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Mazda CX-9 Luxury 2013 Review

EXPERT RATING
7

A larger brood presents transport conundrums for the drivers of the house. The SUV craze can be at least partly blamed on those looking to transport more than a couple of rugrats - if your offspring numbers three or more and they have mates or grandparents who like hitching a ride, the options are largely limited to buses or bruiser SUVs.

Mazda's CX range has slotted into the Australian psyche in growing numbers - particularly the likeable CX-5 turbodiesel - and the Japanese carmaker has updated its full-size CX-9.

VALUE

If you don't yearn for the extra grip of all-wheel drive then the front-driver is a $4500 better proposition, not to mention a little lighter and a touch easier on the fuel. The Luxury model gets seating for seven, a touchscreen infotainment unit with a Bose sound system and TomTom satnav, USB and Bluetooth connection, tri-zone climate control with rear vents, leather trim, power-adjustable heated front seats, a leather-wrapped gearshifter and steering wheel (that's reach'n'rake adjustable) and a trip computer.

There are also automatic headlights, a sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, power windows, power-adjustable and heated exterior mirrors, cruisem control, 20inch alloy wheels and a reversing camera.

TECHNOLOGY

Much of the drivetrain is carryover from the old car but that's not all bad - there's 204kW of power, making it the most powerful Mazda on the books, grunt it needs to shift a two-tonne kerb weight. Torque sits at 367Nm at a high-ish 4250rpm, but Mazda says at least 90 per cent of that makes its presence felt between 2800rpm and 5800rpm.

The engine has an aluminium block and head, with cast-in iron cylinder liners and variable valve timing, delivering the outputs to the front wheels via an Aisin six-speed auto and laying claim to an ADR fuel use figure of 11 litres per 100km. The beefy Mazda claims a two-tonne braked towing capacity - just shy of the Territory's 2300kg but on par with most of its opposition below.

DESIGN

A handsome machine on the road, the new family nose design and revamped tail seem to fit this large wagon better than some of its siblings. It's still a little non-descript on the flanks, compared with some of the company's all-new product, but if you don't want something truck-like or the stereotypical peoplemover box on wheels, this big kid-carter could suit.

Inside it's black and red with a few trim bits to break up the monotony. A high centre tunnel console and wraparound front area doesn't convey and image of acreage, but it's comfortable and has some good storage nooks.

Piling in the people isn't terribly difficult, although the lower-than-average roofline might catch the odd bonce. An adjustable middle row makes the proper third row useful for more than just tweens - it's a genuine seven seater although adults wouldn't want to dwell there on a major road trip. But a day trip isn't out of the realms and while 267 litres doesn't sound like much space, it's better than average for the segment.

SAFETY

The top-spec AWD model gets a stack of cutting-edge active safety systems, but the Luxury model makes do with dual front, front-side and curtain airbags for all three rows as standard equipment and lap-sash seatbelts for all occupants.

There's also a reversing camera (but no standard sensors), anti-lock brakes (with electronic brakeforce distribution), stability (with an anti- rollover function) and traction control and emergency braking assistance.

DRIVING

As conveyances go the Mazda breed has been responsible for some genuine driver's machines - this is not really one of them, but as family trucksters go it's one of the more capable. It's bigger than you first think, with the Mazda family look not unpleasant on the eye for most. The cabin has enough space for most family duties, with the high centre console keeping the driver and front passenger snugly separated.

Vision is decent looking forward although the pillars are a little broad and need to be looked around, not something exclusive to the model or the breed, but you need to take it into account at junctions. Underway, the CX-9 is propelled smoothly and quietly but the petrol V6 - there's more than enough grunt for most duties but when delivered through the front wheels alone it can elicit a bit of steering wheel movement, even at speed.

It's not enough to warrant concern but it does show the big peoplemover has ample grunt when required - but be prepared for fuel economy in the high teens if you're spending most of the time in the suburbs in this two-tonne wagon. If you spend anytime on dirt roads then AWD would be mandatory, as the V6 will overpower the front wheels and spark the electronic nursemaids into action.

The TomTom satnav screen is clear and informative in terms of the map screen but it's a little convoluted to use, however the quantity and quality of sound from the 10-speaker Bose gear helps offset any frustrations there - once the school run is done you can all the mirrors pulsing in unison. You become a little conscious of the girth when stopping or cornering, but it's by no means an unwieldy machine given its origins. 

It sits handsomely on 20in wheels and 50-profile tyres, a feature which sharpens the ride up a touch but not enough to warrant complaint from the brood. Cargo room of 267 litres when all seven seats are occupied is above average for the segment, but what's not as common is a third row that can have adults in them, particularly given the adjustment available for the middle bench.

Complaints are few - a nod to the US is a foot-operated parking brake, which is not ideal at the best of times and even worse when in need of adjustment. Can we have an electric one in the console please?

VERDICT
If you're not interested in trucky SUVs but don't want to to look like you've taken over school bus driving duties, it's something like the CX-9 that will need to call your driveway home. There are less stylish ways to cart a houseful of kids, but from a dynamics viewpoint I wouldn't need much convincing to opt for the AWD, and a whizz-bang Skyactiv diesel option would take care of the painful thirst.

Mazda CX-9 Luxury
Price: from $52,980
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Resale:  56 per cent (Source: Glass's Guide)
Service interval: 10,000km/6 months
Safety rating: not tested
Spare: space-saver
Engine: 3.8-litre V6, 204kW/367Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto; FWD
Body: 5.1m (L); 1.9m (w); 1.7m (h)
Weight: 1966kg
Thirst: 11L/100km, on test 17.9; tank 76 litres; 257g/km CO2 

Pricing guides

$21,619
Based on 75 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$14,989
Highest Price
$27,800

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Classic (FWD) 3.7L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $14,989 – 23,766 2013 Mazda CX-9 2013 Classic (FWD) Pricing and Specs
Grand Touring 3.7L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $18,989 – 27,800 2013 Mazda CX-9 2013 Grand Touring Pricing and Specs
Luxury 3.7L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $17,970 – 23,999 2013 Mazda CX-9 2013 Luxury Pricing and Specs
Luxury (FWD) 3.7L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $16,555 – 25,990 2013 Mazda CX-9 2013 Luxury (FWD) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Stuart Martin
Contributing Journalist

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