Mazda CX-9 VS Mitsubishi Outlander
- New 10.25-inch display
- Seven-seater's versatility
- Comfortable ride
- Expensive AWD option
- Six-seater's compromises
- Older ANCAP safety rating
- Cheaper than before
- Electric motoring is good
- Cheapest PHEV SUV
- Terrible ride
- Not that cheap to run
- Small fuel tank
The second-generation Mazda CX-9 may have been on sale in Australia for nearly five years now, but it remains the second best-selling large SUV using unibody construction (as opposed to old-school, off-road-focused body-on-frame).
That said, it is getting on a bit, so Mazda’s given it an update with a twist for 2021, hoping to inject a little bit more life into its flagship model.
And when we say twist, we mean it. After all, who would’ve thought there’d ever be a six-seat CX-9? Well, we’ve checked it out to see if it’s the version we needed all along. Read on.
|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 CX-9 is still a great option for families looking for a large SUV, even if it is starting to show its age as new rivals continue to launch with newer technologies.
That said, the availability of a luxury-focused six-seat configuration (Azami LE AWD) for the first time might be enough to convince some buyers to give it further consideration.
But for others who need the versatility of seven seats, this is still the CX-9 we’ve all come to know and love – but just a little bit better – particularly in its best-selling Azami AWD form.
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?
Given its latest update is relatively minor, the CX-9’s exterior largely looks the same as before, which, depending on your point of view, is a very good thing. As far as we’re concerned, it certainly is.
That said, train-spotters will notice some differences, with the GT SP (new), Azami and Azami LE (new) grades getting a refreshed grille that’s slotted and available in two grade-specific finishes unlike the insert their carryover Sport, Touring and GT siblings still have.
And aside from the GT SP, Azami and Azami LE’s new sets of 20-inch alloy wheels (again in grade-specific finishes), the only other exterior change is the Azami and Azami LE’s larger-diameter chrome exhaust tailpipe extensions. Sporty!
Inside, the CX-9 has more changes in store, headlined by the new ‘floating’ 10.25-inch central display all but the Sport and Touring get (they stick with 7.0- and 9.0-inch units respectively).
The new set-up is powered by Mazda’s latest multimedia system, which is certainly an improvement over its predecessor, and a much needed one at that.
Worth noting, touch is not an input method, with the rotary controller on the centre console the only option, which is actually great for safety, so we’re all for it.
The Azami and Azami LE also get new quilted Nappa leather upholstery, which looks and feels great, and adds to the overall high-quality theme.
Otherwise, it’s pretty much business as usual, which is great because the CX-9 has always had a well-designed interior. Yep, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
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.
Being an SUV that’s 5075mm long, 1969mm wide and 1747mm tall, practicality is arguably the most important thing for the CX-9, and with the option of six seats for the first time with the new Azami LE, it’s even more versatile.
All seven-seat grades have a 60/40 split-fold second row that manually slides and reclines the same as before, with only the Sport missing out on one-touch tumble operation, which makes accessing the 50/50 split-fold third row even easier, even if it’s still not graceful.
But the six-seat Azami LE is configured differently, given its second row has two captain’s chairs instead of a bench. That said, it operates in a very similar manner, just with power adjustment.
I still had around eight centimetres of legroom and four of legroom behind my 184cm (6'0") driving position, while the large transmission tunnel that’s a foot-space issue in seven-seat versions... isn’t.
One key difference with the very roomy and comfortable Azami LE is it only has four top-tether child-seat anchorage points, while all other grades have five thanks to their extra seat. Either way, four ISOFIX child-set anchorage points are split across the second and third rows.
Alternatively, the third row can be used by adults on shorter journeys, although they won’t have a lot of space to enjoy. Again, I'm 184cm tall and it’s tight back there, with no headroom or legroom on offer, but children will, of course, fare much better.
The CX-9’s boot is still pretty usable with all three rows in action, with 230L of cargo capacity available, but you can stow the two rear seats to get 810L in total.
And if you want maximum cargo capacity, the middle seats can also be folded, but not in the Azami LE, annoyingly.
Either way, the CX-9 doesn’t have a load lip but does have a flat floor, so loading bulkier items is a cinch, while two bag hooks and four tie-down points are on hand for securing loose items if they can’t fit in the double map pockets on the front seat backrests.
There are two cupholders in the third row, another two in the second row’s fold-down armrest (seven-seater versions) or large centre console (Azami LE), and another two in the first row’s larger centre console, while the front and rear door bins can also take bottles – and other knick-knacks.
All grades get USB ports in the first row, while the Touring and above also have them in the second row, and the GT and above also feature them in the third row. It’d be nice if there was no differentiation, though.
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 CX-9 has become more expensive, with some grades up a little, while others are up a lot. The range now starts from $45,990, plus on-road costs, and reaches $73,875 (see pricing table below), but there is more standard equipment now.
Either way, two new grades have joined the now-comprehensive CX-9 line-up, bringing the total to six, with the new GT SP slotting in above the mid-range GT but below the previously flagship Azami, which is now bettered by the new Azami LE.
The entry-level Sport and Touring round out the line-up, with each grade coming with front-wheel drive as standard, although all-wheel drive is an expensive $4000 option for all but the Azami that instead asks for a $4435 premium, and the Azami LE which gets it as standard.
Features-wise, the Sport gets dusk-sensing LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, 18-inch alloy wheels, push-button start, a 7.0-inch central display, satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, digital radio, a six-speaker sound system, a head-up display, three-zone climate control and black cloth upholstery.
While the Touring has the same 18-inch alloy wheels, it steps up with keyless entry, a 9.0-inch central display, paddle-shifters (new), power-adjustable front seats with heating, and black leather upholstery.
The GT goes even further with 20-inch alloy wheels, a hands-free power-operated tailgate, a sunroof, the aforementioned 10.25-inch central display (new), a 12-speaker Bose sound system, a wireless smartphone charger (new) and heated outboard middle seats.
As its name suggests, the new GT SP is the sportier version of the GT, adding a unique black finish to its 20-inch alloy wheels and side-mirror caps as well as burgundy leather upholstery and red stitching for just $500 more.
Meanwhile, the Azami has 20-inch alloy wheels with a bright finish (new) as well as adaptive LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, a 7.0-inch multifunction display, a heated steering wheel and 'Pure White' or 'Walnut Brown' quilted Nappa leather upholstery (new).
And finally, the new Azami LE mimics the Azami but replaces its middle bench with two power-adjustable captain’s chairs with heating and cooling plus a dedicated centre console, so six seats in total instead of the usual seven.
Also of note, the CX-9 has a new metallic paintwork option: 'Polymetal Grey', which helps it stand out from the crowd.
For reference, the CX-9’s rivals include the soon-to-be-replaced Toyota Kluger ($44,850 to $68,574) and the recently launched facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe ($43,990 to $61,660) and new-generation Kia Sorento ($45,850 to $63,070).
2021 Mazda CX-9 pricing before on-road costs
|Sport FWD||automatic||$45,990 (+$70)|
|Sport AWD||automatic||$49,990 (+$70)|
|Touring FWD||automatic||$53,490 (+$180)|
|Touring AWD||automatic||$57,490 (+$180)|
|GT FWD||automatic||$62,990 (+$1270)|
|GT AWD||automatic||$66,990 (+$1270)|
|GT SP FWD||automatic||$63,490 (NEW)|
|GT SP AWD||automatic||$67,490 (NEW)|
|Azami FWD||automatic||$66,190 (+$1297)|
|Azami AWD||automatic||$70,625 (+$1686)|
|Azami LE||automatic||$73,875 (NEW)|
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-9 grades are powered by a carryover 2.5-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, which produces 170kW of power at 5000rpm and 420Nm of torque at 2000rpm.
If you’re after a diesel-powered seven-seater, Mazda also has the similarly sized CX-8 in its line-up, but it still doesn’t offer a hybrid option in any of its SUVs, even though many rivals are moving in that direction, including the aforementioned Kluger, Santa Fe and Sorento.
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.
According to the official combined fuel consumption figures (ADR 81/02), FWD variants of the CX-9 sip 8.4 litres per 100km, which isn’t too bad for a petrol-powered large SUV that weighs just shy of 1900kg. Claimed carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are 197 grams per km.
And given they weigh a whisker more than two tonnes, AWD versions of the CX-9s drink a slightly higher 9.0L/100km and emit 211g/km.
We covered 188km in the Azami AWD and Azami LE AWD at the CX-9’s launch and recorded 11.5L/100km after primarily driving on country roads and highways.
While that figure is nearly 30 per cent higher than Mazda's claim, it’s not outlandish considering the type of vehicle the CX-9 is. Either way, results will vary.
For reference, AWD variants have a slightly large fuel tank (74L) than their FWD counterparts (72L), but they all take more affordable 91RON petrol at minimum.
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.
As far as large SUVs go, the CX-9 is one of the better ones to drive. It’s certainly not confused; it knows what it needs to do and does it well.
The engine is properly punchy down low, serving up plenty of initial torque, so much so that you rarely need to chase its top-end power. In that way, it’s very diesel-like, despite being petrol. Needless to say, acceleration is surprisingly brisk. Not bad, then!
And the transmission it’s matched to also does its job well. Gear changes are pleasingly smooth, if not quick, while it's receptive to heavy applications of the accelerator, kicking down a ratio or two with little hesitation. Yep, don’t bother with its Sport mode.
The CX-9 also rides pretty well thanks to its independent suspension set-up, which consists of MacPherson-strut front and multi-link rear axles with passive dampers. Indeed, the kids aren’t going to be upset when they’re onboard.
Again, we mainly drove on country roads and highways, but it proved to be comfortable, particularly at high speed. And even during those rare, in-town, low-speed moments, it still impressed, on lower-quality roads or not.
And while the CX-9’s electric power steering is well-weighted, some buyers might be left wishing it was a tad lighter, especially when parking, but that’s more about personal preference than anything else.
What is more universal, though, is the system’s lack of feel. Obviously, we’re not dealing with a sports car here, but a little communication through the wheel wouldn’t go astray, particularly on a twisty road.
Speaking of which, the CX-9 handles its mass pretty confidently around a corner. That said, while it is relatively tied down, it still regularly exhibits a fair degree of body roll to remind you that you’re dealing with a large SUV.
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.
Explore the Mitsubishi Outlander in 3D
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.
ANCAP awarded the CX-9 its maximum five-star safety rating in 2016, and despite the test occurring nearly five years ago, its results still stand.
Needless to say, the game has moved on, with the Santa Fe and Sorento recently resetting the standard, while the Kluger is soon to follow suit.
The CX-9 does, however, get front and side airbags as well as curtain airbags that cover all three rows, whereas the Santa Fe and Sorento only cover the first and second rows.
All grades of the CX-9 also get front and rear autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, traffic sign recognition, high-beam assist and driver attention alert.
A reversing camera and rear parking sensors are also standard in all grades, but the Touring and above add front parking sensors, while the Azami and Azami LE also get surround-view cameras.
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.
As with all Mazda models, the CX-9 comes with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with five years of roadside assistance, both of which are average when compared to Kia’s market-leading seven-year terms with ‘no strings attached’.
Service intervals are 12 months or 10,000km, with the distance on the shorter side, although capped-price servicing is available for the first five visits, costing $2022 in total at the time of the writing, which is very reasonable.
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.