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Mazda CX-9


Toyota Fortuner

Summary

Mazda CX-9

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.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.8L/100km
Seating7 seats

Toyota Fortuner

Lots of things happen by accident. Children, the discovery of penicillin, putting a kiss at the end of an email to your boss. We’ve all been there.

But nobody buys a Toyota Fortuner by accident. Yep, they may well buy other large seven-seater SUVs, like the Kia Sorento, or Toyota Kluger, without thinking it too much about it, but not the Fortuner.

That’s because the Fortuner isn’t particularly good looking, nor is it wonderfully comfortable to drive. So it’s nothing like a Sorento or Kluger,  apart from having the same number of seats.

See, the Fortuner is good at other things, such as being highly capable off-road, because it shares its underpinnings with the Toyota HiLux 4x4. Really, Toyota should have called it the HiLux 7 or the HiLux SUV. 

So, if you’re going to compare the Fortuner with anything, it should be other ute-based SUVs such as the Ford Everest, or Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, even an Isuzu MU-X.

We’ll cover the Fortuner’s strong, and not so strong points in this review of the new and updated range including what safety equipment comes standard, the fuel economy, practicality, price and features, plus what it’s like to live with in the city and drive off the road.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.8L
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency7.6L/100km
Seating7 seats

Verdict

Mazda CX-98/10

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.


Toyota Fortuner 7.5/10

The Toyota Fortuner really should have been called the HiLux 7 or the HiLux SUV, because it is a seven-seat SUV based on the HiLux off-road ute. Sure, its not the most comfortable SUV out there, but this vehicle can go places the Sorentos and Klugers of this world can only dream about.

Like the Ford Everest, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and other ute-based SUVs, the Fortuner is ideal for the family which lives remotely and off-road driving is part of daily life. Or for those who may live in the suburbs and head away on regular adventures towing a caravan or trailer behind.

That’s why nobody buys an SUV like the Fortuner accidentally, the ride and looks will put a Kia Sorento buyer off, but for the right people it’s exactly what they need – a ute with seven seats and a boot.

Picking the sweet spot of the Fortuner range is easy... it's the GXL. Stepping up to the Crusade buys you items you don't need such as a power tailgate. The GXL comes with roof rails, privacy glass, a proximity key and if you want leather seats you can option the premium interior pack which my test car featured. 

Design

Mazda CX-98/10

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.


Toyota Fortuner 7/10

The Fortuner isn’t beautiful, but it is rugged and ready looking. Those tough looks aren’t just for show either, see the Fortuner shares the same underpinnings as Toyota’s HiLux 4x4 ute.

So, the tall ride height and high front end starts to make sense knowing that this is a SUV based on an off-road ute, right down to the ladder frame chassis and the many other components it shares with the HiLux.

The Fortuner is about 530mm shorter end-to-end than a HiLux at 4795mm long, but the same width at 1855mm across and about 10mm shorter in height – although the roof racks see it stand 1835mm tall.

Matching the Fortuner’s rugged exterior is a cabin with a fairly basic design and robust feel. So, while it’s plush in places such as the leather seats that came as part of the premium interior pack on our (GXL grade) test car, there are also the chunky runner floor mats that don’t mind a bath with a garden hose (take them out first, okay?).

Side steps are standard on all grades, but the GXL adds roof racks, privacy glass and chrome door handles.

The Crusade adds more in the way of glamorous touches such as a premium grille finish, a grey coloured front ‘bash plate’, wood grain-look instrument panel and leather upholstery.

Practicality

Mazda CX-98/10

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.


Toyota Fortuner 8/10

There are some super practical parts to the Fortuner’s cabin, but also a couple of 'why-did-they-do-that?' areas, too.

First, the good points. The side steps are sturdy and meant my six-year-old could climb in and out despite the tall ride height. Also helping him were hand grips moulded into the plastic trim around the B-pillar at 'kid height' for children to hold onto.

Then there are the rubber floor mats, which after a week were covered in mud, sand and potato chips, but I could pull the entire rear mat out and hose off the evidence.

Cabin space is also good and while the third row is too cramped for me at 191cm (6'3") tall, I can sit behind my driving position with plenty of legroom in the second row.

The doors have bottle holders, there are cupholders, trays and hidey holes in all three rows, there’s a cooled glove box and a centre console bin large enough to store a small backpack.

All Fortuners have seven seats and this is where we come to the 'why-did-they-do-that?' moment. That third row doesn’t fold flat, instead the seats fold up towards the side windows and are fastened into position there.

Not only does this eat into your cargo space, but, if not fastened properly the heavy seats can fall back down and as a parent I was concerned about small hands or fingers being in the way.

The cargo capacity with third row folded that way is 716 litres, but with them in place you have 200 litres of boot space behind them.

USB ports are thin on the ground in all grades with just one up front, although there are three 12V outlets on board and the Crusade also gets a 220V power point.

All three rows have directional air vents, with fan speed adjustment in the very back seats.

Price and features

Mazda CX-98/10

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.


Toyota Fortuner 8/10

There are three grades in the Fortuner range – the entry-level GX with a list price of $49,080, the GXL which is $54,350, and the Crusade for $61,410.

The GX comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, cloth seats, air conditioning, an 8.0-inch display with a reversing camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a six-speaker stereo, plus front and rear parking sensors.

The GXL has the GX’s features including the 17-inch alloys, but adds 'Downhill Assist Control', climate control, sat nav, digital radio, privacy glass, power driver’s seat, roof rails, LED fog lights and a proximity key.

The Crusade has all the GXL’s gear but adds 18-inch alloy wheel, Bi-LED headlights, door puddle lamps, leather seats (heated up front), an 11-speaker JBL sound system and a power tailgate.

The pick for value here is the GXL and as with our test car you can option the premium interior pack which adds leather upholstery and power front adjustable seats.

Compared to its rivals, the Fortuner is more affordable than the equivalent Ford Everest, but more expensive than a comparable Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.

Engine & trans

Mazda CX-97/10

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.


Toyota Fortuner 8/10

All grades in the Fortuner range come with the same engine – it’s a 2.8-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-diesel which now makes 20kW more power and 50Nm more torque than before with its outputs of 150kW/500Nm.

Shifting gears is a six-speed automatic transmission.

All Fortuners are four-wheel drive. You can select from two-wheel drive, and four-wheel drive in high and low ranges.

The braked towing capacity is 3100kg.

Fuel consumption

Mazda CX-98/10

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.


Toyota Fortuner 7/10

Toyota’s official fuel economy claim for the Fortuner is 7.6L/100km and that’s after a combination of open and urban roads. My own testing delivered an average mileage of 10.1L/100km. The fuel tank holds 80 litres.

Driving

Mazda CX-98/10

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.


Toyota Fortuner 7/10

Right at the start of this review I said the Fortuner isn't wonderfully comfortable to drive and while that’s true my family and I quickly became used to it.

The Fortuner in the GXL grade came to live with us for a week and we used it daily for school drops off, supermarket runs, and a weekend trip to the beach. So, I can give you a pretty good idea what it’s like to live with in the city and suburbs.

If you want to know how it performs off-road take a look at our Adventure Editor Marcus Craft’s review. Crafty drove the GX grade of the Fortuner at about the same time I had mine and between the two of us we’ve covered what it’s like to live it the Fortuner in the city and ‘burbs, plus how it handles itself in the rough stuff.

Also, be sure to check out the video above where we team up to show you what it can do in and out of the city.

What I can tell you is that the Fortuner’s ride is firm. Stiff suspension and its ladder frame chassis meant jiggly journeys, while handling is nowhere near car-like.

If you’ve driven a HiLux, you’ll know what it’s like to drive the Fortuner. Both share the same platform, and have similar driving characteristics, right down to the upright seating position and steering wheel with limited reach adjustment.

Like the HiLux, the Fortuner was refreshed this year and received some excellent updates which improved the way it drives. Best of all is the steering upgrade.

A new variable-flow power steering pump now means low-speed steering is fantastic. I noticed this especially in car parks where I could pilot the Fortuner more easily than before.

The 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel was upgraded as well with more torque and power, and this too makes the Fortuner a better SUV than the previous model which seemed to lack oomph.

There’s good forward visibility, although, when the third row is stowed away those rear side windows are blocked and that made parallel parking a bit of a guessing game at times.

There is a reversing camera, but the picture quality isn’t great, and the front and rear parking sensors got a workout when I was driving.

The trade off for the Fortuner being a bit uncomfortable, with its ladder frame and stiff suspension, is an SUV that is a proper off-road vehicle. We’re talking a wading depth of 700mm, an approach angle of 29 degrees and a departure angle of 25 degrees (ramp over is 23.5 degrees), while ground clearance is 216mm. There’s also a rear differential lock.

As I said, you can read and see what Crafty had to say about its off-road performance in his review, but he found the Fortuner to be talented over challenging terrain and while he also found the ride to be firm, the new steering and extra grunt made this SUV even better in the rough stuff.

You might be interested to know the GX and GXL grades come standard with all-terrain tyres, while the Crusade gets 'highway tyres.'

Safety

Mazda CX-99/10

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.


Toyota Fortuner 8/10

The Toyota Fortuner scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2019. All three grades have AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane departure alert with steering assistance, adaptive cruise control and road sign recognition.

There are seven airbags, and it’s good to see the third row is covered by curtain airbags, too.

Only rear parking seniors were standard across the range previously and now all Fortuners have front parking sensors, as well.

For child seats there are two ISOFIX points and three top tether anchor mounts across the second row.

Under the car is full-sized spare wheel.

Ownership

Mazda CX-98/10

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.


Toyota Fortuner 7/10

The Fortuner is covered by a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and a five-year capped price servicing plan.

Servicing is recommended every six months or 10,000km and you can expect to pay $250 for each of the first four services.