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Mazda CX-9 2022 review: Azami LE

The Azami LE showcases serious style in a market where SUVs can lean towards boxy and rugged.

The top-of-the-line model for Mazda's largest SUV is a stunning entry and showcases serious style in a market where SUVs can lean towards boxy and rugged. For those wanting the practicality and space of an SUV but something that feels elegant, this might just be the ticket.

I drove the CX-9 for a week with my family of three. The Azami LE is an AWD but you can get 2WD versions of the cheaper models. It competes with other large SUVs like the Toyota Kluger and Hyundai Palisade.

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What does it look like?

The almost shark-like nose hints at the commanding driving experience while still looking a tad naff compared to the sleek lines running along the doors to the rear.

This initial thought is quickly contradicted by the 20-inch alloy wheels, large windows and slim-line LED lights. Features which make it look refined and polished, which is carried throughout the interior as well.

It's a good-looking car and well-proportioned for its long wheelbase. This is one that you'd be happy to show off to the in-laws on the weekend get togethers.

  • The almost shark-like nose hints at the commanding driving experience while still looking a tad naff compared to the sleek lines running along the doors to the rear. The almost shark-like nose hints at the commanding driving experience while still looking a tad naff compared to the sleek lines running along the doors to the rear.
  • This initial thought is quickly contradicted by the 20-inch alloy wheels, large windows and slim-line LED lights. This initial thought is quickly contradicted by the 20-inch alloy wheels, large windows and slim-line LED lights.
  • It’s a good-looking car and well-proportioned for its long wheelbase. It’s a good-looking car and well-proportioned for its long wheelbase.
  • This is one that you’d be happy to show off to the in-laws on the weekend get togethers. This is one that you’d be happy to show off to the in-laws on the weekend get togethers.
  • The Azami LE showcases serious style in a market where SUVs can lean towards boxy and rugged. The Azami LE showcases serious style in a market where SUVs can lean towards boxy and rugged.

How does it drive?

The Azami LE has a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-petrol engine and it's up to the task of moving the CX-9's big body. It's powerful and sure of itself, like a big cat. I felt very confident at different speeds and crossing traffic in this.

Now, while it is a pretty smooth ride, you can sometimes feel the bumps on older country roads, but that leans into the sporty driving experience. The cabin gets top marks for being quiet, too, which is always a plus.

The steering wheel feels lovely under my hands and the head-up display is great. Having the 'Speed Sign Recognition' and the blind spot warning show on the head-up display is very handy. There was a tiny bit of wobble in the steering with high winds but not enough to detract from the overall enjoyment.

The Azami LE has a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-petrol engine and it’s up to the task of moving the CX-9’s big body. The Azami LE has a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-petrol engine and it’s up to the task of moving the CX-9’s big body.

Now... parking. This is where the CX-9 loses a mark. At over five metres long, with a 12-metre turning circle, and a long nose, it's not always a friend in tight carparks. There's something about the car that made me feel like I didn't know where it started or ended.

If it didn't have a 360-degree camera view or sensors, I would have been in trouble and, after a week, I still hadn't gotten the hang of the perfect park.

How spacious is it?

The Azami LE is the six-seater version but other variants can come with seven seats. The storage up front is adequate. You have two cupholders in the centre console, plus a bottle holder in each door.

That middle console isn't massive but plenty big enough for odds and ends. The headroom is good and the leg room makes me think of a business class seat (from what I've seen when I've passed them).

The second row has a similar feel and, as an adult, you'll have the same feelings of being in the front row. The middle console is large and has two cupholders.

  • In the front row you have very comfortable Nappa leather quilted sports seats with electric adjustment and lumbar support. In the front row you have very comfortable Nappa leather quilted sports seats with electric adjustment and lumbar support.
  • The second row consists of two of what Mazda refers to as 'Captain's seats', carrying through the luxury of the front. The second row consists of two of what Mazda refers to as 'Captain's seats', carrying through the luxury of the front.
  • The third row has two seats, both with top tethers, but the prospect of scrambling back there to secure a toddler every day is daunting. The third row has two seats, both with top tethers, but the prospect of scrambling back there to secure a toddler every day is daunting.

There's also a bottle holder in each door and a sneaky hidden storage compartment near the footwell. I'm not sure what it's meant to store but it ended up holding my five-year old's snacks.

The third row has a cupholder and USB port on each wheel arch but, unfortunately, there are no air-vents. This does limit third row passenger comfort.

In the boot, with all six seats up, you get a 230L (VDA) of space but with the third row down, that jumps up to 810L. Large enough for luggage and a big pram. There's plenty of space for groceries and a school bag when all rows are up, though.

How easy is it to use every day?

The Azami LE is luxurious but has definitely been designed with families in mind. In the front row you have very comfortable Nappa leather quilted sports seats with electric adjustment and lumbar support. They also boast heating and ventilation. Perfect for all seasons.

The second row consists of two of what Mazda refers to as 'Captain's seats', carrying through the luxury of the front. This row has a permanent middle console and the seats also have heat and ventilation functions.

This special layout made my five-year old want to ditch his car seat so he could fully enjoy the features. So much so, that I caught him trying to unclip his seat buckle!

He also loved the retractable sun-shades in both doors. This is a good feature, especially when you have little ones. However, this two-seat centre row layout compromises practicality, as there are a lot of instances where you might miss that middle seat.

The boot space as been measured by litres in VDA. With all of the rear seats up, you get 230L, but with the third row down that jumps up to 810L. The boot space as been measured by litres in VDA. With all of the rear seats up, you get 230L, but with the third row down that jumps up to 810L.

The third row has two seats, both with top tethers, but the prospect of scrambling back there to secure a toddler every day is daunting.

The seats also have a one-touch slide and fold function to allow access to the rear, if you have the time to wait. It's a great feature, but slow. It took a full minute to slide it forward and then slide it back into place.

The third row can be folded flat with a manual lever located on the back of the seat. This zone isn't well suited for adults on longer trips but the seats are heavily padded and more comfortable than the typical third row experience.

The boot features a hands-free (kick motion) powered tailgate which is always a good feature in a family car. The boot also sports a space-saver spare tyre, but it looks tricky to get out. There are anchor points to secure cargo and a 12-volt port, as well.

Although it limits some of the layout possibilities, the Captain's seats in the second row make this car feel like it would be the ultimate road trip car – for kids and adults alike. My extended family certainly wanted to be ferried around and test out all of the features.

The Azami LE is luxurious but has definitely been designed with families in mind. The Azami LE is luxurious but has definitely been designed with families in mind.

How safe is it?

The Azami LE has all the important safety features and technology, including curtain airbags that protect those in the third row. About the only thing it doesn't have is a centre airbag up front, which is starting to appear on newer models.

The CX-9 has a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, but it's based on criteria dating back to 2016.

Safety tech highlights include, AEB (with pedestrian and cyclist detection), forward obstruction warning, lane keeping assist and lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert (always great in a carpark) plus that 360-degree camera view, as well as front and rear parking sensors.

All CX-9s feature alloy wheels. All CX-9s feature alloy wheels.

In the second row, there are two ISOFIX points and two top tethers. The top tethers should be called bottom tethers, though, as they're located at the base of the seat and you need to let out almost the full length of your top tether strap to hook in a rear-facing car seat.

The permanent middle console makes it tricky fitting a seatbelt but the ISOFIX is a breeze to use. That's something to consider if your car seat is for a five-plus year old, as you won't be able to use the ISOFIX.

In the third row, you have two top tethers and can easily fit two car seats side-by-side (I tested it). However, this would be the row you put an older child who can buckle themselves up as it would be awkward to climb back there regularly.

What's the tech like?

The technology matches those looks and modern drivers will find something to like in this car. The digital dash is beautiful and the pared back buttons and their layout are reminiscent of a BMW.

Up front you have a handy charging pad for smart phones in front of the gear shifter, as well as two USB ports hidden in the centre console. The ports feel like an afterthought and should have been positioned where the charging pad is so you don't have a trailing cable running across the front when you're connecting to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

The only gripe we had was the 10.25-inch media screen. It's not a touchscreen and not easy to use. Where you think you'll ‘dab' the control wheel down to move to options to select, it's actually a scrolling motion but on a different app... it's the opposite!

The sound of my phone calls and radio sometimes cut in and out, too, which surprised me. Having said that, the reversing camera is clear and the 360-degree view feature is accurate.

The cabin gets top marks for being quiet, too, which is always a plus. The cabin gets top marks for being quiet, too, which is always a plus.

How much does it cost to own?

This is the top model and you can pick it up for $73,881 (MSRP) but boy, do you get some bang for your buck. This is filled with features and puts other ‘top spec' SUV's price tags to shame.

The CX-9 also comes with five year/ unlimited km warranty, which is standard for the class. It has capped price servicing over five years that averages out at $397 per service.

Service intervals are every 10,000km or 12 months, which could be annoying if you put some heavy kilometres on your car every year.

It's a big boy and can be thirsty. The official combined cycle consumption figure for fuel is 9.0L/100km but I didn't see anything below 11.4L/100km on the dash read-out after driving on the highway and city streets. With rising living expenses, this is a point to consider.

This is the top model and you can pick it up for $73,881 (MSRP) but boy, do you get some bang for your buck. This is the top model and you can pick it up for $73,881 (MSRP) but boy, do you get some bang for your buck.


The Wrap

This is a thoroughbred to be sure and, besides the parking, it's a pleasure drive. My family all had plenty of space plus it's just nice to look at.

It has practical family-orientated features while still pandering to the luxe-loving parent and it got a 4.5 from me. My five-year old thought it was the bees' knees and he gave it five. He just has a fascination with buttons and big cars!

If you're after a car that has the power and the looks, this might well deserve your consideration.

Likes

Driving performance
Luxurious finishes
Boot space

Dislikes

Cumbersome to park
Slow electric adjustments on second row
Sound cut in and out on radio/calls

Scores

Emily:

4.5

The Kids:

5

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