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2023 Mazda CX-9 Review: For A Select Few

Design | Comfort | Technology | Performance | Safety | Fuel Economy | Pricing | FAQ

The 2023 Mazda CX-9 doesn’t necessarily tick all the right boxes. It isn’t the roomiest or most efficient three-row, nor does it have the latest and greatest in-car tech like some of its rivals. If you’re looking purely for an SUV that nails the family-hauling basics, there are better options out there.

But for the shopper who values driving enjoyment – maybe someone who already has a Miata in their garage – the CX-9 is a family hauler that won’t make you feel like you’re sacrificing. What the CX-9 lacks in legroom it makes up for in agility and quickness, and for a select handful of people, that makes this SUV the one to get.

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  • Exterior Color: Machine Gray
  • Interior Color: Parchment
  • Wheel Size: 20 Inches

The CX-9 is one of the best-looking three-row SUVs out there. It has slim headlights and a shapely grille, which affords it a sporty look up front, and a body that isn’t too bulbous or boxy. It almost resembles an oversized CX-5, which is a good thing.

The top-end Signature model tested here sports Titanium Gray inserts in the grille, 20-inch wheels, and a clean Machine Gray paint job ($395). The interior feels very Mazda-esque with a driver-focused layout and an abundance of high-quality materials; gorgeous Parchment Nappa leather with quilted inserts covers the seats in this case, with genuine rosewood interior accents throughout.

  • Seating Capacity: 7
  • Seating Configuration: 2 / 2 / 3
  • Cargo Capacity: 14.4 / 38.2 / 71.2 Cubic Feet

The CX-9 has a firm suspension that makes it more dynamic (more on that later), but it’s also harsher than some of the alternatives. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine can be a bit rumbly as the tachometer sweeps higher, too, and it is clearly audible throughout the cabin.

The front seats are soft and supportive, but it almost feels like you’re sitting on top of them rather than in them – the second-row captain’s chairs, weirdly, feel more form-fitting. And even though this is a three-row crossover, the second and third rows are among the most cramped in the class. Normal-sized adults won’t be comfortable in the rearmost row for very long.

  • Center Display: 10.3-Inch Display
  • Instrument Cluster Display: None
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto: No

The CX-9 keeps it simple when it comes to technology, owing to its advanced age. Three analog gauges adorn the instrument cluster and a 10.3-inch infotainment screen is standard across the range – but it’s not a touchscreen. Mazda still opts for the rotary dial in the center console which makes navigating Apple CarPlay and Android Auto a bit clunky, but it works well otherwise. There’s also a wireless phone charger just behind the shifter that is standard across the board.

  • Engine: Turbocharged 2.5-liter I4
  • Output: 250 Horsepower / 320 Pound-Feet
  • Transmission: Six-Speed Automatic

There are very few three-rows that drive as well as the CX-9 – even some of the pricier luxury options don’t stack up. With generous low-end torque from its turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the CX-9 has more than enough power off the line (even if it technically does have less than some rivals). That engine pairs with a six-speed transmission that feels old by today’s standards, but it still shifts with decisiveness.

But more than power, Mazda tuned the suspension for agility. The CX-9 corners with minimal body roll and excellent composure. The steering is quick and accurate and provides excellent feedback from the road to your fingertips.

  • Driver Assistance Level: SAE Level 2 (Hands-On)
  • NHTSA Rating: 5 Stars
  • IIHS Rating: Top Safety Pick Plus

Mazda’s i-Activesense safety suite is standard on every CX-9 trim, and it includes things like automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, lane-centering, and even traffic sign recognition. Simply tick the cruise control button on the steering wheel and the CX-9 cruises comfortably with ample steering assist and excellent lane-centering tech.

  • City: 20 MPG
  • Highway: 26 MPG
  • Combined: 23 MPG
  • Base Price: $38,750 + $1,275 Destination
  • Trim Base Price: $49,735
  • As-Tested Price: $50,780

The CX-9 starts at $40,025 with the $1,275 destination fee included, but it will cost you at least $49,735 to get into the Signature trim tested here. With the lone factory option being the Machine Gray paint ($595) and a few accessories equipped, this one costs $50,780.

Even on the base CX-9, Mazda’s active safety suite comes standard, as does a power liftgate, leather seating, power-adjustable seating, and a push-button start. Upgrading to this Signature trim does add nicer Nappa leather and a console in the second row, among other features, but the nearly $10,000 premium doesn’t necessarily feel worth the cost of admission. And that’s even more damning considering what other options you can get at that price.

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