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Mazda CX-9 Touring AWD 2018 review

EXPERT RATING
7.9
The Christmas holidays aren’t a holiday – it’s hard work with the shopping, the families, the food, the ‘festiveness’ and the heat.

The Christmas holidays aren’t a holiday – it’s hard work with the shopping, the families, the food, the ‘festiveness’ and the heat. You come out the other side more exhausted than you did going in.

Which is why my wife and I (well, it was really her) decided to be smart for once and take a week off with our toddler before Santa Day. We headed down to Jervis Bay from Sydney. I had an ulterior motive as well – to test the new Mazda CX-9. The largest SUV from Mazda underwent an update this year which brought new safety tech and practicality features.

I was looking forward to this – road testing a CX-9 packed to the brim with holiday gear. See, although we make the test vehicles part of our daily lives, often it’s just myself in the car - apart from the weekend and the daycare run. So how would the CX-9 handle, ride, steering and brake packed full of suitcases, a week’s shopping, eskies, beer, toys and people – well, the three of us?

Sure I was working on a holiday, but car journos are like cops, we’re never really off-duty.

Mazda CX-9 2018: Sport (FWD)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.4L/100km
Seating7 seats
Price from$30,000

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

Could that be the world’s largest grille? Even by Mazda standards it’s big, but it suits the brand’s flagship SUV perfectly. Sure, the headlights seem a little too small for its face and the same can be said for the taillights and the rear of the car, but this is a stunning-looking SUV that has plenty of presence without going over the top.

Stepping up to the Touring grade gives that grille shiny teeth, too – chrome-look blades, while the Sport grade has black-coloured horizontal elements which look pretty ordinary. The Touring also has LED fog-lights.

The Touring gets 18-inch alloy wheels. The Touring gets 18-inch alloy wheels.

How big is the CX-9? Seriously big – look at the dimensions: 5075mm end to end, 1969mm across and 1747mm tall. That’s longer than a Toyota LandCruiser Prado. Will it fit into your garage/parking space?

The Toyota Kluger is 210mm shorter at 4865mm long, a bit narrower at 1925mm wide and almost the same height at 1730mm tall.

Something smaller? Well the Kia Sorento is a 4780mm in length, 1890mm wide and 1690 high. Hyundai’s Santa Fe is 4700mm bumper to bumper and the Skoda Kodiaq is just a hair’s width less.

The Touring’s cabin is premium feeling with its leather upholstery and big display. This is a well-finished cockpit with a higher quality feel than all of its rivals except the Kodiaq.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

The CX-9 is a seven-seat SUV, and while its third row is one of the very few that even I (at 191cm tall) can sit almost comfortably in, those back two seats really are for kids or small adults.

Climbing into those third-row seats is easier now, with the second row able to tilt further forward and the seat itself is easier to slide and tilt, too. That's part of the 2018 update.

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

Legroom in the second row is excellent. I can sit behind my driving position with about 10cm to spare between my knees and the seat-back.

Storage throughout the cabin is well considered. The centre console storage bin with its double-door lid is big and the Touring has a fold down rear armrest with storage and USB ports - that'll keep the kids happy. There’s also six cupholders (two up front, two in the middle 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 529 litres.

  • Its ground clearance is 222mm, which proved to be a challenge for my toddler. Its ground clearance is 222mm, which proved to be a challenge for my toddler.
  • While its third row is one of the very few that I can sit almost comfortably in, those back two seats really are for kids or small adults. While its third row is one of the very few that I can sit almost comfortably in, those back two seats really are for kids or small adults.

I had thought that with only three of us the CX-9 was going to be way too big but - as you can see from my bad photos - we could have done with more boot space.

The CX-9 does have an elevated ride height – it’s ground clearance is 222mm, which is higher than most SUVs. My toddler is at the age where he wants to get in and out of a car on his own, but that height proved a challenge for him and we did have one spill where he took the quick way down.

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

There are four grades in the CX-9 family and the Touring is the second rung up the ladder.

The all-wheel drive version of the Touring lists for $54,290, which is $4K more than the front-wheel drive. Standard features include an 8.0-inch touchscreen, leather seats, sat nav, reversing camera, six-speaker stereo, heated front seats with power adjustment, Bluetooth connectivity, push-button ignition, proximity key, three-zone climate control, LED headlights, rear parking sensors, LED fog lights, second row seats with fold-down armrest storage and twin USB ports, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

$54,290 may sound like a lot of money, but the Touring undercuts Toyota’s $57,550 Kluger GXL. $54,290 may sound like a lot of money, but the Touring undercuts Toyota’s $57,550 Kluger GXL.

The most important thing a car can have according to my three-year-old son is a directional air vent in the back. So, he was ridiculously happy with the three-zone climate control – he had his own temperature and airflow settings: always set to freezing and full-bore. He'd be unhappy in the third-row, though, because there are no vents back there at all.

The Touring AWD is $6400 more than the Sport AWD. What’s difference? The leather upholstery, the heated power seats, the bigger screen (the Sport has a 7.0-inch), those LED fog lights and the back armrest. That’s it really. You might decide, then, that it’s worth saving the money and getting the Sport.

Sure $54,290 may sound like a lot of money, but the Touring undercuts Toyota’s $57,550 Kluger GXL. Kia’s Sorento SLi 4x4 flies in under both at $50,490 but it’s only available as a diesel. Then in between them all is the Hyundai Santa Fe Elite 4x4 (also diesel) for $53,990.

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

There’s only one engine in the range – it’s a 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol and even though that’s small and the all-wheel drive CX-9 is pretty heavy at almost two tonnes its output of 170kW and 420Nm is more than enough grunt.

No manual gearboxes here – just a six-speed automatic transmission, but it’s a smooth shifter that is keen to be playful and responsive in Sport mode.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

Mazda says the fuel consumption of the CX-9 all-wheel drive is 8.8L/100km after a mix of open and urban roads. On our little family holiday from inner Sydney to Jervis Bay and back we covered 600km and the trip metre was telling me it was using an average of 9.7L/100km. That’s within a litre of the serving suggestion which is excellent (especially for me).

It’s a 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol, and even though that’s small its output is more than enough. It’s a 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol, and even though that’s small its output is more than enough.

We were 40 kilometres from Wollongong on the way home but the trip computer was telling me had 35km of fuel left in the tank. I made the mistake of announcing to everybody that we were going to see if we could make it, but then chickened out with five kilometres left in the tank and 10kms to go and ducked in to grab fuel. I didn’t want the family holiday to end on the side of the road.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

Adaptive cruise control is a brilliant thing, and once you’ve been let into the World of Tomorrow it’s a pain going back to regular cruise control – like on the Touring. Only the top spec Azami has adaptive cruise. First world problemos, as they say.

The CX-9's steering is excellent - light but with good feel even at low speeds in car parks. There’s a lot of good feels going on actually – the brakes and the pedals under your feet are placed well, the seats are comfortable as is every touch point – elbows, head rest, shifter.

A quiet, well insulated cabin made the trip a peaceful journey - apart from when everybody was screaming at each other. A quiet, well insulated cabin made the trip a peaceful journey - apart from when everybody was screaming at each other.

There are also some not-so good feels – the ride was too often too ‘jiggly’, almost as though the car was oversprung. There were times on the trip where not-so-perfect roads equalled a ride that wasn’t composed with more bounce and roll than I’d expect – that type of thing works against you when you’re trying to get your toddler to sleep.

That engine also feels as though it has to work hard when it’s carrying a packed CX-9 up a steep hill – there’s plenty of power and it tore up every ‘mountain’ we encountered, but a new V6 or V8 would have done it without sounding like it was giving it everything.

Do you need all-wheel drive? It’s not vital, but the traction it provides is excellent. Front-wheel drive SUVs often struggle to get the power to the road in the wet, especially when climbing a hill. If I could afford the all-wheel drive I’d always get it – plus the mileage for both is almost the same in the CX-9 (0.4L/100km difference).

  • The CX-9’s boot has an 810 litre cargo capacity with the third row folded flat. The CX-9’s boot has an 810 litre cargo capacity with the third row folded flat.
  • As you can see from my bad photos - we could have done with more boot space. As you can see from my bad photos - we could have done with more boot space.

The CX-9 is happiest on the highway where it cruises effortlessly (with a comfy ride) and higher above mostly everybody else. The window sills were low enough for my toddler to see out, although the glass on the Touring grade doesn’t have a dark tint to shield against the sun.

A quiet, well insulated cabin made the trip down a fairly peaceful journey – apart from when everybody was screaming at each other, that is.

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 was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP rating in 2016 and the 2017 update improved the advanced safety tech further with pedestrian detection for AEB and with the speed range increasing from 4-30km/h to 4-80km/h.

The Touring grade has the same safety equipment as the Sport – there’s the improved AEB, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

The 2017 update also added top-tether anchor points 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.

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. It may not have been an issue on our trip down the coast, but I wouldn’t head anywhere remote without a full-sized spare.

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 CX-9 is big – too big for my little family. Yep, a CX-5 SUV would be better suited to us. But, nobody’s ever complained about too much room, and our Touring fit all of our gear and performed well during its holiday week with us - easy to pilot through the city despite its size and effortless on the highway with excellent fuel economy over the whole trip. Sure, the ride became a bit ‘jiggly’ on the backroads and this grade doesn’t have adaptive cruise control, but the great points far outweigh those few drawbacks.

Pricing guides

$47,735
Based on 80 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$35,888
Highest Price
$54,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Azami (AWD) 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $42,000 – 53,680 2018 Mazda CX-9 2018 Azami (AWD) Pricing and Specs
Azami (awd) (5YR) 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $45,800 – 57,970 2018 Mazda CX-9 2018 Azami (awd) (5YR) Pricing and Specs
Azami (FWD) 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $40,900 – 52,360 2018 Mazda CX-9 2018 Azami (FWD) Pricing and Specs
Azami (fwd) (5YR) 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $42,500 – 54,340 2018 Mazda CX-9 2018 Azami (fwd) (5YR) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.9
Design8
Practicality8
Price and features8
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption8
Driving8
Safety8
Ownership8
Richard Berry
Senior Journalist

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