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Mazda CX-9


Holden Acadia

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

Holden Acadia

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…

Safety rating
Engine Type3.6L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.9L/100km
Seating7 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.


Holden Acadia7.6/10

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.

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.


Holden Acadia7/10

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.

The swapping of the GMC lettering (it's called GMC Acadia in North Amercia) for a Holden badge and subtler grille treatment give the Acadia a more refined and upmarket look.

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.

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.


Holden Acadia9/10

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.

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.


Holden Acadia8/10

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.

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.


Holden Acadia7/10

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.

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.


Holden Acadia6/10

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.

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.


Holden Acadia7/10

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.

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.


Holden Acadia8/10

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.

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.


Holden Acadia9/10

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.