pricey, but to put it all in perspective the top-of-the-range Kluger Grande with all-wheel drive costs $68,046.

Engine and transmission

The V6 which lived in the previous generation has been replaced with a turbo-petrol four cylinder engine.

Yes, it’s big and you will notice this especially as you pilot the CX-9 through car parks.

The four cylinder has 34kW less power at 170kW but 53Nm more torque at 420Nm. Forget power, torque is the important measurement of grunt in SUVs because it provides the hauling force. The Kluger Grande AWD has 201kW and 337Nm by the way.

A smooth six-speed automatic transmission does the gear shifting.

Fuel consumption

The previous V6 in the CX-9 was a thirsty creature with Mazda claiming combined average fuel consumption of 11.0L/100km, but this new four-cylinder is a lot more fuel efficient and Mazda says you should see an average of 8.8L/100km.

We recorded 16.8L/100km after mainly fuel-intensive hilly city driving which is in line with the 15.9L/100km we reported under similar conditions in the Touring spec of the all-wheel drive CX-9.

Driving

Yes, it’s big and you will notice this especially as you pilot the CX-9 through car parks, but letting that put you off is like not going to see The Godfather because it’s a long movie.

There’s the outstanding ride, which is so composed. There’s the handling, which is excellent for an SUV. The auto transmission is smooth and not once did I think the engine needed more mumbo. It all adds up to something which is easy, comfortable, and also engaging to drive.

You’ll be able to head down unsealed roads that you’d never point a regular car towards.

Bad points? The A-pillars – the frame which holds the windscreen – are a bit thick and not placed in the best location for visibility, so you might find yourself having to look around them at intersections.

Our test car had all-wheel drive which as we pointed out is a $4000 premium over two-wheel drive. If it means you’ll have to break the bank to get the all-wheel drive, then don’t – it’s not at all vital and the front-wheel drive is excellent, too. If you can afford it go for it, because what all-wheel drive gives you is a more capable car on dirt or gravel, and it can also be more stable on the road particularly in the wet.

If you do head off-road, keep in mind the CX-9 isn’t built for crossing the Simpson – if you want a seven seater suited for that then go for something like Toyota’s Fortuner or Prado.

Ground clearance is excellent at 222mm, which is actually 2mm more than the Prado, so you’ll be able to head down unsealed roads that you’d never point a regular car towards.

Braked towing capacity is par with the city SUV segment at 2000kg.

Safety

The CX-9 has scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating, but so do its rivals. Where the CX-9 leaves most of them behind is in advanced safety technology. Auto emergency braking (AEB) is on the base-spec up but the Azami grade adds active cruise control which will bring the SUV to a complete stop in traffic and then move away again automatically when it see the car in front move. There’s also lane keeping assistance which will steer you back into your lane if you wander off, plus adaptive LED headlights.

Worth pointing out is the curtain airbags which extend all the way to cover the third row. For child seats you’ll find one top tether point, but no ISOFIX mounts in that third row, while the second row has three top tethers and two ISOFIX mounts.

Ownership

Mazda’s three year unlimited kilometre warranty covers the CX-9 with servicing recommended every 12 months or 10,000km.

Verdict

If this was the Olympics Mazda has become one of those athletes that’s so far ahead of its rivals it’s now just competing against itself to be better, and the CX-9 is another personal best for the brand.

The Azami grade is pricey, but the advanced safety technology it brings is excellent. 

This is a well-crafted, premium feeling SUV that’s easy and engaging to drive.

Do you think the CX-9 is the best large SUV in its class? Let us know what you think it the comments section below.

Click here for more 2016 Mazda CX-9 pricing and spec info.

Pricing Guides

$42,755
Based on 153 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$34,870
Highest Price
$49,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Azami (AWD) 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $42,888 – 49,990 2016 Mazda CX-9 2016 Azami (AWD) Pricing and Specs
Azami (FWD) 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $38,880 – 47,994 2016 Mazda CX-9 2016 Azami (FWD) Pricing and Specs
Classic (FWD) 3.7L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $24,860 – 30,690 2016 Mazda CX-9 2016 Classic (FWD) Pricing and Specs
Grand Touring 3.7L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $34,650 – 41,250 2016 Mazda CX-9 2016 Grand Touring Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Richard Berry
Senior Journalist

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