Nedahl Stelio

19 Dec 2017 • 15 min read

I’d heard so much about the revered Mazda CX-9 before I drove it that I had some seriously high expectations. You know when people talk up a movie they love and then you go and see it and it’s just never as good as the hype? That’s what I thought would happen here. 

I was spending my weekend visiting family who live almost an hour away, and I had a bunch of stuff to take - body boards, scooters, beach bags, changes of clothes and shoes, toys and food for the girls so they’d last the whole day and night out. And the CX-9 Azami, which is the top of the range. We were comfortable. We had enough space. In fact, if there was ever a car where you needed to pick up your house and take it with you for the day, this was it, and I was relieved I hadn’t been assigned a smaller car this week. 

The thing Mazda has really nailed is that it doesn’t feel like you’re driving a large seven-seater. Which is a great thing. Here's how it performed over my family weekend.

How does it drive?

So this is weird, but I’m going to compare the CX-9 to ice skating. Not ice skating like I would do it, all stumbly and stop-starty, but iceskating the way it’s meant to be done. Gliding smoothly around corners, holding fast to the road, sailing along straights. Strong enough and powerful enough to go up hills swiftly. High off the road, which makes you feel safe. It’s not heavy, there’s no pull downwards while you’re trying to move forwards. This car makes you feel like you can win the championship without very much effort at all.

I particularly like the way the steering feels. In some cars this size, you feel a fair amount of stiffness at the wheel, but not in the CX-9. Despite its large turning circle of 11.8 (standard in a seven-seater), the steering was so easy that doing three-point turns and reverse parking was not an arm wrestling event. I think this is a major point, especially as parents spend half their lives trying to park outside soccer/ballet/netball/insert kids’ after-school activity here, and some large cars have stiff steering.

How does it look?

For an SUV, it’s right up there. The CX-9 is sleeker and way less boxy than it’s competitors, the Nissan Pathfinder and the Toyota Kluger. There are curved lines and I was driving the special red which was particularly swanky (I actually got comments on it from other mums on the school run).

Inside, it is seriously luxe - being in the top of the range Azami, it has leather seats and I got the ‘stone’ colour, which, if you can possibly keep clean for next 10 years, I would absolutely recommend. There’s something about a light coloured leather that looks like it belongs in a much more expensive car. The interiors have been beautifully designed, with a shiny black centre console that I just love. It’s so much better than the dull bubble consoles some car companies persist with.

There’s something about a light coloured leather that looks like it belongs in a much more expensive car. (image credit: Dean McCartney) There’s something about a light coloured leather that looks like it belongs in a much more expensive car. (image credit: Dean McCartney)

It’s also got a leather steering wheel that is great to hold, and I think this is a big thing. Well, it’s actually a small thing that makes a big difference to your everyday driving experience.

The whole package makes you feel like you’re in a luxury vehicle from start to finish, and I feel like I match up in terms of other cars on the road. That’s a real feat - to make people proud of the car they’re driving and happy being on the road.

How safe is it?

Driving children around every day makes you want to be in the safest car possible. The CX-9 has six airbags, with side curtain airbags extending to the back row. It's also very recently upgraded its child seat offering, with two ISOFIX points and three top tether points in the second row, plus two new top tether points in the back row, so you can fit a lot of children under five in the car, if that’s what you need to do.

All Mazda SUVs come standard with Auto Emergency Braking, which means the car will stop itself if you’re about to hit the car in front of you - and in the CX-9, behind you as well, which is a huge bonus in a car this size. It has a reverse parking camera, plus front and rear parking sensors and blind spot monitoring.

How spacious is it?

Inside, the cabin is roomy. There is a good amount of leg space in the front seats, and my 185cm husband was perfectly comfortable in both the driver and passenger seats. There’s a lot of space in between the two seats and you never feel like you’re breathing each other’s air.

In the second row, my children were completely comfortable in their car seats (they’re four and six years old), and there is always noticeably less bickering when we’re in a big car. I guess they feel the space too!

In the second row, my children were completely comfortable in their car seats. (image credit: Dean McCartney) In the second row, my children were completely comfortable in their car seats. (image credit: Dean McCartney)

Climbing into the third row is easy if you’re wearing jeans and not a flowy spring dress on a really windy day in front of a camera (silly of me, I know), and sitting in the back row is quite comfortable too. I’m 162cm and quite compact, so I was happy back there, and I think children and small adults will be fine. You can move the second row seats forward and play with the space so you get the right legroom ratio for everyone involved.

The boot is quite sizeable, even with all seven seats up, there is enough room to throw school bags and groceries in. With the third row flat, it’s huge. I was able to fit everything - all the scooters and body boards, beach bags and the rest - without any trouble at all. Boot space is one of my key factors because when you’ve got a growing family, a big boot is one of the things that makes a real difference to every day.

The boot is quite sizeable, even with all seven seats up. (image credit: Dean McCartney) The boot is quite sizeable, even with all seven seats up. (image credit: Dean McCartney)

How easy is it for everyday use?

Oh, practicality! The more help parents can get with the small things in life, the easier the rest of the struggle is. The CX-9 Azami comes with six cupholders, two in each row, plus six bottle holders. The doors open nice and wide for easy access. It is fairly high off the ground so my little one had a bit of trouble getting in and out, but she loved every moment of the climb.

The CX-9 Azami comes with six cupholders, two in each row, plus six bottle holders. (image credit: Dean McCartney) The CX-9 Azami comes with six cupholders, two in each row, plus six bottle holders. (image credit: Dean McCartney)

An electronic driver’s seat made for easy movement to get it to my particular driving position, and I could see the front windscreen speedo display quite easily.

The girls loved having their own armrest and storage space. There is also a pocket on the back of the front seats, a centre storage bin and a spot at the front to throw your keys and phone.

You can pop the second row seats down fairly effortlessly to climb into the back row. There are no air vents back there, but the second row’s air con and tri-zone climate control is quite breezy. Still, nothing beats your own air vents. Also missing is a sunroof in the back half of the car. The sunroof is quite small for a car this size, and it’s up the front at the driver’s seat, whereas in a Pathfinder and a Santa Fe, you’ll get a large sunroof right down the back of the car to bring natural light into what can be a stuffy third row.

You can pop the second row seats down fairly effortlessly to climb into the back row. (image credit: Dean McCartney) You can pop the second row seats down fairly effortlessly to climb into the back row. (image credit: Dean McCartney)

What’s the tech like?

The multimedia screen is a good 8.0-inches, and while the tech system is easy enough to use and it syncs with my iPhone perfectly fine, it’s missing Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which would make it infinitely easier for tech inepts like me. You can control the tech with either the touchscreen or the knob on the centre console which is what I prefer to do.

The speakers are good and there’s even a speaker way down in the third row so passengers won’t miss out on the music.

However, as my girls note every time they get into a car now, there is no rear entertainment screen (they were spoilt twice, in the top spec Kluger and Pathfinder, and they never let me forget it. Every week they’re like, ‘where’s the car with the screen?’ ‘why doesn’t it have a screen?’) Now to be honest, it doesn’t bother me so much that they can’t watch something while driving, but I know parents with more than two children really love the help screens give them for a peaceful, uneventful drive. And isn’t that really what every parent wants, some silence?

What does it cost to drive?


The Wrap

The Mazda CX-9 is like the Toy Story of family cars - it’s the car that keeps on giving. It drives like a dream, I love the luxe, stylish interior and there’s plenty of boot space for a growing family. I give it 8.5 stars out of 10, taking points off for no CarPlay and no air vents in the third row. My children gave it 8.0 Woodys out of 10. They docked points for no rear entertainment screen, but they loved all that space and that their cousins fit in the car with us.

Likes

The space
The luxury
The smooth drive

Dislikes

No air vents in back row
No rear entertainment screen
No Carplay or Android Auto

Scores

Nedahl:

8.5

The Kids:

8

$43,890 - $64,790

Based on new car retail price

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