Mazda CX-9 VS Holden Captiva
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Great advanced safety tech
- Impressive ride and handling
- Engine could have more grunt
- Brakes are good but could be more responsive
- Can be tricky to pilot in tight spaces
- It's cheap
- It's big
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- It's old
- It's a bit noisy
- Lacks the finesse of the competition
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.
|Engine Type||2.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Holden wasn't the first manufacturer to find itself bereft of a big SUV when the fuse was lit by BMW and Mercedes as the last millennium came to a close. Ford responded with the Territory while Holden jacked-up a V8 Commodore and slapped the Adventra badge on it. Sadly, it didn't work, and so the Captiva was the next best option, procured from what was then called Daewoo.
As a result of that that little blip on the economic radar, the GFC, and an on-going re-organisation of General Motors, the Korean-built Captiva has lasted rather longer than anyone expected.
It first launched with two bodystyles, but is now down to one, the bigger and more practical seven seat body shell.
|Engine Type||2.2L turbo|
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.
The Captiva is very, very long in the tooth and is heading towards retirement some time in the next twelve months. Before then, it's a lot of car for the money, particularly the seven seat LS. It's not fast, flash or futuristic but it will do the job and with all of the early problems sorted, will probably do it for quite some time.
The Captiva's low scores are mostly to do with the car just being old and feeling it, with dodgier plastics, slightly undercooked ride and handling and a lack of engine and safety tech. It doesn't mean it's a terrible car, because it isn't and Holden papers up the cracks with a low starting price and good after-sales.
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.
Formerly known as the Captiva 7, the seven seat body has remained mostly the same for its 11 years on sale. The only real changes have been around the front end, with Holden several times fiddling with the grille, lights and bumpers. There's nothing flash about the Captiva, but you know exactly what it is coming at you, with the double grille and big Holden badge.
In profile there's a lot of the original BMW X5 if you squint, right down to the copyright lawyer-dodging shape of the rear quarter window. It also has that X5's big gaps between wheelarch and tyres and a good view of the wheelarch itself. If that's your thing.
Little has changed at the back apart from bumpers and the LED effect lights added in the last update in 2014. It's unlikely you're buying the Captiva as auto haute couture, though.
Inside is basic, and you can place the Captiva's genesis in the mid-2000s, there's a certain generic GM feel to it. The switchgear feels old and clacky, the plastics are hard but do fit well enough. An Audi interior it isn't. The update in 2014 to make the 7.0-inch screen fit in the dashboard is fairly obvious and it's a shame the whole dash couldn't have been replaced. The huge steering wheel surrounds a tightly packed instrument cluster with small dials and a very old-looking LCD panel for trip computer duties.
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.
The Captiva's interior dimensions are impressive. In seven seat versions, the boot space starts at 87 litres, expanding to a handy 465 litres with the 50/50 split fold rear row stowed. Flop the middle row forward and you're up at 930 litres, a good size cargo area that could swallow a flat-pack wardrobe. If you snaffle a five-seat version, you can remove the boot floor panels to reveal another couple of hundred litres of hidey holes.
There are cup holders up front (two), in the middle row (two) and in the boot (one, strangely) for a total of five. In the seven seater, two will go thirsty.
Price and features
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.
The Captiva's value is heavily dependent on the model you choose. Standard features across the range (starting with the LS) include a 7.0-inch touchscreen running MyLink, a six-speaker stereo with AM/FM radio, Bluetooth, cruise control, rear parking sensors, reversing camera, auto headlights, leather steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, three 12 volt power outlets, keyless entry and start and a tyre inflation kit in place of an (optional) spare tyre.
No Captiva comes standard with sat nav as they all feature Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which both use your phone's GPS apps.
There are four models, three 'standard' specifications - LS, LT, and the top of the range LTZ, with a fourth version in the form of the five seat only Active 'special' edition, that isn't.
Pricing starts at $26,490 for the 2.4-litre LS (with five seats and five-speed manual gearbox), $28,690 for the auto, and the diesel comes in at $31,690. Seven-seat LS pricing ranges from $30,490 for the petrol and $33,490 for the diesel, both six-speed automatics.
The Active enters the price list at $31,990 drive away. Based on the five-seat petrol LS (to be discontinued in May 2017), the auto-only Active adds 18-inch alloys, textile leather seats and a cargo cover. There's also a similarly specified seven seat version at $33,490.
On to the LT, and the price rises to $37,490 for the petrol and $38,490 for the diesel, both of them seven seaters. Part of the big jump for the LT is explained by the petrol engine switching to Holden's 190kW 3.0-litre V6 and the addition of all-wheel drive (AWD). The LT picks up a sunroof, bigger alloys, side steps, cloth trim with "Sportec" bolsters on the front seats and powered heated mirrors.
The LTZ's pricing is a mixed bag. Ordinarily, the V6-powered version would attract an rrp (carmakers insist we call it MLP, manufacturer's list price) of $40,490, with the diesel adding a thousand dollars to weigh in at $41,490. However, Holden is running a long promotion offering the LTZ V6 at $35,990 drive away with three years of free servicing.
The LTZ has 19-inch wheels, leather-look trim, electric driver's seat and front parking sensors.
You can choose one of seven colours - black, white, red, silver, blue, brown and grey and all but white will cost you $550. Orange is no longer on the menu, no matter how much you want it to be 2007 again.
Engine & trans
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.
If you like a choice of engine size, you've come to the right place. The Captiva has three engine specs in the range - two petrols and a diesel.
The smaller petrol, a 2.4-litre four-cylinder, produces 123kW at 5600rpm and 230Nm at 4600rpm. Driving the front wheels, this motor is available with choice of gearbox, either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. This 2.4 is only available on the LS and Active.
The 24-valve 3.0 SIDI V6 is available on LT and LTZ and produces 190kW at 6900rpm and 288Nm at 5800rpm.
The single diesel is a 2.2-litre iron block with common rail direct-injection and makes 135kW at 3800rpm and a stout 400Nm within a very usable range of 1750-2750rpm. You can have the oil burner in all three trim levels, driving the front wheels in the LS and four-wheel drive in the LT and LTZ.
Both the V6 and diesel are available only with the six-speed automatic transmission.
Unlike earlier Captiva models, none of these engines feature a timing belt. Those early engines suffered from issues related to the fabric belt while problems with the later timing chain driven engines are less common. Reliability of the V6 is well-proven in the Commodore while later four cylinders also perform well.
Zero to 100km/h performance varies between the engines. The 2.4 will reach 100km/h in around 10.5 seconds while the V6 is rather quicker at 8.6. The diesel falls right in the middle at 9.6 seconds.
We've not yet carried out a towing review, but according to Holden, towing capacity is rated at 750kg for unbraked trailers and 2000kg braked.
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.
If you're after good fuel economy, the Captiva probably isn't the car for you.
The 2.4-litre petrol is quoted at 9.7L/100km on the combined cycle but, as we recently discovered, is more likely to return closer to 12.5L/100km.
Diesel fuel consumption on the official combined cycle is listed at 8.5L/100km but our most recent test yielded a slightly startling figure of 12.9L/100km. The diesel's performance, particularly in the gears, is better than either petrol but it appears you'll pay for it.
The big banger V6's official fuel consumption figure is listed at 10.7L/100km, but past CarsGuide reviews suggest 14.0L/100km is a more likely real world figure. As far as fuel economy goes, diesel vs petrol usually falls to the diesel, but not in this case.
Fuel tank capacity is identical across the range at 65 litres.
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.
You sit on the Captiva rather than in it, a feeling encouraged by the flat, shapeless seats. It doesn't matter which Captiva you choose, the front seats are not exactly huggy but they'll certainly take people of all shapes and sizes.
You twist a funny knob where the key barrel used to be to start the engine. The view out front and out the sides is commanding as there is a fair bit of glass all around, with just the view out the rear window restricted as it's quite small. If you've got passengers, forget it, but the reversing camera will save the day there.
The ride is, for the most part, reasonable, but will deteriorate along with the road surface. The suspension isn't very quiet and the overall firm feeling delivers passable handling, which you'd expect from a big heavy machine like this. It doesn't have anything like the finesse of much younger metal from Hyundai, Kia and Mazda.
The diesel specs suggest strong performance and that's exactly what you get. It's by far the torquiest of the three engines and shifts the Captiva's two tonnes with reasonable verve. It's a noisy, grumbly unit but works well with the six-speed auto.
The engine specs of the two petrols don't really tell the story. While the V6 is quicker in a straight line, its extra weight knocks the shine off the torque increase and the engine itself isn't a shining example of modern engine tech. Actually, neither of them are, missing out on stop-start and other goodies.
This isn't an off-road review, but moderately ambitious mud-plugging is doable in the AWD models, with a ground clearance of 200mm but no low range or off-road mode. We even checked the manual to make doubly sure there wasn't a diff lock button hidden somewhere.
As ever, the idea here is that when you're buying a Captiva you're buying a lot of space and a cheap ownership experience.
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.
The Captiva carries six airbags, ABS, traction and stability controls, hill descent control, brake force distribution, active rollover protection, brake assist and three ISOFIX points, in addition to the reversing camera and rear parking sensors.
The Captiva's maximum five star ANCAP safety rating was awarded in November 2011.
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.
As with all new Holdens, the Captiva owner benefits from a three year/100,00km warranty and lifetime capped price servicing. All prices are available on Holden's website.
Service costs for the diesel are significantly higher than the either of petrols, but do include oil changes.
The standard package also includes a year of roadside assist.
For common faults and complaints, check out our Holden Captiva problems page, which covers known automatic transmission problems, engine problems and diesel problems. There aren't any widespread diesel engine problems with the later version.
Resale value is often a consideration and we've looked at the last major update, released in 2014.
A seven seat Series II LS from 2014 - the second major update for the Captiva after the 2011 update addressed lingering problems - cost $30,490 when new and will trade at around $13000-$15000, below fifty per cent of the purchase price, with private sales a little higher.
An LTZ diesel from the same period sold for $41,490 and trades in the 45 to 50 per cent of purchase price and a little over 50 per cent in private sales.