Mazda CX-9

Performance and smartly designed interior add to appeal

Roseville, CA- When compared with other midsize sport utility vehicles, the Mazda CX-9 has historically resided near the top.

There’s always been a lot to admire regarding Mazda’s most expensive and largest SUV. The CX-9 has gained appeal over the years because it’s considered refined, stylish and delivers a nice blend of performance and fuel economy. It also has a reputation for being sporty and fun to drive.

An attractive exterior has always been part of the CX-9 profile. Its sharp styling includes a sleek roofline and angular front grille. The interior also receives good marks, thanks to its high-end materials and clever cockpit layout.

Still basically the same SUV since its last redesign in 2016, the 2020 Mazda CX-9 faces some stiffer competition these days. Two new kids on the block – Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade – have drawn interest, plus the usual suspects like the Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander remain respected rivals.

Despite the increased competition, CX-9 sales are solid since its debut in 2007 along with the CX-7 (discontinued in 2012). Sales of the CX-9 have remained steady the past three years, where the average is 27,000.

Safety and performance

New for 2020 is making the driver-assistance safety features (i-Activsense) standard, instead of an option. The CX-9 bundle includes lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist, automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and adaptive cruise control.

A switch to a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and discontinuing the V6 several years proved to be a shrewd move, giving the CX-9 more pep while significantly increasing the fuel efficiency. The lone engine choice remains a turbocharged 2.5-liter, four-cylinder that generates 227 horsepower and 310 pounds-feet of torque. The CX-9 goes 0-60 mph in 7.1 seconds and gets 22-28 mph.

Mazda has earned a reputation for producing vehicles that are a pleasure to drive. It’s typically a stretch to assume a midsize SUV will have a fun factor, but the CX-9 delivers a smooth, pleasing ride in all types of driving situations. It has a refined feel and there’s very little noise. It’s nimble on extremely curvy roads and doesn’t back down on challenging climbs.

At a Glance, 2020 Mazda CX-9

  • Performance: turbocharged 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, 227 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 22-28 mpg
  • Estimated Price: $33,900 to $46,300
  • Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain: 5 years/60,000 miles; roadside assistance: 3 years/36,000; corrosion: 5 years/unlimited

Two frequent criticisms of the CX-9 remain. It’s capable of only carrying seven passengers, while some midsize SUVs can transport eight. The CX-9 also has one of the least roomy third rows – kids only – and a smaller-than-average cargo space of 14 cubic feet that expands to 38 cubes with the second row down. The towing capacity of 3,500 pounds is one more negative.

Interior

Mazda makes up for those two faults by providing a sizable list of standard interior features, including eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support, 7-inch touchscreen, heated front seats, rain-sensing windshield wipers, six-speaker audio, two USB ports, and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

A good-looking midsize SUV, the 2020 Mazda CX-9 still merits consideration due to its overall appeal that includes solid performance, good fuel economy and a smartly designed interior.