Mazda CX-9 VS Mitsubishi Pajero Sport
- 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
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport
- Comfortable on-road
- Capable off-road
- Good value
- Those tail lights
- Ground clearance could be better
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|
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport
The zombie apocalypse has arrived and you get to pick one car to help you survive. What would it be?
Why? Because I want to remain alive, that’s why. And these well-equipped, tough, off-road capable but on-road comfortable ute-based seven-seat SUVs might just offer the best chance of keeping my family mobile and breathing.
Still, surviving an apocalypse is kind of a niche market. So while it's nice to know it could if it had to, the more pertinent question is what’s the Pajero Sport like to live with, day to zombie-free day?
What changes did the update in April 2018 bring? How many variants are there in the range? Is it a Pajero but just a bit sportier? And what’s the difference between it and a regular seven-seat SUV, like the Toyota Kluger or Kia Sorento?
It’s best to find out now, before the zombies come. And they will. Trust me.
|Engine Type||2.4L 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.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport7.4/10
The Pajero Sport is comfortable enough to live with as a family car, but also offers the capability to head properly off road for a bit of adventure. And it will go further than a Kluger or Sorento, too.
You wouldn't call the Pajero Sport refined or luxurious, but it is great value and offers excellent safety equipment. It's also tough, practical and surprisingly un-truck-like to drive.
School run, holiday road trip and zombie apocalypse-ready, then.
As for the sweet spot in range - it's hard to go past the GLS seven seater, which adds leather seats and a locking rear differential, but remains good value.
What would you pick for your ultimate zombie apocalypse vehicle? Is the Pajero Sport on that list? Tell us what you 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.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport7/10
Despite being called a Pajero Sport, this SUV is not a sporty version of the Pajero and actually has far more in common with the Triton ute. Yup, it uses much of the same platform and mechanical underpinnings as the ute – albeit with coil-spring rear suspension.
Stylish from the front and side, but with a rear design that may take some (or a lot of) getting used to, the Pajero Sport’s dimensions show it to be 225mm shorter than a Pajero, at just under 4.8m in length, 1.8m tall and 1.8m wide (not including the mirrors).
The Pajero Sport’s cabin is premium-looking and comfortable even in the base grade GLX (have a look at my interior images), with dark, high-quality materials that also appear hard wearing. This is a modern and stylish cabin – sure, those cloth seats on the GLX let the tone down a bit and also attract dirt like magical dust magnets, but the other touch points feel good – from the leather steering wheel, to the console which is padded at the place your left knee meets it when driving.
The Pajero Sport’s colour range is limited to seven paint hues – White, Sterling Silver, Deep Bronze, Titanium Grey, Terra Rossa, Black, and a new colour fresh for this update, Pitch Black pearlescent.
The Pajero Sport comes with a squillion accessories: there’s a rear spoiler, front protection bar, nudge bar, weather shields, under body protection, a snorkel, spot lights, tow bar and tow ball, cargo barrier, a Thule luggage pod, bonnet and headlight protectors, fender arch protectors and stacks more. See Mitsubishi’s website for more details.
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.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport8/10
The Pajero Sport scores an eight for practicality - but I’m being generous, because even though it does some things really well it could be better in other areas. Let me explain.
Storage space isn’t bad, but it’s not impressive in the way some SUVs can be. Still, there’s a big centre console bin, six cupholders (two in the front, second row and third row/boot) and smallish bottle holders in all of the doors.
The collection of USB and power ports is excellent, with this update adding two USB chargers in the second row and a 150W/220-volt outlet in the centre console bin. There are also two USB ports in the front, too. Electricity will be hard and risky to find during zombie time, so think of the Pajero Sport as a mobile power station.
Room for humans is good, with seating for seven or five depending on the variant you choose. Second row legroom isn’t bad and, at 191cm tall, I can sit behind my driving position with about 30mm of space between my knees and the seat back. Headroom in the first and second rows is also good, but it's not terrific in the third.
The third row wouldn’t be my first choice of places to sit, but at a squeeze I can get in there. And if the journey is a quick one, I’d keep my complaining to a minimum. It’s perfect for kids and shorter humans.
With the third row folded flat, the Pajero Sport’s cargo capacity is 673 litres (and 1624 litres with the third and second row down). The fold-flat function of the third row is definitely better than the Toyota Fortuner’s fold-up-and-strap method.
Almost every SUV has them now, but there are also tie-down cargo down points in the boot, and handy shopping bag hooks, too. Air vents positioned in the roof for the second and third rows are also good to see.
Wide-opening doors provide good access, although the ride height may make it hard for smaller kids and older grown-ups to climb in – the standard sidesteps are a help though, and so are the A-pillar mounted handles.
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.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport8/10
How much does a Pajero Sport cost? Well, the Sport was given a freshen-up in April 2018, which added more equipment and a five-seat version of the mid-range GLS grade, but also increased the asking price slightly.
The range now starts at $45,500 for the GLX (an increase of $500 over the previous model), steps up to $48,500 for the five-seat GLS, then $49,500 for the seven-seat GLS (up $1000), and finally, the top-spec Exceed, which lists for $53,650 (up $650).
The price increase is well justified, considering that much of the advanced safety equipment previously only available on the Exceed has now been added to the rest of the line-up. You can read more about this in the safety section below.
The update also saw the GLX given new 18-inch alloy wheels, a 150W/220-volt outlet, two rear-seat USB power ports and a soft-finish centre console trim.
Other standard features include LED headlights, LED tail-lights and LED daytime running lights (DRLs), roof rails, side steps, leather steering wheel, carpet floors, cloth seats, climate control with rear air vents, proximity key and push-button start. There’s a 7.0-inch screen with Apple CarPlay, a rear-view camera, four-speaker stereo, rear parking sensors and dark-tinted rear windows.
The GLS comes standard with all of the GLX’s features, plus picks up two more stereo speakers, switches the cloth seats for leather ones, adds auto headlights and wipers, and gets dual-zone climate control.
Mechanically, the GLX gains a rear differential lock, too. The seven-seat GLS also gains a third row (obviously). Do the airbags stretch that far back? Skip to the safety section to find out.
The top-grade Exceed comes with the GLS’s features, but adds two more speakers to the stereo for a total of eight, plus heated front seats and headlight washers. A third row of seats is also standard on the GLS.
How do the prices compare with the Pajero Sport’s rivals? As a model comparison, the Toyota Fortuner starts at $44,590 and tops out at $56,990, the Ford Everest ranges from $47,990 to $74,701, and the Isuzu MU-X from $42,900 to $56,200.
The Pajero Sport is priced super competitively and, considering the quantity of the standard features, is great value for money.
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.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport7/10
The Pajero Sport has a 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, which has plenty of grunt at 133kW/430Nm. This is the only engine you can have (you can’t have a petrol Pajero Sport), which is fine, because this turbo-diesel is a fairly smooth and quiet engine, and it's teamed up with with an eight-speed auto (with shifting-paddles on all grades).
The Pajero Sport is a capable off-roader with two-wheel drive high range, plus full-time four-wheel drive with low and high ranges, plus a locked centre differential. The GLS and Exceed come standard with a rear differential lock.
Suspension up front is double wishbone with coils and a stabiliser bar, while the rear gets a three-line coil and stabiliser bar setup.
The Pajero Sport has a braked towing capacity of 3.1 tonnes.
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.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport7/10
Mitsubishi says the Pajero Sport should only need 8.0L/100km when driven on a combination of urban and open roads. I put more than 800km on the clock of the my Exceed, and naturally the economy being reported on the trip computer varied a lot between peak-hour city commutes and country miles.
I saw a combination of both average at 14.1L/100km, while after four hours on a motorway the figure settled down to 7.4L/100km.
It's a proven fact that diesel will be easier to source than petrol during the zombie apocalypse, too (going by movies - think farms, abandoned bus depots and old industrial sites for your siphoning needs).
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.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport7/10
The Pajero Sport may be based on the same platform as a commercial vehicle but it’s a more civilised and comfortable experience than piloting the Triton ute thanks that multi-link rear and double wishbone suspension up front.
The 11.2m turning circle is also smaller than the Triton’s, which makes the Pajero Sport a bit more city friendly.
The car I test drove most recently was the base-spec GLX five-seater, and while 800km were indeed clocked up, all of it was on bitumen or gravel where I found it a comfortable easy-to-drive SUV, but no serious off-roading was carried out.
CarsGuide has taken the Pajero Sport off-road before, and we’re convinced it’s capable over tough terrain with its ladder frame chassis, high- and low-range four-wheel drive, an approach angle of 30 degrees and a departure angle of 24.2 degrees. Ground clearance isn’t astounding at 218mm, however, compared with the Fortuner and Everest - which both have 225mm. The Pajero Sport’s wading depth of 700mm is good, but not as impressive as the Everest’s 800mm.
That turbodiesel is fairly smooth, and that eight-speed auto is excellent. The cabin itself was found to be well insulated from road and wind noise, too.
Thinking about a Toyota Kluger or Kia Sorento instead? Well, you’ll be comfier, because they handle and ride more like cars, and sure, they have all-wheel drive, but what’s going to happen if you need to scale the concrete rubble mountain of what remains of the town hall with zombies clinging to the tailgate? I’ll let you work that out.
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.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport8/10
The Pajero Sport scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2015.
The update in 2018 added AEB and adaptive cruise control across the range. The top of the range Exceed comes standard with more advanced safety technology, such as blind-spot warning, and comes with a 360-degree camera. Seven-seat Pajero Sports come with full-length curtain airbags for the third row as well.
Side note; just because it's the zombie apocalypse doesn't mean you shouldn't wear a seat belt. You'll have to stop suddenly to shake them off the roof, so wear it.
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 Pajero Sport7/10
The Pajero Sport is covered by Mitsubishi’s five-year/100,000km warranty. Servicing is recommended every 12 months or 15,000km and is capped for three years at $400 for the first 15,000km service, $475 for the second and $550 for the third.
You'll probably be doing the services yourself during the zombie apocalypse, but fortunately the Pajero Sport has a fairly simple mechanical nature and parts should be easily scavenged - feel lucky you didn't choose a Range Rover.