Mazda CX-9 VS Mitsubishi Outlander
- 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
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|
On the face of it, the Audi Q7 and Mitsubishi Outlander have few things in common. They're both (mostly) seven seat SUVs and that's pretty much where they part company. Except if you have a poke around the spec sheets of both ranges, you'll find something quite interesting.
Both are offered as five seat plug-in hybrids because the batteries take up the space of the third row.
But, once again, here is where they depart because the cheapest PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle) starts at an absurdly reasonable (for a PHEV) $45,990.
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Regular Unleaded|
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.
Like most Mitsubishi models, the base model has all the good stuff of the top-of-the-range, although I'd skip the ES and go for the ES ADAS. For all the extra cash, you don't really get that much more in the Exceed because there's not much in Mitsubishi's grab bag. There's almost nothing to commend the Exceed over the LS.
As a city car, the PHEV is quite good as long as you don't ask too much of it. The electric range is useful for school runs or shortish commutes (if you can park near a power point) and when you're flat, the engine sorts you out.
Like the rest of the Outlander range, it's honest transport and not much else. The PHEV, though, proves that when Mitsubishi puts its mind to something, it can turn out quite alright.
Is the fact it's a plug-in hybrid enough to tempt you out of a conventionally-powered car or does the extra expense make it a weird choice?
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.
The Outlander's fresh nose from a year or so back is leaps and bounds from when the car first landed in 2012. While there is a bit more chrome than I consider strictly necessary, the PHEV's face is no different to other cars in the range.
What is different is idiotic, over-sized PHEV badges on the car's flanks. They look crooked, too, which is a bit disheartening. But at least onlookers will know you care.
The car is otherwise quite conventional to look at. The dinky wheels have too many spokes and belong on a Toyota Crown and there's little in the way of flair. But this car is not about flair, so that's fine.
Inside is also fairly dull, but does the job. The new touchscreen integrates nicely, though and everything seems to fit. Some of the switches look like they're from Jaycar - the heated seat switches for example - but it all seems solid enough.
Every time I drive an Outlander, I think the interior will take a pretty good hammering, which is reassuring. The flimsy-feeling action on the door handles is less so.
Oddly, the full leather of the Exceed isn't as nice as the leather/micro-suede of the LS.
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.
One of the Outlander's few outstanding features has been its status as a bargain seven-seater. That's out the window with the PHEV, but given it needs a (big) battery, that's fair enough.
The boot is a handy 477 litres with the rear seats in place and if you put them down, you have an impressive 1608 litres. Front and rear rows score a pair of cupholders each and there's a bottle holder in each door.
Passenger space is good for four but given it's slightly narrower than similar cars its size, the middle rear passengers feels the squeeze.
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 $53,990 PHEV Exceed, the car I had for a week, recently came in for a price cut, a very handy $1500. If you don't need or want what the top-of-the-range has to offer, you can start with the ES at $45,990, the ES ADAS (Advanced Driver-Assist Systems) at $47,490 and the LS at $50,490.
Read More: Mitsubishi Outlander 2019 review
Read More: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV ES 2019 review
The Exceed rolls quietly off the line with 18-inch alloys, a six-speaker sound system, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, active cruise control, auto headlights and wipers, partial leather interior with micro-suede inserts, electric front seats, heated and folding power mirrors and electrochromatic rear vision mirror.
Entertainment comes from Mitsubishi's new 7.0-inch touchscreen from the ASX and, truth be told, it's fairly ordinary. But it does have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is very welcome indeed given the absence of sat nav.
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.
The PHEV has a 2.0-litre petrol engine producing 87kW/186Nm and two 30kW electric motors that bring the total combined power outputs to 120kW/332Nm.
A 12kWh/40Ah battery hides under the boot floor and takes around six hours to charge from a domestic circuit and if you get a fast-charger, that comes down to an 80 percent charge from 25 minutes.
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.
The official combined cycle figures are listed at 1.7L/100km. Some years ago editor Flynn managed something close to this figure but I fear it involved hazard lights and driving slowly down the hard shoulder - hyper-miling, if you will.
My esteemed colleague managed a day's motoring on 7.5L/100km which seems reasonable, but he started the day with a full battery. When I did that, I saw about the same figure, which seems a bit high. You're not necessarily going to save a lot of fuel or carbon unless you're careful on the road and diligent with the charging.
Mitsubishi says a full battery will give you 54km but that's exceedlingly (sorry) unlikely.
What might you expect if you drive it without having charged it up? We gave that a go and the results weren't amazing - 11.3L/100km. So keep it charged or it's just a heavy, quiet Outlander LS.
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.
While the petrol and diesel Outlanders are varying levels of ho-hum, the PHEV is not too bad. The instant response of the electric motors is far preferable to the teenage whining of the petrols and grumbling of the diesel. One of the Outlanders worst features, the CVT, is absent as the engine plays no part in directly driving wheels.
When I first started driving it, I was deeply disappointed that the PHEV doesn't try very hard to recover charge when you lift off the throttle. Drive a BMW i3 and you'll find you barely need the brake. But I discovered if you nudge the nasty plastic shifter down (or pull the lovely alloy paddle), the display told me I was in B3. Lifting off created a much more agreeable drag and the dash graphic showed more enthusiastic recovery. Another nudge or pull and B5 got me closer to what I thought should be the starting point. But I was pleased nonetheless as it helps eke out further electric range.
The model featured below is the 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander LS 2WD
Apart from that, the ride is crashy and bumpy - Mitsubsishi's engineers seem to have 'solved' the extra kerb weight problem by stiffening everything up, meaning the lolling body control of the other cars is firmed up a little. It just isn't all that flash at suburban speeds on suburban roads.
The near-silent whoosh of the electric motor will eventually be replaced by the daggy drone of the petrol engine. It's sharply at odds with the calm refinement of the electric propulsion and is a bit of a shame that it crashes the party so rudely.
In highway running the engine fades into the background and you can get used to the comfortable seats, pleasant cabin ambience and the good view ahead.
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 Exceed has seven airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, reversing camera, reverse parking sensors, forward AEB, lane-departure warning, active cruise, lane-change warning, lane-change assist, around-view camera, reverse cross-traffic alert, blind-spot warning and auto high beam.
Also on offer are two ISOFIX and three top-tether child seat anchor points.
The Outlander range scored five ANCAP stars in 2014.
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.
Mitsubishi offers a five-year/100,000km warranty with four years roadside assist in the form of a motoring organisation membership.
The company also offers capped-price servicing, which amounts to $1095 over the three years of the program. It would be nice for that to extend further, but there you go. The PHEV's servicing is cheaper than the diesel but more expensive than the petrol by about 30 percent.
Your dealer expects a visit every 12 months or 15,000km.