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Mazda CX-9 Touring AWD 2016 review

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

Richard Berry road tests and reviews the 2016 Mazda CX-9 Touring AWD with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

If you can't understand why anybody would ever need a seven-seat SUV, then perhaps you'd better swagger on over to an MX-5 review instead and take your free and easy I-just-need-to-pack-a-toothbrush-life with you, because for many Aussie families the SUV need is indeed real.

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The median Australian family has two children (well 1.9) and if those kids have a friend each who need a lift home from soccer then seven seats start to fill up fast.

Divorcees are familiar with the transport struggle too, two kids from each marriage suddenly means a Commodore doesn't cut it any more – I know I was one of those kids. Or your marriage is intact and you just have your own cult-like tribe of offspring.

Yes, yes there are people movers like the brilliant Citroen Grand C4 Picasso which is like the Swiss army knife of cars with some quirky features that are near impossible to work out. There's also the Toyota Tarago – the trusty steed of families for what seems like centuries, but they don't offer the commanding ride height of an SUV.

We took it through our usual test loop, but more importantly for this type of car we tested it in day-to-day life – from picking up the kids to doing the shopping.

The very first Mazda CX-9 arrived in Australia in 2007 and gave chase to Toyota's Kluger which had a four-year head start. The Kluger has always been more popular and even now remains the sales king of soft-roaders in the large SUV segment while the Mazda has come under threat from Korean rivals of ever increasing quality such as Kia's Sorento and Hyundai's Santa Fe.

But all of that could change because the second-generation CX-9 has arrived and it's not just good... it's outstanding.

Here we've tested the specification more people will buy than any other – the Touring. And it's the all-wheel drive version, too. We took it through our usual test loop, but more importantly for this type of car we tested it in day-to-day life – from picking up the kids to doing the shopping.

Design

The second generation CX-9 has been fully redesigned. At 5075mm end-to-end, 1969mm across and 1747mm high, the new CX-9 is 31mm shorter, 33mm wider and 19mm taller than the previous one. It's shorter overall but the new model's wheelbase is 55mm longer at 2930mm.

Toyota's Kluger looks like a tank but it's actually 210mm shorter in length and 44mm narrower than the new CX-9, it's also not as tall at 1730mm. The CX-9 also has 22mm more ground clearance at 222mm and a 140mm longer wheelbase than the Kluger.

A bonnet and front guards made of aluminium, plus the new four cylinder have helped drop the weight of the CX-9 by about 100kg to 1924kg – it's also about the same amount lighter than the equivalent AWD Kluger GXL.

Yes, the CX-9's cabin is conservative but it's stylish, Like Malcolm Turnbull, but with smaller ears. 

This CX-9 is less curvaceous than its predecessor, but it's stunning with its paper crease-sharp lines, the long, broad bonnet and a grille which is not just large, but extends dramatically out from the headlights. Under all that drama the bumper's 'supercar style' air intakes (they aren't really air-intakes) make the new CX-9 look wide and tougher. The design of the rear is noticeably less curvy, with a smaller rear window and sleeker taillights.

Yes, the CX-9's cabin is conservative but it's stylish, Like Malcolm Turnbull, but with smaller ears. That sloping dashboard is a nice change from the confronting wall-of-a-dash many SUV's feature. Fit and finish feels excellent – from the leather-stitched steering wheel to the door trim plastics and leather-upholstered seats that come with the Touring.

Practicality

Want to find out how practical an SUV or bathroom or pram or anything is? Throw a merciless family at it, which is what we did with the CX-9.

Those enormous rear doors open wide for a huge entrance and this combined with the elevated ride height makes getting kids into car seats so much easier than a sedan – although the subtle coupe style to the roofline does get in the way slightly.

Rear legroom is down compared to the outgoing CX-9, but it's still excellent – at 191cm I can sit behind my driving position with about a 100mm gap between my knees and the seat back.

My height (and lack of co-ordination) means third rows and I don't normally get on, but sitting in the rear seats I'm happy to say my knees weren't under my chin or my cheek against the roof. Sure there's a 'temporary-use-only' feel as with most SUV third rows but there was a 5cm gap between my knees and the seat back, with an average-height colleague sitting comfortably in the fore/aft adjustable second row.

Upfront legroom has been increased for a spacious cockpit, with all touch points from the armrests to the seats feeling comfortable.

In my seating position I found forward visibility slightly obstructed by the A-pillars and the rear window is small and high above the ground. This makes the reversing camera that comes standard on all CX-9s essential.

The seats are leather but they are also largely banana and biscuit resistant.

Storage is great all through the cabin with a large centre console bin under the centre armrest, a deep hidey-hole under the dash in front of the shifter and a box for books and tablets (with two USB ports) in the fold-down armrest in the second row.

There's two cupholders in the front centre console, two in the second row armrest, while the third row has a cupholder for each seat.

All doors have bottle holders big enough to handle a 1.25-litre.

With the third in place there's 230 litres VDA of room and 810 with them down.

Those seats are leather but they are also largely banana and biscuit resistant.

Price and features

Our CX-9 Touring with all-wheel drive lists at $52,890, with the carpet floor mats also fitted costing an extra $336. The list price is $4000 more than the front-wheel drive version.

Do you need the AWD? If you're using dirt and gravel roads frequently it can be useful. Having a vehicle which can distribute drive between all four wheels to maintain traction is also an excellent safety feature on wet bitumen roads, but it's not vital and most cars are two-wheel drive anyway and get by just fine.

The CX-9 range kicks off with the $42,490 front-wheel drive Sport which itself is seriously packed with standard features. The list includes three-zone climate control with a digital display in the second row, sat nav, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, LED headlights and keyless start.

The Touring swaps the seven-inch screen for an eight-inch, brings black leather seats, a centre armrest in the second row with storage and two USB ports, heated and power adjustable front seats, auto headlights and wipers and LED foglights which if you'll see on the front bumper if you crouch down and look closely.

It's excellent value for money especially compared to Toyota's Kluger GXL AWD which costs $55,190 and comes with a smaller 6.1-inch screen and doesn't have sat nav. But where the CX-9 Touring really pulls away from the Kluger in terms of value is its advanced safety equipment which comes standard which is covered in the Safety section below.

One item missing from the Touring you do get on the Kluger is proximity unlocking. Sure your life may never depend on it, but it's hard not to be happy with a car that can 'feel' you bolting through the rain and unlocks as you reach for the handle.

Engine/s and transmission/s

The previous CX-9's thirsty 3.7-litre V6 has been replaced by a fuel-efficient 2.5-litre turbocharged four cylinder petrol, which makes more torque at 420Nm and 30kW less power at 170kW. A six speed torque converter automatic is the only transmission.

Fuel consumption

The previous CX-9 had a 'Solo man' thirst of 11L/100km combined and even that was optimistic. The new engine consumes 91 RON (yep, the cheap one) at an official combined rate of 8.8L/100km. That's optimistic too and my mainly city and suburban commuting drove it to drink at 15.9L/100km. The front-wheel drive CX-9 has the same engine and transmission but consumes at 8.4L/100km – so not a great deal of difference.

Driving

The new CX-9 is a large SUV that doesn't feel big to drive – most of the time. It's not until you're parking or steering through a multi-storey car park that you'll remember you're piloting a five-metre long, two-metre wide land yacht.

But the great-feeling steering is light, the reversing camera is good, there's the hill hold function which stops you rolling back on a ramp.

The engine is smooth for effortlessly moving to where you need to be at slow speeds such as car parks or at higher speeds say when you're overtaking.

Handling isn't high on the lists of large SUV shoppers, but if pushed the CX-9 is impressively dynamic for this class.

Rolling on the Touring's 18-inch wheels with 255mm wide tyres, the ride is outstanding with the type of comfort and control delivered by the suspension that I'd expect from high-end European SUVs. Matching this refinement is a serenely quiet cabin thanks to better insulation material on the floor, thicker glass and seals.

Handling isn't high on the lists of large SUV shoppers, but if pushed the CX-9 is impressively dynamic for this class.

My only issue is that things are too easy is places – the accelerator pedal in our test car was so light that even the weight of my foot caused it to depress fully.

Safety

The CX-9 scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating, which is expected of all new cars these days. What sets the CX-9 apart from many of its rivals is the load of advanced safety technology coming standard from the base-spec up. We're talking blind spot and rear cross traffic alert, and AEB which works when moving forward or in reverse.

Curtain airbags also extend to cover the third row, too. That back row has only one top tether point and no ISOFIX mounts for child seats, while the second row has three top tethers and two ISOFIX mounts on the outside seats.

Ownership

The CX-9 is covered by Mazda's three-year unlimited kilometre warranty, with servicing needed every 12 months or 10,000km with prices capped at $353 for the first service, then $395 for the second, $353 for the third, $395 for the fourth and $353 again for the fifth.  

Verdict

The Touring grade is the sweet spot for many Mazda models and this is true for the CX-9, too with buyers getting armfuls of standard features and good ones like AEB, plus little bits of luxury such as heated leather seats. All-wheel drive is $4000 more than the front-wheel drive, if you can afford it get it, but it's not essential.

There's some excellent affordable large SUVs out there for bigger families but Mazda's CX-9 has gone and reset the standard for the segment. The CX-9 Touring is a boldly beautiful beast that's outstanding in its value, design, ride, practicality and safety.

Do you prefer the CX-9 to the Kluger? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 Mazda CX-9 Touring AWD pricing and spec info.

 

Pricing Guides

$40,990
Based on 189 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$29,999
Highest Price
$47,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Azami (AWD) 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $40,888 – 47,990 2016 Mazda CX-9 2016 Azami (AWD) Pricing and Specs
Azami (FWD) 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $32,990 – 47,990 2016 Mazda CX-9 2016 Azami (FWD) Pricing and Specs
Classic (FWD) 3.7L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $24,200 – 29,810 2016 Mazda CX-9 2016 Classic (FWD) Pricing and Specs
Grand Touring 3.7L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $33,660 – 40,040 2016 Mazda CX-9 2016 Grand Touring Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Richard Berry
Senior Journalist

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