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Mazda CX-9 2021 review: GT SP

It's all about the black wheels and black grille on this GT SP model.

When you want a large SUV for a family, the Mazda CX-9 is right up there, traditionally combining style with size and comfort. This 2021 refresh of the CX-9 is no different. 

I test drove the CX-9 GT SP which is a new model that’s been added to the range of six, and it’s third from the top. This GT SP costs $67,490, before on road costs, and competes with cars like the Kia Sorento and Toyota Kluger.

I test drove it for seven days with my family of four, for this week’s family review

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What does it look like?

The exterior of the CX-9 hasn’t had a major overhaul, it still looks like the reliably well designed car you’re used to seeing on the streets, with an air of sophistication well beyond it’s price category.

This model has added black accents to the side mirrors, there are unique black wheels and a black grille on the front. They’re subtle changes that make a big difference. 

The CX-9 still looks like the reliably well designed car you’re used to seeing on the streets. The CX-9 still looks like the reliably well designed car you’re used to seeing on the streets.

Inside this GT SP model and the first thing you notice are the burgundy leather seats which come with this grade car. They’re eye-catching and the only advice I’d give is to choose an exterior colour that works with this interior colouring. 

There’s also a leather steering wheel, and some high gloss accents around the well designed centre console. It feels quite premium even though there are two models above this one to get to the top of the range, which is a great sign. 

This model has added black accents to the side mirrors, unique black wheels and a black grille on the front. This model has added black accents to the side mirrors, unique black wheels and a black grille on the front.

What’s the tech like?

The multimedia system has been upgraded with a 10.25-inch multimedia screen, more in line with the top competitors in this category. It comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so you get instant access to your phone’s main apps. 

Note that it’s not a touchscreen, it’s controlled with a knob on the centre console, but it’s actually really easy to use and a huge improvement over Mazda’s old system. 

The multimedia system has been upgraded with a 10.25-inch multimedia screen. The multimedia system has been upgraded with a 10.25-inch multimedia screen.

How easy is it to use every day?

I particularly like the swish double opening centre console storage box/armrest between the front seats. It's quite large inside and that’s where you’ll find two USB ports. There are also two cupholders in the front, a spot for keys and a phone, and bottle holders in the doors.

Second row passengers get two cupholders in the centre armrest plus their own climate control, and there is storage in the doors. Passengers back there get their own air vents and cupholders. 

I particularly like the swish double opening centre console storage box/armrest between the front seats. I particularly like the swish double opening centre console storage box/armrest between the front seats.

How spacious is it?

Space up the front is great. It’s definitely the size of car that is ideal to take away on a road trip because it’s comfortable in both the passenger seat and driver’s seat.

There’s lots of leg room and plenty of head space for taller people and it’s a wide car so you’re not feeling like you're rubbing shoulders together in the front.

Second row passengers also have lots of room. My two children, aged seven and nine, were happily occupied in there, and I fit easily, at 161cm (5’3”).

There's enough room between my knees and the front seat set for a taller person's position, that taller adults and teenagers will have room, and the second row slides to give more or less room to the row behind. 

  • Space up the front is great. Space up the front is great.
  • Second row passengers also have lots of room. Second row passengers also have lots of room.
  • The back row has customisable space thanks to the sliding second row. The back row has customisable space thanks to the sliding second row.

Into the back row, which has customisable space thanks to the sliding second row. If you’ve got long legs you’ll need it and if you’re a tall adult you wouldn’t want to be in there for a long journey. Kids will be fine, though. 

Boot space in the CX-9 is super large, if the third row is folded down there is a whopping 810L of space, which will fit almost anything a family could want to throw in there. It’s good for double prams, suitcases, even a long road trip's worth of stuff. 

With the third row in use the boot shrinks to 230L. That’s small but fairly standard among seven seat SUVs. You’ll get school bags and grocery bags in there. 

  • Boot space in the CX-9 is super large. Boot space in the CX-9 is super large.
  • If the third row is folded down there is a whopping 810L of space. If the third row is folded down there is a whopping 810L of space.
  • With the third row in use the boot shrinks to 230L. With the third row in use the boot shrinks to 230L.

How does it drive?

The driving is good in the CX-9. This updated version has a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-petrol engine which is responsive and doesn’t feel too heavy for such a large car, though there is some expected lag when you take off. 

It handles really nicely, and the steering wheel turns easily without being heavy and feeling like hard work.

It’s a very large car and you can feel it’s size when parking. It’s a very large car and you can feel it’s size when parking.

It powers up hills well and feels good to drive on highways because of the size, and you feel confident overtaking. This one is the AWD version but you can save $4000 if you get FWD.

It’s a very large car and you can feel it’s size when parking, I underestimated the size in my local Woolies this week, but once you do get a handle on how large it is, the easy steering and hi-res reverse parking camera definitely help.

This updated version has a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-petrol engine. This updated version has a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-petrol engine.

How safe is it?

How much does it cost to own?

The Mazda CX-9 GT SP AWD costs from $67,490. Fuel consumption is a claimed 9.0L/100km and I averaged 12.2L/100km this week doing mostly suburban driveways, not many highways.

Unfortunately there’s no hybrid or electric version on the horizon which we’ll see in some competitors in this category. 

It’s covered by Mazda’s five year/unlimited km warranty and servicing is required every 12 months/10,000km, which is shorter than some company’s 15,000km requirements. 


The Wrap

The CX-9 is one of those cars that has it all for a family. Space, seven seats, safety, style, practicality - it’s all here, and it all works like a charm. The new update and the introduction of this spec makes things a little more special and I gave the CX-9 a family rating of 8.2 out of 10. 

The kids loved it too, they gave it the same - it’s always those two extra seats that wins them over. 

Likes

Stylish design
Large interior
Smooth drive

Dislikes

No hybrid/electric option
Third-row seats for kids only
Some turbo lag on take-off

Scores

Nedahl:

4.1

The Kids:

4.1

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