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Mazda CX-9 vs Kia Grand Carnival

Mazda CX-9 and Kia Grand Carnival go head-to-head.

Mazda CX-9 and Kia Grand Carnival go head-to-head in this comparative review.

value

Mazda CX-9

from $44,425

Kia's Grand Carnival has been king of the people movers for ages. At last check it was more than double its closest rival, although now there are FWD SUVs like the Mazda that compete for the buyer of vehicles with more than five seats. Resale value is ok, but there are so many potential buyers, off loading one shouldn't be a problem. There are several models and all have a good amount of kit in them and that's what buyers want. In fact, no one wanted the "poverty spec" so it was deleted from the line-up.

Kia Grand Carnival

from $38,990

The seven-seater CX-9 front-wheel-drive SUV costs an extra $11,000 over the five-seater, but the fact that it's not all-wheel drive saves you about the same amount. Not all of that saving is in the drive system as the Luxury model seven-seater gets a lot of extra creature features such as Bluetooth with audio streaming, satnav and leather upholstery. However, the front-wheel-drive model is lighter and slightly more economical to run. Resale is very good for all Mazdas.

design

Mazda CX-9

It's an eight-seater bus and no amount of chrome doo-dahs or styling can help. But inside it's plush, quiet and accommodating. There are plenty of clever and sensible cubby holes for storage of all manner of items big and small. The centre console becomes a handy table and the rear compartment gets special airconditioning controls and vents.

Kia Grand Carnival

This is a pretend SUV. It looks like a blinged-up off-roader, only it's not. It does have the extra clearance, but not the off-road capability. Anyway, it's too nice to go bashing around the bush. The front is quite sporty but from some rear angles it looks a bit bloated, especially in white. That's probably because of the extra length for the third row. Inside, it's like a disco with bright coloured lights and a cockpit-style surrounding dashboard and centre console. There is plenty of room all around and the rear seats deploy quickly and neatly.

technology

Mazda CX-9

Every Grand Carnival comes with Bluetooth which is almost a must-have these days from the point of view of safety and convenience. The petrol engine has been uprated from a 2.7-litre to a powerful 3.5-litre V6 that has the wheels chirping at every traffic light derby. The new and compact six-speed auto is a handy colleague to that powerful mill. There is also a 2.2-litre diesel available. The remote control electric side passengers doors are handy.

Kia Grand Carnival

It should be a rocket, but it's not. The 3.7-litre 204kW/367Nm V6 petrol engine is weighed down by its two-tonne bulk, even though it's not as heavy as the AWD model. There are plenty of gadgets in the Classic including a rear camera, but it would be preferable to have Bluetooth without having to buy the Luxury model. The six-speed Activematic transmission is quick, smooth and responsive.

safety

Mazda CX-9

With a long cabin like this there is an argument for more than the six airbags provided, but it's enough to earn a four-star safety rating. The more-than-lively petrol engine has the traction control and stability control working overtime. Apart from the occasional chirping wheels, it never gets out of control, although sudden steering inputs tend to make the vehicle lurch around. It has the rear camera screen cleverly inset into the rearview mirror - just where it should be.

Kia Grand Carnival

A maximum five-star rating comes thanks to a host of the usual safety gear such as six airbags and stability and rollover control systems. Front-wheel drive may not be as safe as all-wheel drive, but the driver aids keep it well bahaved. The reversing camera is also a must-have safety device.

driving

Mazda CX-9

It may be a bus, but it doesn't respond to the right foot like any bus I've ever ridden. It is lively and, dare I say it, exciting. handling is more carlike than buslike and it pulls up well. The new engine has proven reliable, unlike its notorious predecessor. Kia has honoured many claims on that engine and now the eight-seater comes with a confidence-inspiring five-year warranty.

Kia Grand Carnival

It doesn't feel as big as it is until you start parking it. Then you can't see the boundaries of the car, or the rear three-quarters and you have to rely on the camera. Sensors would be handy. It handles and runs pretty well around town for a two-tonne machine and pulls loads adequately. Push a little harder and it starts feeling its heft. The foot-operated park brake is a nuisance. Out on the highway it's an eerily quiet and comfortable seven-people mover. And there is still plenty of luggage room with the rear seats up.

Verdict

Mazda CX-9

Kia Grand Carnival

It's a very close-run comparison with the Kia just edging out the Mazda with a perkier engine, more space, one more seat and creature features. But if you want a bus that doesn't look like a bus, the Mazda should be considered.