Holden Acadia VS Mazda CX-9
- Truck-like exterior
- Third row spacious for class
- Good value
- Truck-like interior
- V6 needs to be pushed hard for results
- Handling not as good as CX-9
- New 10.25-inch display
- Seven-seater's versatility
- Comfortable ride
- Expensive AWD option
- Six-seater's compromises
- Older ANCAP safety rating
The Acadia is now here and finally Holden has a proper seven-seat SUV in its range. Yup, the now redundant Captiva can rust in peace because the Acadia is bigger, safer, more practical and high tech.
The thing is, there are some excellent seven-seat SUVs out there already – Mazda’s CX-9 is outstanding in terms of its cabin refinement and on-road dynamics, while Kia’s Sorento is great value and there’s the popular Toyota Kluger.
Made in Tennessee in the US of A, the Acadia has some serious competition. So, can the American with a Holden badge do anything the others can’t?
We attended the launch of the Holden Acadia and learned a lot. Let us tell you…
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The second-generation Mazda CX-9 may have been on sale in Australia for nearly five years now, but it remains the second best-selling large SUV using unibody construction (as opposed to old-school, off-road-focused body-on-frame).
That said, it is getting on a bit, so Mazda’s given it an update with a twist for 2021, hoping to inject a little bit more life into its flagship model.
And when we say twist, we mean it. After all, who would’ve thought there’d ever be a six-seat CX-9? Well, we’ve checked it out to see if it’s the version we needed all along. Read on.
|Engine Type||2.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The Acadia offers a tough-looking American take on the seven-seat SUV which won’t be appealing to everybody but will be loved by others. While the interior quality and design falls short of rivals such as the CX-9 and the handling isn’t as sharp as that SUV either, the ride is comfortable, the features list is extensive, the cabin space is outstanding and the level of advanced safety equipment is impressive.
The sweet spot for the range is really the base grade LT, but the best car is the LTZ-V.
What do you think of the Acadia's tough truck looks? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The CX-9 is still a great option for families looking for a large SUV, even if it is starting to show its age as new rivals continue to launch with newer technologies.
That said, the availability of a luxury-focused six-seat configuration (Azami LE AWD) for the first time might be enough to convince some buyers to give it further consideration.
But for others who need the versatility of seven seats, this is still the CX-9 we’ve all come to know and love – but just a little bit better – particularly in its best-selling Azami AWD form.
Made in Tennessee in the United States, the Acadia couldn’t look more American, with that blocky profile and truck-like face. Only the Toyota Kluger comes close to matching its macho design, while Mazda’s CX-9 and Kia’s Sorento have sleeker and more curvaceous styling.
Some people aren’t going to be fans of those bold, angular looks, but this is a large seven-seat SUV that’s obviously not trying to please everybody, and that will probably be part of the appeal to its fans – the Acadia is unapologetically tough looking.
However, refined isn’t a word you’d use to describe the interior, because while its truck-like looks make the Acadia appealing on the outside, the commercial styling in the cabin is disappointing.
Moulded plastics around the doors and hard plastics on the dash and centre console feel cheap and look tacky. The Acadia’s cabin lags behind the more stylish cockpit of the CX-9 with its excellent fit and finish.
Buying a higher grade in the Acadia range won’t really improve the cabin scenery much either. The LTZ-V is the top-of-the-line Acadia and while it comes with ventilated leather seats, the rest of the cabin looks almost identical in styling and materials as the base-grade LT.
The exterior differences between the grades isn’t that obvious either. While all grades come with rear privacy glass and LED tail-lights, the LTZ-V comes with square exhaust tips, aluminium roof rails and a dual-pane sunroof.
What are the Acadia’s dimensions? The Acadia is just under 5.0m long, while the CX-9 is 5.1m end-to-end. The Acadia is 2.1m wide (to the mirrors) and 1.8m tall.
The colour range is fairly limited with 'Glory Red', 'Mineral Black', 'Blue Steel', 'Summit White', 'Scorpion' (brown), 'Nitrate Silver', 'Dark Shadow' (a dark blue) and 'Abalone White' your only choices.
Given its latest update is relatively minor, the CX-9’s exterior largely looks the same as before, which, depending on your point of view, is a very good thing. As far as we’re concerned, it certainly is.
That said, train-spotters will notice some differences, with the GT SP (new), Azami and Azami LE (new) grades getting a refreshed grille that’s slotted and available in two grade-specific finishes unlike the insert their carryover Sport, Touring and GT siblings still have.
And aside from the GT SP, Azami and Azami LE’s new sets of 20-inch alloy wheels (again in grade-specific finishes), the only other exterior change is the Azami and Azami LE’s larger-diameter chrome exhaust tailpipe extensions. Sporty!
Inside, the CX-9 has more changes in store, headlined by the new ‘floating’ 10.25-inch central display all but the Sport and Touring get (they stick with 7.0- and 9.0-inch units respectively).
The new set-up is powered by Mazda’s latest multimedia system, which is certainly an improvement over its predecessor, and a much needed one at that.
Worth noting, touch is not an input method, with the rotary controller on the centre console the only option, which is actually great for safety, so we’re all for it.
The Azami and Azami LE also get new quilted Nappa leather upholstery, which looks and feels great, and adds to the overall high-quality theme.
Otherwise, it’s pretty much business as usual, which is great because the CX-9 has always had a well-designed interior. Yep, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
All Acadias are seven-seaters, but not all seven-seater SUVs in the world really fit seven adults. I can’t sit comfortably in the third row of the CX-9 – the sloping roof line destroys headroom back there and my legs are wedged into the seat back.
Here’s the big news: even at 191cm tall I can sit in the Acadia’s second row (behind my driving position), and then behind that in the third row all without my head touching the roof or knees hitting the back of the seat in front. That is exceptional.
The dual sunroof in the LTZ-V limits headroom, so think about the LTZ if you’re going to be carrying tall freaks like me all the time, but it’ll be plenty spacious for kids.
Climbing into that third row is easier than the CX-9 thanks to the Acadia’s tall roofline, although being American-made the larger folding section of the second row is on our kerb side (not the case with CX-9).
Still, the second row slid far enough forward to make getting into the back easy enough for me.
Cabin storage and utilities are excellent. Third-row passengers have two cupholders, a hidey hole for loose items, air vents and a USB port. Second-row dwellers have two USB ports, a large storage drawer, two cupholders in the fold down armrest, climate control dials and air vents, plus decent-sized door pockets.
Up front, the centre console bin is large and deep, the storage compartment in front of the shifter fits my iPhone 8 (in the LTZ and above there’s wireless charging in there), you’ll also find two large cupholders, a large glove box and door pockets. There are two 12-volt power outlets – one in the cockpit and the other in the cargo area.
Boot capacity with the third row in place is 292 litres, but that is measured to the roof (Mazda measures to the cargo cover). With the third row folded flat the luggage space of the Acadia is 1042 litres, and with the second and third rows folded you have 2102 litres of cargo room.
Being an SUV that’s 5075mm long, 1969mm wide and 1747mm tall, practicality is arguably the most important thing for the CX-9, and with the option of six seats for the first time with the new Azami LE, it’s even more versatile.
All seven-seat grades have a 60/40 split-fold second row that manually slides and reclines the same as before, with only the Sport missing out on one-touch tumble operation, which makes accessing the 50/50 split-fold third row even easier, even if it’s still not graceful.
But the six-seat Azami LE is configured differently, given its second row has two captain’s chairs instead of a bench. That said, it operates in a very similar manner, just with power adjustment.
I still had around eight centimetres of legroom and four of legroom behind my 184cm (6'0") driving position, while the large transmission tunnel that’s a foot-space issue in seven-seat versions... isn’t.
One key difference with the very roomy and comfortable Azami LE is it only has four top-tether child-seat anchorage points, while all other grades have five thanks to their extra seat. Either way, four ISOFIX child-set anchorage points are split across the second and third rows.
Alternatively, the third row can be used by adults on shorter journeys, although they won’t have a lot of space to enjoy. Again, I'm 184cm tall and it’s tight back there, with no headroom or legroom on offer, but children will, of course, fare much better.
The CX-9’s boot is still pretty usable with all three rows in action, with 230L of cargo capacity available, but you can stow the two rear seats to get 810L in total.
And if you want maximum cargo capacity, the middle seats can also be folded, but not in the Azami LE, annoyingly.
Either way, the CX-9 doesn’t have a load lip but does have a flat floor, so loading bulkier items is a cinch, while two bag hooks and four tie-down points are on hand for securing loose items if they can’t fit in the double map pockets on the front seat backrests.
There are two cupholders in the third row, another two in the second row’s fold-down armrest (seven-seater versions) or large centre console (Azami LE), and another two in the first row’s larger centre console, while the front and rear door bins can also take bottles – and other knick-knacks.
All grades get USB ports in the first row, while the Touring and above also have them in the second row, and the GT and above also feature them in the third row. It’d be nice if there was no differentiation, though.
Price and features
The Acadia range has three grades to it – the entry level LT which lists for $43,990, then the mid-spec LTZ for $53,490 and at the top of the range is the LTZ-V for $63,490. These are the prices for the front-wheel drive Acadias and you can have them in all-wheel drive, but it’ll be an extra $4000 on top.
The LT comes with a mountain of standard features, including an 8.0-inch touchscreen with sat nav, reversing camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, three-zone climate control, rear parking sensors, proximity key, rear privacy glass and 18-inch alloy wheels. There’s also an impressive array of advanced safety equipment which I’ll take you though further down this review.
The LTZ gets all the LT’s features and adds leather seats, power adjustable and heated front seats, rain sensing wipers, wireless charging for phones, power tailgate, front parking sensors, and this will make some people very happy – automatic parking.
The LTZ-V comes with all the LTZ’s features and more including ventilated seats, 20-inch wheels, dual-pane sun roof, 8.0-inch virtual instrument cluster, eight-speaker Bose stereo with amplifier and subwoofer, and adaptive suspension.
That’s great value and it’s on the same level as the CX-9, although the Mazda comes with a head-up display on all grades. You can’t get one even on the top-of-the-range Acadia.
The CX-9 has become more expensive, with some grades up a little, while others are up a lot. The range now starts from $45,990, plus on-road costs, and reaches $73,875 (see pricing table below), but there is more standard equipment now.
Either way, two new grades have joined the now-comprehensive CX-9 line-up, bringing the total to six, with the new GT SP slotting in above the mid-range GT but below the previously flagship Azami, which is now bettered by the new Azami LE.
The entry-level Sport and Touring round out the line-up, with each grade coming with front-wheel drive as standard, although all-wheel drive is an expensive $4000 option for all but the Azami that instead asks for a $4435 premium, and the Azami LE which gets it as standard.
Features-wise, the Sport gets dusk-sensing LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, 18-inch alloy wheels, push-button start, a 7.0-inch central display, satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, digital radio, a six-speaker sound system, a head-up display, three-zone climate control and black cloth upholstery.
While the Touring has the same 18-inch alloy wheels, it steps up with keyless entry, a 9.0-inch central display, paddle-shifters (new), power-adjustable front seats with heating, and black leather upholstery.
The GT goes even further with 20-inch alloy wheels, a hands-free power-operated tailgate, a sunroof, the aforementioned 10.25-inch central display (new), a 12-speaker Bose sound system, a wireless smartphone charger (new) and heated outboard middle seats.
As its name suggests, the new GT SP is the sportier version of the GT, adding a unique black finish to its 20-inch alloy wheels and side-mirror caps as well as burgundy leather upholstery and red stitching for just $500 more.
Meanwhile, the Azami has 20-inch alloy wheels with a bright finish (new) as well as adaptive LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, a 7.0-inch multifunction display, a heated steering wheel and 'Pure White' or 'Walnut Brown' quilted Nappa leather upholstery (new).
And finally, the new Azami LE mimics the Azami but replaces its middle bench with two power-adjustable captain’s chairs with heating and cooling plus a dedicated centre console, so six seats in total instead of the usual seven.
Also of note, the CX-9 has a new metallic paintwork option: 'Polymetal Grey', which helps it stand out from the crowd.
For reference, the CX-9’s rivals include the soon-to-be-replaced Toyota Kluger ($44,850 to $68,574) and the recently launched facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe ($43,990 to $61,660) and new-generation Kia Sorento ($45,850 to $63,070).
2021 Mazda CX-9 pricing before on-road costs
|Sport FWD||automatic||$45,990 (+$70)|
|Sport AWD||automatic||$49,990 (+$70)|
|Touring FWD||automatic||$53,490 (+$180)|
|Touring AWD||automatic||$57,490 (+$180)|
|GT FWD||automatic||$62,990 (+$1270)|
|GT AWD||automatic||$66,990 (+$1270)|
|GT SP FWD||automatic||$63,490 (NEW)|
|GT SP AWD||automatic||$67,490 (NEW)|
|Azami FWD||automatic||$66,190 (+$1297)|
|Azami AWD||automatic||$70,625 (+$1686)|
|Azami LE||automatic||$73,875 (NEW)|
Engine & trans
Now the engine – it’s a V6 petrol that makes stacks of power at 231kW and plenty of torque at 367Nm. The problem here is the maximum torque comes in at 5000 rpm. Torque is the force that’s sent from the engine and turns the wheels and it’s preferable to have all the torque come in low in the rev range.
See, most of the time I drove the Acadia the revs never got above 3000rpm. If I wanted to overtake I needed to hammer it. The CX-9 makes 420Nm of torque at 2000rpm – it’s under your right foot almost always. It’s preferable to have low-end torque for towing, too.
Talking of that, the braked towing capacity of the Acadia is 2000kg.
The transmission is a nine-speed automatic – a torque converter. It’s an excellent transmission, that shifts intuitively and smoothly. The Acadia offers a choice of front-wheel drive or the optional all-wheel drive.
All CX-9 grades are powered by a carryover 2.5-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, which produces 170kW of power at 5000rpm and 420Nm of torque at 2000rpm.
If you’re after a diesel-powered seven-seater, Mazda also has the similarly sized CX-8 in its line-up, but it still doesn’t offer a hybrid option in any of its SUVs, even though many rivals are moving in that direction, including the aforementioned Kluger, Santa Fe and Sorento.
It’s a V6 so it’s going to be thirsty right? Yes, but this engine can deactivate two cylinders to run on four when not under load. That said even on the country roads that the Acadia launch was held on, the mileage the trip computer was reporting ranged from about 10.0L-11.0/100km for both the all-wheel drive and front-wheel drive Acadias.
You can bet that will head higher in the traffic of the suburbs and city. Holden says that after a combination of urban and open roads the FWD Acadia should use 8.9L/100km and the all-wheel drive will need 9.3L/100km. Those are pretty optimistic numbers and the real-world fuel economy will certainly be higher.
According to the official combined fuel consumption figures (ADR 81/02), FWD variants of the CX-9 sip 8.4 litres per 100km, which isn’t too bad for a petrol-powered large SUV that weighs just shy of 1900kg. Claimed carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are 197 grams per km.
And given they weigh a whisker more than two tonnes, AWD versions of the CX-9s drink a slightly higher 9.0L/100km and emit 211g/km.
We covered 188km in the Azami AWD and Azami LE AWD at the CX-9’s launch and recorded 11.5L/100km after primarily driving on country roads and highways.
While that figure is nearly 30 per cent higher than Mazda's claim, it’s not outlandish considering the type of vehicle the CX-9 is. Either way, results will vary.
For reference, AWD variants have a slightly large fuel tank (74L) than their FWD counterparts (72L), but they all take more affordable 91RON petrol at minimum.
If you’re a fan of SUVs because they can make you feel like you’re a hundred feet tall wearing a Transformers suit, then you’re going to like driving the Acadia. Yup, it looks like a truck and feels like one when you’re looking out over that high, broad bonnet.
The dashboard is also tall, and this combined with the truck-like bonnet meant I had to raise my seat higher than the setting I’d normally use, just to see clearly over. Even then visibility isn’t great thanks to long and wide A-Pillars framing the windscreen.
There are other ergonomic issues you’ll face in this cabin. I found the centre console armrest way too high and my elbow kept hitting it as I turned the steering wheel it also made changing the drive modes on the rotating dial in front of it awkward using your left hand to scratch your left armpit. Made you do it, didn’t I?
The indicator and wiper stalks are also positioned at a high angle and on the highest wiper setting I had to take my hand off the wheel to turn them off. If my hands aren’t big enough to reach them while holding the steering wheel, there’s no way Donald Trump could.
So how does the Acadia drive? Well there are two very different feeling Acadias in the range. There’s the one Holden brought to Australia to test rigorously around its test track and Australian roads, tuning the adaptive suspension to offer a comfortable ride that suits our conditions – it’s the LTZ-V.
Then there’s the LT and LTZ, which didn’t get the full Holden suspension work-over. Sure, Holden went to the US and helped develop a suspension system for these two grades, but they had to make a compromise and agree on a tune that would make the American drivers happy, too. In the US drivers prefer a softer, more cushioned ride, while in Australia we tend to like a firmer sportier one with better handling.
That means the LT and LTZ just don’t handle as well as the LTZ-V. Not only do those lower grades have a softer ride that feels almost like you’re bouncing on a space hopper at times, they also don’t have the great adaptive suspension of the top grade LTZ-V. The adaptive suspension can not only be set in a sport setting, for better handling but is constantly adjusting itself to the driving style.
On the highway all grades cruise beautifully, like battleships ploughing through the miles of road – this is where they are really in their element. You’ll also find them all comfortable for suburban adventures, too – even on patchy streets with bad surfaces the ride is composed and compliant.
But when I took the LT with AWD along a fantastic bit of familiar road with a great surface and plenty of twists, I could feel that suspension doing everything it could to rein in the body roll, but not winning. This is a 2.0-tonne and tall SUV and I don’t expect it to behave like a sports car, but Mazda’s CX-9 feels more agile with quicker steering and better handling than the Acadia.
The LTZ-V has an exceptional ride – almost limo like with adaptive suspension ironing out the road ahead.
Even as a passenger in the second row the journey was comfy and serene, the cabin well insulated, although those rear seats are unsupportive and in the corners I felt myself sliding around back there. And that’s the thing, even in the corners the Aussie-developed LTZ-V still struggled to control its heft, and when pushed more the tyres began to chirp in the bends. The LTZ-V wears Continental ContiCrossContact high performance all-terrain tyres (235, 55 R20) if you’re wondering.
Still I didn’t feel the Acadia lacked grunt, the V6 is smooth and there was an instant connection between the accelerator pedal and the acceleration that you don’t get with the turbo-charged CX-9.
The thing is you really need to get the Acadia up to 5000rpm to really get good oomph – and that’s going to harm your fuel economy.
Choosing a front-wheel drive variant will save you a bit of money at the pump, and while the all-wheel drive adds some reassuring traction on wet roads and gravel, it’s not essential. Front and all-wheel drive Acadias had identical comfort levels in terms of ride.
As far as large SUVs go, the CX-9 is one of the better ones to drive. It’s certainly not confused; it knows what it needs to do and does it well.
The engine is properly punchy down low, serving up plenty of initial torque, so much so that you rarely need to chase its top-end power. In that way, it’s very diesel-like, despite being petrol. Needless to say, acceleration is surprisingly brisk. Not bad, then!
And the transmission it’s matched to also does its job well. Gear changes are pleasingly smooth, if not quick, while it's receptive to heavy applications of the accelerator, kicking down a ratio or two with little hesitation. Yep, don’t bother with its Sport mode.
The CX-9 also rides pretty well thanks to its independent suspension set-up, which consists of MacPherson-strut front and multi-link rear axles with passive dampers. Indeed, the kids aren’t going to be upset when they’re onboard.
Again, we mainly drove on country roads and highways, but it proved to be comfortable, particularly at high speed. And even during those rare, in-town, low-speed moments, it still impressed, on lower-quality roads or not.
And while the CX-9’s electric power steering is well-weighted, some buyers might be left wishing it was a tad lighter, especially when parking, but that’s more about personal preference than anything else.
What is more universal, though, is the system’s lack of feel. Obviously, we’re not dealing with a sports car here, but a little communication through the wheel wouldn’t go astray, particularly on a twisty road.
Speaking of which, the CX-9 handles its mass pretty confidently around a corner. That said, while it is relatively tied down, it still regularly exhibits a fair degree of body roll to remind you that you’re dealing with a large SUV.
The Acadia has yet to be given an ANCAP crash rating, but the level of advanced safety equipment is outstanding. All grades come with AEB (on the LT and LTZ it’s a city speed version, while the LTZ has higher speed AEB), there’s blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, lane keeping assistance and lane departure warning, plus lateral impact avoidance which will swerve to avoid a vehicle that drifts into your lane.
Also excellent is that the side curtain airbags extend all the way back the entire third row – the CX-9’s do, too, but not the Kia Sorrento’s.
The chink in the Acadia’s safety armour is a low-tech but essential item – the spare wheel; it’s a space saver, which is not ideal in Australia where distances between towns can be vast. Also, to get the space saver out requires a stack of effort – it’s under the boot floor but you’ll need to remove the storage under the floor to get to it. We tried it on the launch and the process was overly difficult.
ANCAP awarded the CX-9 its maximum five-star safety rating in 2016, and despite the test occurring nearly five years ago, its results still stand.
Needless to say, the game has moved on, with the Santa Fe and Sorento recently resetting the standard, while the Kluger is soon to follow suit.
The CX-9 does, however, get front and side airbags as well as curtain airbags that cover all three rows, whereas the Santa Fe and Sorento only cover the first and second rows.
All grades of the CX-9 also get front and rear autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, traffic sign recognition, high-beam assist and driver attention alert.
A reversing camera and rear parking sensors are also standard in all grades, but the Touring and above add front parking sensors, while the Azami and Azami LE also get surround-view cameras.
The Acadia is covered by Holden’s five-year/unlimited km warranty. Servicing is recommended annually or every 12,000km. Servicing is capped at $259 for the first service, $299 for the second, $259 for the third, $359 for the fourth and $359 again for the fifth.
As with all Mazda models, the CX-9 comes with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with five years of roadside assistance, both of which are average when compared to Kia’s market-leading seven-year terms with ‘no strings attached’.
Service intervals are 12 months or 10,000km, with the distance on the shorter side, although capped-price servicing is available for the first five visits, costing $2022 in total at the time of the writing, which is very reasonable.