Volkswagen Tiguan VS Mazda CX-9
- Spacious cabin
- Big boot
- Feels plush
- Safety pack still optional on base car
- Expensive servicing
- Low speed hesitancy
- 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 lower grades of the Volkswagen Tiguan range have been removed, with the German brand deciding to focus on high-end customers in the mid-size SUV segment with a petrol-only, all-wheel-drive-only line-up.
The five-seat Tiguan model range was pared back to just two models for 2019 - the 132TSI Comfortline and the 162TSI Highline, which were the best-sellers though 2017 and 2018 anyway. And then there’s the special-edition Wolfsburg version, which we have here.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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|
The Volkswagen Tiguan 2019 may be more expensive than in previous years, but that better reflects its standing as one of the best mid-sized SUVs in the segment.
If you splurge on the 162TSI you’ll be getting a quicker family hauler, but it may not be essential to your needs. The value on offer in the 132TSI Comfortline is hard to ignore, too. But if you want the best-looking version, you really ought to get in quick to snap up one of the 500 Wolfsburg Edition versions.
Do you think VW has made the right move by dumping base models and diesels? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
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.
The 2019 Tiguan range does away with one of the most disappointing elements it had since launch - halogen headlights. Now, with only two grades permanently available, LED headlights and daytime running lights are standard. Thank you, VW.
The exterior design of the Tiguan line-up is largely unchanged compared with when this generation launched in Australia back in 2016, so it’s probably due for a mid-life facelift soon. But even so, it still looks pretty fresh, and in Wolfsburg spec it gets people’s attention.
I’ve always been partial to the R-Line package on the Tiguan, which essentially adds a lower body kit to it. Admittedly there’s no outlandish rear spoiler or rear diffuser, and with ground clearance of 201mm you won’t need side steps. VW Australia has previously offered the more off-road focused Adventure model with underbody protection, if that’s your persuasion.
It manages to look sporty but still be smart, with a big glasshouse that doesn’t taper up like some - meaning better vision for the driver and rear occupants. The piano-black exterior trim highlights look terrific… if you can keep the car clean.
In terms of dimensions, the Tiguan is 4486mm long on a 2681mm wheelbase, 1839mm wide and 1658mm tall. The length extends by 4mm and the width by 20mm for the R-Line pack, because of the body kit, and the track is 10mm wider front and rear, too.
Remember, if you need more size, there’s always the Tiguan Allspace, which has a seven-seat layout but is a bit longer and taller to allow for more generous interior dimensions.
Check out the images to see if you like the R-Line leather trim of the Wolfsburg, or would prefer cloth.
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 VW Tiguan is one of the most practical SUVs in its segment, with tremendous use of the space available.
The cabin is comfortable and considered, with good storage throughout: there are big lined pockets with bottle holders for all four doors, map pockets in the back, a spot for your phone/wallet/keys in front of the gear shifter, and the cup holder count is good: two (plus a bit of extra space) up front, and two in the back in the fold-down armrest.
The media screen in the high-spec model lacks a volume knob, which can be annoying for passengers (the driver has controls on the steering wheel), but otherwise the system is pretty good. Our car had no issues with Bluetooth phone pairing or audio streaming, the nav system was pretty simple to use, and the phone mirroring (Apple CarPlay / Android Auto) worked great. The sound system is pretty good, too.
The presentation of the cabin is classy and simple, with a nice mix of materials across the high part of the dashboard, predictable placement of intuitive controls, and, with that bigger media screen, it looks plush enough.
The seats offer a decent range of adjustment and are reasonably comfortable, if a little flat when it comes to side bolsters. In the back, there is more than enough space for someone my size (182cm) to sit behind a similarly sized occupant up front, with good knee and foot room, while headroom is superb. And yes, you can fit three adults across if you need to.
The boot space is excellent, with up to 615 litres (VDA) of luggage capacity available with five seats up, and 1655L with them folded down.
The boot dimensions are also flexible in size because the second row slides fore and aft, meaning if you have tall backseat occupants you can shrink the boot space a little to improve legroom - and even in that setup the boot is bigger than a Mazda CX-5’s. There’s a cargo cover blind and you can get a boot liner if you need it, and there’s a space-saver spare wheel under the floor, too.
Of course, if all that isn’t enough storage space you can fit roof racks and a cargo box to the roof rails.
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.
Price and features
The lack of any entry-grade models means the price list and RRP range for the VW Tiguan 2019 line-up is higher than many competitor SUVs, like the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. So, how much does it cost?
The model comparison is simple enough - it’s the 132TSI Comfortline vs the 162TSI Highline. Well, for the ‘regular' range, anyway.
The 132TSI lists at $42,490, and it has a lengthy standard features list, including 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights with LED daytime running lights (yep, no bi-xenon headlights here!), front fog lights, a power tailgate, keyless entry and push-button start, three-zone climate control air conditioning, cruise control, auto headlights and auto wipers, electric folding side mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, cloth seat trim and a tyre-pressure-monitoring system.
Multimedia needs are met through an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with GPS sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto - so you can plug your iPhone or other device in to mirror its screen - three USB ports, and of course there’s Bluetooth phone and audio streaming as well. No Tiguan has digital DAB radio capability, nor a DVD player, but there is a CD player to pump the tunes through eight speakers.
If you want, there’s a sort of comfort pack that VW calls the 'Luxury Package', which adds leather trim, electric seat adjustment, heated front seats and a sunroof ($4000).
Stepping up to the 162TSI means a price increase to $49,490, but this improves the standard-gadgets list.
Highlights include 19-inch alloy wheels, LED tail-lights, leather seats, heated front seats with electric adjustment and memory settings, heated outboard rear seats, a bigger screen (9.2-inch) for the navigation system, ambient interior lighting, the convenience of auto high-beam lighting with anti-dazzle function (Dynamic Light Assist), adaptive cruise control and adaptive chassis control.
For a limited time there’s also the Wolfsburg Edition 162TSI, with 500 examples offered. It costs $55,490 and adds plenty of additional desirable equipment.
The Wolfsburg adds the high-tech Sound & Vision Package (with the digital instrument cluster that VW calls Active Info Display, a surround-view camera, Dynaudio sound system with nine speakers and a subwoofer, and ambient interior lighting), the R-Line Package (R-Line body styling and interior trim, 20-inch alloy wheels in black, and VW’s ‘progressive steering’ system), plus further black exterior trim elements, dark window tint, and a head-up display. There’s a Wolfsburg badge at the back, and the choice of Oryx White Pearlescent, Deep Black Pearl or Indium Grey Metallic for your paint colours.
The regular 2019 Tiguan range has six colours to choose from: Pure White, Tungsten Silver Metallic, Indium Grey Metallic, Atlantic Blue Metallic and Ruby Red Metallic. There’s no gold to be seen, and the orange that was offered earlier on has been axed, too.
Both trim levels get floor mats as standard, so there’s no need to look at the accessories list for those - and while there are heat insulating tinted windows, you can get dark tint on the high-grade. Other options include 19-inch rims, a towbar kit, roof bars with a roof box (there are roof rails as stand on both grades). You’ll need to shop around the aftermarket for a light bar, bull bar or nudge bar.
How many seats does a Tiguan have? Five… unless you choose the Tiguan Allspace, which has third-row seating. There’s a space-saver spare with tool kit under the boot floor of all Tiguans.
No model comes with a heated steering wheel, but you can option a panoramic sunroof ($2000).
Safety goes beyond lane assist and ESP - read the section below for the full breakdown.
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.
Engine & trans
Engine specs are easily dealt with this time around, because the 2019 Tiguan range has two turbocharged petrol powerplants, both with the same engine size (2.0-litre) but different horsepower tunes.
The entry-grade 132TSI sits at the bottom of the specifications tree, with ratings of 132kW of power an 320Nm of torque, and you don’t need to think about whether to choose a manual transmission or automatic transmission, because it only comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch (DSG) auto.
The next model up is much the same: the 162TSI has a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol, seven-speed DSG auto, AWD. But as the name suggests, it has 162kW of power and 350Nm of torque.
Wondering if each has a timing belt or chain? The answer is a chain.
If you really have a hankering for a 4x2 or front-wheel-drive version of the Tiguan, you’ll need to look for a 2017 or 2018 model, likewise if you have a desire for a turbo diesel or a manual gearbox. Maybe have a look at the seven-seat VW Tiguan Allspace?
At this stage there’s still no plug-in hybrid Tiguan on sale, and there won’t be an LPG version. And while the diesel models were better for consumption, the fuel-tank capacity is a decent size for these petrol models at 60 litres.
The gross vehicle weight isn’t specified by VW, but we can tell you the towing capacity if you plan to fit a towbar: it’s 750kg for an un-braked trailer and 2500kg for a braked trailer - decent pulling power, but this isn’t a towing review.
Check our Volkswagen Tiguan problems page for any historical diesel problems (including diesel particulate filter), automatic gearbox problems/4x4 transmission issues, or any well-known concerns with the turbo, battery, clutch, suspension, engine (even injector issues!). You will even find concerns relating to the existing model’s engine with a turbo and supercharger. And be sure to check your owner’s manual for info like oil type and capacity . If you think there’s excessive oil consumption, consult your VW dealership.
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.
Neither of these two petrol models can quite match the existing diesel fuel economy and mileage, but both offer good fuel consumption.
The 132TSI has a claimed consumption figure of 7.5 litres per 100 kilometres, while the higher-output 162TSI uses 8.1L/100km (claimed). Both require 95RON premium unleaded. There’s no eco-mode button, but there are different drive modes - we’ll get to that in a sec.
On test in the 162TSI Wolfsburg model, we saw 8.4L/100km over a week of mixed driving. I’d be very happy with that if I bought one.
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.
Having driven the 132TSI model previously, I can tell you that it has enough go to get the job done for the vast majority of families. It has strong response in-gear, although there’s some low-speed hesitation from the transmission.
That might mean you find it hard to justify the extra expense to get into the 162TSI model. If you forget the extra spec, the additional 30kW/30Nm probably isn’t worth $6500 to most people.
But if money isn’t that big of a concern for you, the 162TSI Highline - or, better yet, the Wolfsburg Edition - is worth spending up on.
It’s not just the power and torque from the 2.0-litre engine, which revs a little more freely and has noticeably more gusto when you push it hard - you also get adaptive dampers, which allow you to tailor the drive experience a little more, including a Sport mode that stiffens things up for twisty sections.
In most situations the ride is well sorted - even in the most aggressive setting it doesn’t feel crashy or harsh, but don’t expect it to be too cushy, either. I spent the majority of my time in Normal mode, but there’s also Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual.
In Comfort there’s a marked softness to things, even on the 20-inch wheels around city streets, although the front suspension is a little more prone to thumping into bumps than the rear suspension.
There’s also Snow and Ice mode - great for the cooler months, as it adapts the throttle response and transmission behaviour to ensure better traction. Plus there’s Off-Road and Off-Road Individual, and the off-road capability in the 2018 Tiguan 132TSI Adventure model I tested was pretty good - even with a ground-clearance figure (201mm) that is less than some of its competitors.
But an off-road review wasn’t the focus this time around. If I were interested in using a Tiguan for more extending driving off the beaten track, I’d be fitting some smaller wheels (maybe 17 inch alloys), some off-road tyres and wheel-arch extensions. Maybe even a lift kit?
And in Wolfsburg guise, you also get the progressive steering system, which is both more involving at higher speeds and easier at lower speeds.
For the geeks out there, this variable-ratio system allows you to apply 101 degrees less lock for the same outcome as a car without it. It is super easy to pivot the car when parking, and because it has a bit more assistance than a regular Tiguan at speed, it feels more direct in the bends. The steering weight is hefty in Sport mode, but easier to manipulate in Eco or Comfort.
There is a cost beyond the initial expense; you’ll use a touch more fuel, and you’ll have to pay a little extra in servicing. But if you value a really nice drive experience, the Wolfsburg could be worth your money.
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.
The Tiguan safety rating according to ANCAP is five stars. It was tested in September 2016 but that score remains intact for this model year, too.
What about features? The two-tier Tiguan range comes with a standard-fit reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, and there are seven airbags (dual front, front side, driver's knee and full-length curtain coverage).
Other equipment includes auto emergency braking (AEB), manoeuvre braking (where the car can brake if the rear sensors detect an obstacle), self parking (parallel and perpendicular bay park assist), driver fatigue detection, lane departure warning and lane-keeping assistance (the car will steer you into your lane if it needs to), and multi-collision brake (a system that applies the brakes if you have an accident, lessening the chance of further damage).
For the 132TSI there’s a 'Driver Assistance' pack for $1400, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane-changing assistant, a system called 'Emergency Assist' that can stop the car if the driver is unresponsive, and rear cross-traffic alert. The 162TSI has all of that as standard.
There are dual ISOFIX baby seat anchors and three top-tether points for child seats.
Where is the VW Tiguan built? Germany is the answer.
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.
Volkswagen has joined the mainstream fray in offering five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty for all models - not only is that good for current owners, but because the warranty is transferable, resale value might be a little better, too.
On top of that, the average service cost is high for the Tiguan. We did the maths on maintenance costs, with the 132TSI averaging out at $635.60 per visit over the first five years, and the 162TSI a little dearer again, at $646.80. Intervals are every 12 months/15,000km.
Concerned about common problems, faults, issues, waiting time, complaints, reliability issues? It could be of value to read out VW Tiguan problems page before you sign on the dotted line.
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.