New car review: Mazda CX-9 Touring FWD

Timely updates keep Mazda’s large family SUV abreast of the pack.

Mazda’s large SUV has benefited from two major updates since the current second-generation model arrived in 2016. 

Earlier this year, Mazda further enhanced the CX-9’s appeal by adding advanced dynamics technology, updating trim levels and boosting its flagship model’s safety, comfort and functionality.

With this change, the previous G-Vectoring Control system morphed into the more sophisticated G-Vectoring Control Plus, still available range-wide but now with additional functionality that uses brake control to stabilise the vehicle when exiting turns back to straight-line running.

CX-9’s with all-wheel-drive is also now claimed to be easier to drive thanks to the latest iteration of Mazda’s Off-Road Traction Assist which reduces tyre slip on undulating surfaces. 

That’s something we weren’t able to assess with this front-drive model.

Already handsomely endowed with safety features and advanced driver assistance technology, the new CX-9 expands its after-dark repertoire with the auto emergency braking system now able to detect pedestrians at night.

The top-spec Azami (which replaces the Azami LE) also improves night vision for the driver with the addition of adaptive LED headlights. 

Our mid-range Touring model came equipped with standard LED headlamps and auto high-beam control but lacked the adaptive system’s ability to swivel the lamps in accord with steering inputs.

All CX-9 models now also include an auto-hold function for the electric park brake plus a revised key fob and new exterior badging.

Mazda CX-9

Convenience when loading or unloading cargo has improved too with the GT and Azami featuring the ability to open or close the power tailgate with a kicking gesture under the rear bumper.

Both these high-spec models also get new dark-finish 20-inch alloys while the entry-level Sport and Touring models ride on new bright-finish 18-inch alloys.

The CX-9 Touring’s stylish cabin exudes a premium look and feel, including quality leather trims, soft-touch materials on the dash pad and door cards, and piano-black surrounds on the console. 

The Azami raises the stakes again with a new smoother, high-quality Nappa leather seat trim in a choice of two colours.

A 9.0-inch central infotainment screen is now standard on all models except the Sport which retains the original 7.0-inch display.

Mazda has added additional USB ports for third-row passengers on the two high grades, up from the two front and two middle-row ports found on the Touring.

Access to the standard third-row seating is now easier with fitment of a one-touch switch on the second-row seat cushions that tilts and slides the seats.

Like most seven-seat SUVs, the third-row is adult-capable for shorter stints but ultimately better suited to kids.

There’s also a generous five child-restraint points including ISOFIX anchors in the outer positions of the second-row seats. 

Head, leg and foot space for second-row passengers is good and there’s 230 litres of boot space with the rear seats in use, enough for a couple of carry-on suitcases and two small day backpacks.

Mazda CX-9

With the third row folded into the floor, load area expands to 810 litres, which is generous but not as generous as the rival Nissan Pathfinder.

Otherwise, it’s business as usual for the highly regarded and refined CX-9. 

That means a 2.5-litre Skyactiv-G turbo-petrol engine (170kW/420Nm) driving through a six-speed automatic. 

The engine responds strongly and hustles the near 1900kg CX-9 along at a good clip with its main downside in this front-drive model being torque-steer on harder acceleration.

Official combined cycle fuel consumption for the front driver is 8.4L/100km (AWD 8.8L/100km), a number we almost matched on test with our mix of suburban and back roads driving returning 8.5L/100km. 

Those looking for diesel power in their CX-9 are out of luck.

There are plenty of brands and models to choose from in the large SUV market including the sophisticated new Kia Sorento, but the latest CX-9 makes a solid case for inclusion on any shopper’s shortlist.

It feels surprisingly confident and dynamic for such a big vehicle, proving Mazda’s philosophy of giving their cars a sportier edge holds true even with this family-friendly SUV.

Key stats

MLP: $53,310

ENGINE: 2.5-litre Skyactiv-G turbocharged 4 cylinder petrol

ANCAP CRASH RATING: 5 stars (2016) 

FUEL CONSUMPTION (combined cycle, L/100km): 8.4 (197g/km CO₂)

FOR: Robust engine response, good road manners, premium look and feel, seven seats, five child-restraint points, range updates.

AGAINST: Third row better suited for kids, torque steer in FWD model, spacesaver spare.