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Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the 2016 Mazda CX-9 Touring FWD with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
Mazda’s CX-9 is an absurdly popular car, and for very good reasons. The first generation was a fine-looking thing, had seven seats and was a cut above its more affordable rivals. It was a fine example of why Mazda continues to kick goals in this country, and is more popular here than just about anywhere else.
A good-looking seven-seater was hard to find until the arrival of the CX-9, with everyone taking the big-box-on-wheels approach, so the Mazda’s styling was a breath of fresh air.
There were a few dramas with the old car, though; most notably its 3.7-litre V6 engine’s epic fuel consumption - and it was ageing quickly in a world full of ambitious Korean companies on one side, and fast catching-up Europeans on the other.
The front-wheel-drive Sport pretty much defines the phrase “a lot of car for the money”.
The new CX-9 range starts at $42,490 for the front-wheel-drive Sport, which pretty much defines the phrase “a lot of car for the money”. The prices rise up the ranks, which consist of Touring, GT and Azami (sounds like a spicy substance made from horse radish, but isn’t). Each model can be had in either front- or all-wheel drive.
We had the next level up from the Sport, the Touring, in $48,890 front-wheel drive guise. Adding all-wheel drive brings a price jump of $4000, taking it to $4500 more than a similarly equipped Kia Sportage SLi, and about $1900 more than a (smaller) Hyundai Santa Fe Elite, both with diesel power.
On the face of it, this makes the Touring look a bit expensive. You’ve got to delve into the spec sheets and safety inclusions to see where your extra cash is going (aside from the obvious style advantages).
Standard in the CX-9 Touring are 18-inch alloys, three-zone climate control, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, keyless entry and start, cruise control, electric heated front seats, power windows all round, front LED fog lights, auto LED headlights, partial leather trim, auto wipers and a long list of safety goodies.
There’s just two options; Mazda’s gorgeous Soul Red paint - which will let you dream of the MX-5 you really wanted - or the new Machine Grey hue for a very reasonable $250 (compared to the four-figure sums most companies charge). All other colours are no-cost options.
A six-speaker stereo run by Mazda’s MZD Connect provides entertainment and navigation assistance and you can connect your phone via Bluetooth or USB.
MZD combines touch screen and a console-mounted rotary controller to allow you to choose your music and an app or two, but for some reason the software is occasionally unable to get the phone to obey your commands. MZD Connect is pretty good and is a clear rip-off of the best in the business; BMW’s iDrive.
With seven seats on offer inside its gigantic five-metre-plus body, there’s room to burn for seven real, fully grown humans. The final row is accessible if you’re moderately nimble and there’s a decent amount of room between the seat backs and the tailgate.
Access to the back row is by tilting and sliding the centre-row seats. They’re a bit heavy and it can be a bit clunky at first, but after a few goes you’ll be fine and there’s even a handy grab hole to help haul yourself in. You can forget it if you’ve got baby seats in there, however, so that might be a problem.
Boot space starts at a Mazda2-like 230 litres, stretching to an impressive 810 litres with the third row folded away. First-generation CX-9 owners will want to know that both of these figures are a fair way down on that first car.
There’s no official figure with the second row folded flat because Mazda doesn’t seem to want to tell us. At a guess, it’s probably around 1500 litres.
There are cupholders in every row of the CX-9, with two in front, two in the middle row’s centre armrest and two in the plastic side trims at the very rear. Each door will take a bottle of at least 500ml in capacity, taking that count to four. The rear centre armrest also has two USB ports for charging and the boot has a 12V power supply to go with the front row’s plug.
The boot also has shopping-bag hooks but loses the clever false floor as the space-saver spare is now inside the car rather than underneath.
The CX-9 is hugely impressive both inside and out. The new car is even more polished than the old, with a bit of visual heft removed by making the design look wider and lower, partly because it actually is wider and lower.
The big Mazda corporate grille is flanked by smaller headlights than the old car’s and looks all the better for it. The grille does look like it might slice you in two if you were hit by it, however – the chrome surround thrusts forward at the top into a sharp-looking blade. It sure does look cool, though.
It’s a shame, then, that there’s a join at the base of the grille surround that looks decidedly cheap, and thus out of place.
The profile is much as it was before, which is to say elegant and low-slung, like most Mazdas. Both ends are capped by LED lighting and precise detailing.
The cabin is huge and beautifully built. The trim is part-leather, but the fake stuff is pretty good. Heaps of glass means plenty of light and a dazzling interior. The German-style screen sits atop the dash in full view and everything falls easily to hand, except perhaps for the climate control for the front seats.
There is loads of space for front and middle row passengers, with Mazda claiming a 99th percentile German (yeah, we’re not sure why Germany got dragged into it, but they seem to be suggesting they’re all big pork-knuckle draggers) will be comfortable.
All seats are high-set with a good view out and, most of all, hugely comfortable. Third-row passengers aren’t stuck with an afterthought of a space either, with room for passengers up to 170cm and space under the seats ahead for toes.
The only black mark is the lack of air vents, with Mazda claiming the centre row’s do the job and anyway, all that ducting adds weight, complexity and pinches space. And let’s face it, not many people use those seats full time anyway.
The 1876kg CX-9 forced Mazda to back down on its “no turbo for petrol” edict after Saudi Arabia asked the company to tone down the consumption a bit for the greater good of the world’s oil supplies (that’s possibly an exaggeration).
The 2.5-litre SkyActiv will be familiar to some Mazda3, 6 and CX-5 owners, but with the compressor, power jumps to 170kW and 420Nm. The torque figure would be a fine effort for a diesel of this size, let alone a petrol. Every CX-9 in Australia is fitted with stop-start and Mazda’s i-eloop (energy recovery) system to help trim the consumption, apparently a world exclusive.
Mazda claims 8.4L/100km for front-wheel-drive CX-9s, an easy 25 percent lower figure than the old V6.
In our time with the car, we got 11.4L/100km. While not a startlingly good figure, it’s a gigantic improvement on the real-world numbers of the old car, which stretched towards the 20L/100km mark without much effort. With its 74-litre tank, a comfortable 650km-plus should be easy to achieve in city driving. It’ll even drink E10 if you’re brave enough.
There aren’t many cars this big that feel like they’re a class or two smaller. The Audi Q7, surely the benchmark (when you forget that it’s more than twice as much to buy) manages that trick, and the CX-9 does the same.
It’s such an easy car to drive – the torquey petrol, while not whisper quiet, spins up happily with a just a prod of the accelerator, the car feeling peppy, partly thanks to this lively throttle response. There’s enough torque to spin up the inside front when you’re launching, which is almost unnecessarily exciting.
Steering is well-weighted at all speeds and it’s super-simple to build up a rhythm as you thread your way through the traffic.
Things would be rather better if the tyres on the Touring were better and the only unfortunate downside of all that torque is that you’ll be fighting the traction control and/or some mild torque steer. The tyres are not at all great in the wet, which is irritating because they blight an otherwise excellent driving experience.
The ride is good too, but big dips like the gutters of Sydney’s bayside suburbs unsettle the body. Apart from that, the big car floats over the rest with the aid of high sidewalls on the 255/60 tyres fitted to 18-inch alloys.
The CX-9 is pretty quiet but not as quiet as some other cars in the class, like the Kia Sorento. Having said that, the Mazda’s superior dynamics, looks and interior make up for a few clunks.
The CX-9 is bristling with safety gear and scored a well-deserved five ANCAP stars.
The Touring comes standard with six airbags, ABS, traction and stability controls, trailer-sway control, brake assist, front and rear autonomous emergency braking (the latter a first in the class), front and rear collision warning and blind spot detector.
Mazda offers a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty across the entire range.
Servicing pricing is capped for eight years and the CX-9 will need to visit the dealer every six months or 10,000km. Services range from $353 to $395, seemingly alternating every 10,000km. The first five years will cost about $3740 or an average $374 per service for covered items.
You can buy Roadside Assist through Mazda for between $68.10 and $83.50 depending on your preferred level of cover.
The new CX-9 is an excellent follow-up to its good-but-flawed predecessor. In this segment the competition is limited but still incredibly fierce. In the sub-$50,000 bracket, the Mazda is blueing with some quality gear from Hyundai and Kia and an undeniably cheap and cheerful offering from Mitsubishi.
Those rivals come standard with all-wheel drive once you trip over $45,000, while Mazda wants to coax another $4000 out of you for the all-paw version, so you’re getting less for more in that department.
If you don’t need all-wheel drive – and most of us, if we’re honest, really don’t – this Touring spec makes a lot of sense. Excellent build quality, refined, powerful, a true seven-seater (I’m looking at you, Santa Fe), lots of useful gear and above all, very safe.
While it is the priciest of these cars, it’s also the best, and that’s why you’d pay it.
|Azami (AWD)||2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$38,789 – 47,990||2016 Mazda CX-9 2016 Azami (AWD) Pricing and Specs|
|Azami (FWD)||2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$35,950 – 48,990||2016 Mazda CX-9 2016 Azami (FWD) Pricing and Specs|
|Classic (FWD)||3.7L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$23,650 – 29,260||2016 Mazda CX-9 2016 Classic (FWD) Pricing and Specs|
|Grand Touring||3.7L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$33,000 – 39,270||2016 Mazda CX-9 2016 Grand Touring Pricing and Specs|