Mazda CX-9 VS Infiniti QX30
- 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
- Attractive, unusual crossover
- Rides and handles well
- Comfortable interior
- Really? No rear view camera at nearly $50,000?
- Not a big back seat
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|
Tim Robson road tests and reviews the 2016 Infiniti QX30 at its Australian launch with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
There’s no doubt that the compact crossover segment is a vitally important place for any carmaker to be. Nissan’s luxury arm, Infiniti, is no different, and thanks to a decision from its Japanese masters, the diminutive premium brand will go from having no players on the field to having two marquee players in a matter of just a few months.
But is there enough of a difference between the two to actually consider them different cars? Is it adding a layer of complexity for the prospective Infiniti customer? As it turns out, the differences run more than skin deep.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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.
Even though it’s almost identical to the Q30, the QX30 manages to feel sufficiently different in suspension tune and cabin ambiance to be considered different.
It’s a disappointing oversight, though, by Infiniti to deny the base GT such basic safety fundamentals as a rear view camera (which Infiniti assures us is being worked on).
Would you consider the QX30 over similar rivals? Tell us what yout think in the comments below.
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.
In a sign of how worldly the car industry is becoming, the QX30 is built in Nissan’s Sunderland plant in the UK, using the German Mercedes-Benz A-Class platform and powertrains, all under Sino-French ownership via the Nissan-Renault Alliance.
On the outside, the design that first aired on the Q30 is pretty unique. It’s not a subtle car, with deep crease lines along its sides that, according to Infiniti, is an industry first in terms of manufacturing complexity.
When it comes to differences between the two vehicles, it’s minimal at best. There is a 35mm increase in height (30mm from taller springs and 5mm from roof rails), an extra 10mm in width, and extra trims affixed to the front and rear bumpers. Aside from the all-wheel-drive underpinnings, that is pretty much it for the exterior.
The same black plastic overfenders that are fitted to the Q30 are present on the QX30, with 18-inch rims on both the base model GT and the other variant, the Premium.
The dimensions of the QX30 are also an exact match for those on the Mercedes-Benz GLA, with the long front overhang acting as the main visual connection between the two cars.
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 QX30 is obviously very similar to the Q30 in many respects, but the interior is slightly different, with larger, less cosseting seats up front and slightly higher seats in the rear.
The cabin is also lighter in overall appearance, thanks to a paler colour palette.
There are plenty of neat inclusions, including a pair of USB ports, plenty of door storage, a space for six bottles and a sizable glove box.
A pair of cupholders resides up front, along with a pair in the fold-down armrest in the rear.
There is no particularly logical location for the storage of smartphones, though, and the lack of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is down to Infiniti opting for its own phone connectivity suite.
A decent 430 litres of luggage space behind the rear seats is contrasted by a cramped rear area for all but the smallest of passengers, while sharply shaped rear door apertures making getting in and out a bit of an ask.
There are two ISOFIX baby seat points and a 12-volt socket in the rear, as well.
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 QX30 will be offered in two variants; the base model GT at $48,900 plus on-road costs, while the Premium will cost $56,900.
Both come equipped with the same engine; a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that’s sourced from Mercedes-Benz and also used on the Q30 and Merc GLA.
Eighteen-inch rims are standard on both cars, while an electronic handbrake, 10-speaker Bose audio, 7.0-inch multimedia screen and a full set of LED lamps all round are fitted across both variants as well.
Unfortunately, the QX30 GT misses out on a reversing camera all together, a fate it shares with the Q30 GT.
Infiniti Cars Australia told us that this was an oversight at the time the cars were being specced for Australia, particularly in light of the other technologies that the car would receive, like automatic emergency braking.
The company says it’s working hard to bring a reversing camera to the GT.
The top-spec Premium gets leather trim, a powered driver’s seat, and additional safety equipment like a 360-degree camera and radar cruise with brake assist.
The only optional extra on each car is metallic paint.
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.
Just the one engine is used across both cars; the 155kW/350Nm single-turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine from the Q30 and A-Class.
It’s backed by a seven-speed transmission and wired into an all-wheel-drive system that is biased towards a front-drive configuration.
Sourced from Mercedes-Benz, up to 50 per cent of drive can be sent to the rear wheels, according to Infiniti.
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.
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.
Again, it would be easy to think that the QX30 would feel almost identical to its lower-riding sibling – but that would be incorrect. We criticised the Q30 for being a bit too buttoned down and unresponsive, but the QX30 feels more lively and involving, thanks to its unique spring and damper set-up.
Even though it’s 30mm higher than the Q, the QX doesn’t feel it at all, with a benign, pleasant ride with good body roll control and competent steering.
Our front-seat passenger complained of feeling a little ‘hemmed in’, which is a valid point. The sides of the car are very high, and the roofline is quite low, exacerbated by the steeply raked windscreen.
The 2.0-litre four-potter is smooth and punchy, and the gearbox well suited to it, but it’s lacking in aural character. Luckily the QX30 does a terrific job of suppressing noise before it gets into the cabin, then…
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 QX30 gets seven airbags, auto emergency braking, forward collision warning and a pop-up bonnet as standard across the line.
The base GT does, however, miss out on a reversing camera.
The Premium model also offers a 360-degree camera, blind spot warning, radar cruise control and brake assist, traffic sign detection, reverse motion detection and lane departure warning.
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.
The Q30 is offered with a four-year, 100,000km warranty, and servicing is suggested every 12 months or 25,000km.
Infiniti offers a fixed three-year service schedule, with the GT and the Premium both costing an average of $541 over the three services provided.