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Mazda CX-9


Audi Q2

Summary

Mazda CX-9

The CX-9 is Mazda's big, SUV flagship and it has been updated with more cool tech, better safety features, better handling and real wood. Yup, you read that right: real wood. There's also been a price rise on this seven-seater.

You did know it was a seven-seater, right?  And not all seven-seat SUVs are the same. There are off-road capable ones which can be as uncomfortable as a tank on city streets. Then there are those that feel like giant, cushy lounge rooms that handle like a ship really and are just big cars so you better not take them off road. There are others which say they're seven-seaters but in reality those extra two seats in the third row are just for kids – and even then you'd only put your least favourite ones back there. So, what's the Mazda CX-9 then?

That's what this review is all about and by the end of it you'll know if this new Mazda CX-9 the right seven-seater for you.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.8L/100km
Seating7 seats

Audi Q2

This is the 'Eureka!' moment for the Audi Q2. Finally, I get what they're going for, because this flagship performance-oriented petrol all-wheel drive (AWD) model is everything a fun, urban SUV should be.

When the Audi Q2 arrived in Australia earlier in 2017, it had the choice of a front-wheel drive (FWD) petrol or a pricey diesel version with AWD. But neither of those were as characterful or charming as perhaps we'd come to hope for when this boxy little bugger was unboxed.

But, finally, the 2018 Audi Q2 2.0 TFSI Quattro has arrived, and it all makes sense. And there have been a couple of extra little tweaks to the Audi Q2 2018 range - read on to find out more.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.5L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Mazda CX-98/10

The previous CX-9 was excellent and now the new one fills in many of the gaps which were missing such as the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the safety tech standard across all grades and great ride and handling. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better large seven-seater all-rounder without stepping into the $100K prestige territory.

The Touring is the sweet spot in the CX-9 with its leather seats, 8.0-inch display and good price.

Is there anything Mazda has missed with its CX-9? Or is this SUV almost as good as it gets at this price? Tell us what you think in the comments below.


Audi Q27.4/10

There is no denying the Audi Q2 2018 model range is all the better for introduction of the 2.0 TFSI variant, which is the best of the bunch in this writer's humble opinion.

Just keep in mind that competition in the small SUV segment is fierce, and with a lot of options boxes to be ticked to get the ideal Q2, it may be worth looking at your options in the market, particularly if you need something practical.

Would you choose the Audi Q2? Or would another small SUV suit you better? Let us know in the comments section below.

Design

Mazda CX-98/10

Nothing has changed to the exterior of the CX-9 in this 2018 update – but that's a good thing, because this is a striking and beautifully styled SUV. More a tall, sleek wagon than upright boxy SUV, there's that in-your-face grille, the long nose the set-back cabin and the hatchback rear end. The only element which irks me are the taillights – they seem a bit small for that big bottom.

All CX-9s look almost identical on the outside, but you can tell the higher grades form their larger-sized wheels and LED fog lights.

There's not much in the way of a body kit, but there is that subtle roof top spoiler, that sculpted front bumper and the little shark fin antenna.

The cabin is a premium feeling place (have a look at the images) – this is Mazda flagship after all. Materials feel soft to touch even on the dash and door sills back and front, while there's a high-quality fit and finish throughout. With big interior dimensions this is also a roomy place, despite that sloping roofline.

The Azami LE is by far the most decadent grade with its nappa leather upholstery and real wood trim. Mazda was not able to tell me what type of wood has been used and could only go as far as confirming it was real wood, however, in the United States the top-grade CX-9, known as the Signature, uses a similar looking material and officially calls it rosewood.

Mazda also told me that the adhesives and materials used in the cabin were also chosen to minimise bad smells – not from the people in it but from the leather's plastics and glues. If only all car companies would care enough to do this – some new car smells make my eyes water.

At almost 5.1 metres long, nearly 2.0m wide and getting onto 1.8m tall you'll need a pretty big garage to house the CX-9.


Audi Q27/10

Ummm, have you seen the Audi Q2? It looks pretty much unlike all of the other Audi SUVs you can buy, and you'll either be a fan of that, or you won't.

There isn't much major visual differentiation between the newly added 2.0 TFSI Quattro version and the more affordable petrol model aside from this version rolling on 18-inch wheels as opposed to the 17s of the base petrol, and the entry-level model misses out on body-colour mouldings around the wheels, side skirts and bumpers. Both the quattro models look identical to one another.

Like all Q2s (and arguably all Audis) you need to option the S-line styling package to make it look how you probably want it to. You can get 19-inch wheels if you want that extra tough appearance, plus there are optional C-pillar blade colours ('Manhattan' grey metallic, 'Titanium' grey matt, 'Ice' silver metallic, or body colour), and buyers have 12 body colours to choose from.

Practicality

Mazda CX-98/10

There are a stack of reasons to buy a seven-seater. You may have a big family and really need the third row, or you're just a small family that likes to pack a truck-load of gear for holidays while having a couple of extra seats just in case you're put on the spot after picking the kids up from karate and end up with more ninjas to drop home.

There are other seven-seaters where those third-row seats are just a bonus – the Santa Fe is a bit like that, but SUVs such as the CX-9, Kluger and Sorento offer much better room back there.

Even at 191cm tall I can sit in the third row comfortably, with just enough head and legroom. That said, I wouldn't want to be there for an epic road trip, but it's fine for kids and shorter adults.

Legroom in the second row is excellent – I can sit behind my driving position with about 10cm of space between my knees and the seat back – headroom isn't as generous as the Kluger or Sorento but there's still plenty, even for me.

If you're lifting babies and children into car seats you may find that coupe styling to the roofline makes the process a little harder – it did for me with our little one.

Also, this SUV is fairly high up. I've had my toddler do a face plant falling out of one while trying to climb in. Oh, don't judge me.

Entry into the third row is made easier by a 60:40 folding second row on rails. It's also good to see that the smaller foldable section is on the curb side of the car.

The CX-9's boot space with the third row down is outstanding at 810 litres (VDA) – the Kluger can only manage 529 litres and even with those back seats in place the luggage capacity is 230 litres, check out my video above where I demonstrate the size with a live human being.

Storage in the cabin is also excellent with six cupholders (two in the first row, two in second and the others in the third) and all grades above the Sport come with storage in the fold-down centre armrest, which also contains a USB port.

All CX-9s come with a USB port up front in the giant split-opening centre console bin and a 12-volt power outlet in the cargo area.


Audi Q26/10

Well, let's put it this way - if you want the most pragmatic and thoughtful small SUV out there, you should be looking at the Mini Countryman or BMW X1, both of which offer supreme space for their size.

That isn't to say that the Q2 is impractical - it still has a 355-litre boot space in quattro models (405-litre for the FWD version), and you could fit five adults in at a squeeze, provided they aren't big boppers. If you have children, the dual ISOFIX points and three top-tether hooks will be of note, and there are rear seat air-vents in all Q2 models.

Storage is reasonably well sorted up front, with cupholders between the seats and decent door pockets, as well as a few little trinket cubbies here and there. In the back, though, there is no fold-down armrest (meaning no cupholders), but you can fit a bottle in each of the doors. Map pockets aren't standard, either.

There are plenty of tricks Audi has employed with the interior styling of the Q2 - at a glance, it looks pretty smart and funky. But there are cost-cutting measures evident, like the scratchy plastics on the doors and hard plastics down below your eye-line.

Price and features

Mazda CX-98/10

The Mazda CX-9's price has gone up but you're getting more features in return – and that goes for all grades in the range. Also, there's now a new grade and king of the Mazda CX-9 range – the Azami LE. Right, let's get into the details.

The most affordable CX-9 is the Sport at $44,990 (an $1100 increase) for the front-wheel drive version and another $4000 for all-wheel drive. Coming standard on the Sport for the first time is a head-up display and being introduced to the CX-9 range finally is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Other standard features include a 7.0-inch screen with sat nav, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, digital radio, three-zone climate control, LED headlights, black cloth seats and 18-inch alloy wheels.

The Touring grade sits above the Sport and is arguably the best value with its list price of $51,390  ($1100 increase) for the front-wheel drive and again $4000 more for the AWD. In addition to the Sport's features, the Touring comes standard with black leather seats (power adjustable and heated in the front), an 8.0-inch touch screen, proximity key, front parking sensors and LED fog lights.

The GT grade is getting into pricier territory with the front-wheel drive listing for $59,390 (an increase of $1000) and $4000 more for AWD, but along with all of the Touring's features it has a power tailgate, sunroof, 20-inch alloy wheels and heated second-row window seats.

The once-king-of-the-range Azami lists for $60,990 in FWD form (an increase of $4200), again $4000 for the AWD, but now there's a level above it – the Azami LE which is $66,490 and only available as an all-wheel drive.

What's the difference between them? Well let's start with what's the same. Both come with the GT's features plus adaptive LED headlights, heated steering wheel, a 360-degree view monitor, ventilated front seats, windscreen de-icer and a 7.0-inch centre digital instrument cluster.

What the Azami LE gets that the Azami doesn't is real wood trim panels on the centre console, nappa leather seats, box stitching on the steering wheel and different overhead console styling.

As a model comparison you could also take a look at the Toyota Kluger which ranges from about $45K to $70K. There's also the Kia Sorento which ranges from $43K-$60K and I'm going to throw in the Hyundai Santa Fe – it's not as big as the CX-9, but the new one is larger than the previous model and it's a seven-seater, too.


Audi Q27/10

The range kicks off from $41,800 for the 1.4 TFSI Design model (up $700 since its early 2017 launch), while the quattro AWD models include the new 2.0 TFSI sport model at $48,500 and the range-topping 2.0 TDI sport, which lists at $49,100 (previously $47,900).

There is a good amount of standard kit fitted to all Q2 models, including the addition of new LED headlights, which are far more attractive, not to mention more illuminating, than the existing halogens. The brand's 'MMI' multimedia controller with sat nav and 'Audi Connect' makes use of a 7.0-inch dash-top screen, and the car comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard in all models, too.

There is dual-zone climate control across the range, while the quattro models get an electric tailgate as standard. All models have an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and the entry-grade model sports 17-inch wheels, where the quattro versions score 18s.

Leather seat trim is standard across the line-up, with the quattro models adopting sports seats for extra support, though seat heating is an option on all versions, and manual seat adjustment is the norm, too.

There is a good deal of standard gear, sure - but if you want to make your Audi Q2 a bit more special, there is a range of optional packs that may be of interest to you: it has sort of become the norm for premium brands, offering strong standard kit but a bunch of enhancement packages for those who want a little more to brag about.

For the safety-conscious there's the 'Assistance Pack' ($990 - see the safety section below for details of what's in the pack, and what's new for 2018), and a lot of people are likely to want to go for the 'Comfort Pack', a $1900 option that includes keyless entry and start, electric lumbar adjustment, heated and folding side mirrors with dimming, heated front seats, luggage nets on the front seat backs, a luggage net in the boot (and a light back there... can't believe that's not standard?), and drawers under the front seats.

The 'Technik Pack' is appealing, too, with Audi's 'Virtual Cockpit' 12.3-inch driver info display, an upgraded media screen (8.3-inch) and a flat-bottom steering wheel. It costs $2500. And if you want more street cred, you might want to consider one of the S-line styling packs (there is a base version for the entry-level model, and a more comprehensive pack for the quattro variants).

Engine & trans

Mazda CX-97/10

All CX-9s have the same engine – it's a 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol that makes 170kW and 420Nm. That's simple isn't it? Also simple is this: all CX-9 have the same six-speed automatic transmission.

Every grade apart from the Azami LE comes with a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The Azami LE is purely all-wheel drive.


Audi Q28/10

The new 2.0 TFSI turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine is considerably punchier than the existing 1.4 turbo-petrol, with 140kW of power and 320Nm of torque. That turns this litter jigger into something like a boxy hot hatch on stilts.

Audi claims a 0-100km/h sprint time of 6.5 seconds, so finally it has the performance muscle to match those chiseled exterior panels.

Unlike the other, more affordable petrol model the 2.0 TFSI has quattro AWD. The 1.4 TFSI persists with 110kW/250Nm and a sprint time of 8.5sec, while the 2.0 TDI retains its 110kW/320Nm outputs and can shuffle to highway pace in 8.1sec. All Q2 models have seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions.

Fuel consumption

Mazda CX-98/10

Big car, big drinker? The CX-9 used to be back when it had a V6, but not any more. The turbo-four is efficient, with Mazda saying that front-wheel drive version will use 8.4L/100km, while all-wheel drives will use 8.8L/100km after a combination of open and urban roads. You'll also only need to feed it 91 RON – that's the cheap petrol.

My testing on the launch saw me use 10.3L/100km, according to the car's trip computer, but I was really getting into those roads and stamping on that accelerator like it was a funnel web spider, so for it still to be that low is great.


Audi Q27/10

Audi claims fuel consumption for this flagship petrol model is 6.5L/100km. That makes it 1.2L/100km thirstier than the front-drive petrol, and 1.5L higher than the diesel - but you get a lot more performance from this model.

On the launch loop, which involved high-speed country roads, dirt tracks and some minor urban chicanery, we saw a figure of 7.6L/100km in the top-spec petrol - pretty respectable.

Driving

Mazda CX-98/10

There is no way to make a 5.1m long, 2.0m wide, two-tonne SUV feel small in a supermarket car park and you'll feel its size particularly in multi-storey ones as you navigate the HMAS CX-9 up through the levels. I've lived with a CX-9 and I'm not ashamed to admit that I find it tricky to manoeuvre in tight spaces. But you have AEB, rear cross-traffic alert, parking sensors at the back and good visibility to make it as easy as it possibly can be.

Get the CX-9 out on the street, though, and it feels a lot less cumbersome. And on the open road the CX-9 is brilliant. Not only does it just much up miles in comfort, it has such great handling ability that it defies my logic.

In this update Mazda says it has refined the driving experience while making the SUV more responsive though suspension and steering changes. A thicker material behind the headlining in the ceiling has also been used to keep the cabin even quieter, too.

The result? A ride that's knocking on the door of German prestige SUVs and great dynamics.

Even on the 20-inch wheels and 50-profile tyres fitted to the Azami LE I tested at the launch, the ride was outstanding while the handling was excellent. Pushing the Azami LE hard in the corners should have had something of this size and weight leaning on its door handles, but a moment after entering the turn the CX-9 was able to compose itself, hunker down and hold its line in a controlled and planted way.

The Azami LE is all-wheel drive only, but the front-wheel drive version for the base grade Sport and the FWD Azami I drove felt just as composed with great body control and impressive handling ability for the class. In some ways the Sport being lighter and on smaller wheels and higher profile tyres meant the ride was more comfortable and acceleration a bit better.

That engine is a good thing, although part of me misses the old V6 from years ago for its smoothness and torque. The 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo has enough grunt and it's fuel efficient, but to me a six-cylinder suits this big flagship better.


Audi Q28/10

There is no doubt in my mind that the 2.0 TFSI was the Q2 we've been waiting for. With its balance of extra grunt and better traction, it makes for a pretty involving and entertaining drive experience. You need to option drive mode selection, with five drive modes including an individual set-up, if you want to tailor the car to your desires. Adaptive dampers are available at a cost, too.

There's good response when you shove your right foot to the floor, with just a hint of turbo lag if you catch the car off-guard. Flick the shifter to the sport mode and that won't be an issue, and indeed the Q2 will eagerly hold on to gears in anticipation.

While dual-clutch transmissions are known for their low-speed foibles, this one seems to have most of those lurching movements ironed out - though it still takes a bit of getting used to, and there isn't a very nice sound from the drivetrain in most situations. A more raucous exhaust note would be welcomed.

The so-called 'progressive' steering doesn't have the best feel to it, but it is quick and accurate, which makes it feel like you're part of the action. The ride - even in our test car, clad with optional 19-inch wheels and low-profile tyres, while going without adaptive dampers - was mostly very good, particularly considering some of the surfaces we encountered (parts of the country roads in the Barrington Tops, in north-east NSW, consist more a patchwork of pothole repairs rather than an actual level surface). That said, really sharp edges can upset the front axle a touch.

The quattro AWD system comes into its own on sweeping country back roads, though, and the short gravel stint suggested there was good grip and traction on offer.

Safety

Mazda CX-99/10

Safety is another strong point of the CX-9 with its maximum five-star ANCAP rating and AEB which works forwards and backwards, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert. This update has made the advanced safety tech suite standard across the full range adding adaptive cruise control with stop and go feature, lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition.

For child and baby seats you'll find three top-tether anchor points across the second row and two in the third, while there are ISOFIX points in the back as well and two in the second-row window seats.

Under that boot floor you'll find a space saver spare wheel.


Audi Q28/10

The Audi Q2 range has been awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP score, and comes fitted with a decent array of safety gear as standard. The goodies list comprises a reversing camera, parking sensors, auto emergency braking with pedestrian detection (up to 65km/h), blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

There is an optional ($990) 'Assistance Pack' available across the range, which adds adaptive cruise control with high-speed AEB (up to 200km/h), lane keeping assist, Audi's traffic jam assist (which can accelerate, brake and steer at speeds up to 65km/h), semi-automated parking, automated high-beam lights and a system known as 'Emergency Assist', which can pull the car off the road if the driver is non-compliant with impulses sent to them (beeps, vibrations etc).

A head-up display is now optional on all variants, too, but at $1050, you'd just get the Technik Pack and make the speedo as big as it can be, right?

Ownership

Mazda CX-98/10

The CX-9 is covered by Mazda's five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended at 12 month or 10,000km intervals. Servicing is capped and switch from $329 for the first visit, $371 for the next and then back to $329 for five services.


Audi Q28/10

Audi offers a three-year/unlimited km warranty on all of its new models, and servicing is due every 12 months/15,000km. Roadside assist is included for the length of the warranty period.

The brand has a pre-purchase service pack, which covers the first 36 months/45,000km of maintenance, which costs $1590.