Mazda CX-9

#12 in Midsize SUVs Overall Score: 8.2 / 10
2016 Mazda CX-9 View More Photos »
$31,520 - $44,015
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2016 Mazda CX-9 Overview

The 2016 Mazda CX-9 ranks 12 out of 18 Midsize SUVs.

Thanks to its redesign, the 2016 Mazda CX-9 is a major step up from outgoing models. The midsize SUVs' updates include better-quality interior materials, and upper trims are available with rich leather upholstery. Extra sound-proofing materials keep the cabin quiet. The infotainment system, while not the latest in technology, is easy to operate. 

Under the hood, the CX-9 gets a new engine – a turbocharged four-cylinder. While it doesn’t have the raw power of a V6 or V8, there is more than sufficient power for everyday driving. More important, it makes a great deal of torque, making it easier to pull away from a stop or switch from a slow lane of traffic to a swifter one. A full suite of driver assistance features is available. Most work well, though the automatic braking system can be too sensitive. The major drawback of the CX-9 is its predicted reliability rating, which is low for the class.

Pricing is slightly higher than average for the class. The base CX-9 starts at around $31,500, and the top-line Signature trim is a little over $44,000.

SEATING


7

MPG


21-22

  CITY


26-28

  HWY

DRIVETRAIN


FWD, AWD

HP


227
See full 2016 Mazda CX-9 specs ยป

Pros & Cons

  • Engine moves SUV off the line quickly
  • Exceptional handling
  • Luxury-like interior materials in upper trims
  • Numerous upgraded tech features
  • Well-placed infotainment controls and gauges
  • Engine loses power at higher speeds
  • Hyper-sensitive collision mitigation system
  • Cargo space smaller than in many competitors

Notable for 2016

  • Completely redesigned
  • New Signature trim

Mazda CX-9 Rankings and Research

The 2016 Mazda CX-9 ranking is based on its score within the Midsize SUVs category. Currently the Mazda CX-9 has a score of 8.2 out of 10 which is based on our evaluation of 13 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

Scorecard

Overall: 8.2
Critics' Rating: 9.1
Performance: 8.8
Interior: 8.2
Safety: N/A
Reliability: 2_5

Rankings

2016 Mazda CX-9 Pictures

2016 Mazda CX-9 Review

By Martin A Davis Jr January 13, 2017

Thanks to its redesign, the 2016 Mazda CX-9 is a major step up from outgoing models. The midsize SUVs' updates include better-quality interior materials, and upper trims are available with rich leather upholstery. Extra sound-proofing materials keep the cabin quiet. The infotainment system, while not the latest in technology, is easy to operate. 

Under the hood, the CX-9 gets a new engine – a turbocharged four-cylinder. While it doesn’t have the raw power of a V6 or V8, there is more than sufficient power for everyday driving. More important, it makes a great deal of torque, making it easier to pull away from a stop or switch from a slow lane of traffic to a swifter one. A full suite of driver assistance features is available. Most work well, though the automatic braking system can be too sensitive. The major drawback of the CX-9 is its predicted reliability rating, which is low for the class.

Pricing is slightly higher than average for the class. The base CX-9 starts at around $31,500, and the top-line Signature trim is a little over $44,000.

CX-9 Interior

Near-Luxury Cabin

The 2016 Mazda CX-9's received significant improvements that make its cabin more luxurious than those of older models. The top Grand Touring and Signature CX-9 trims are particularly upscale. There are some plastic materials throughout the cabin, they're soft and closely resemble leather. Only the base model offers cloth seats. The other three trims offer leather, with the top-of-the-line Signature trim using Nappa leather. Some critics are so impressed with the Signature trim that they say it feels more like a luxury-level vehicle.

Quiet and Room for 7 (Mostly)

There are three rows of seats in the CX-9. The front has two captain’s chairs that mold well to your body and will serve you well on long journeys. The second row splits 60/40 and comes with a center arm rest. The seats both slide and recline, ensuring that second-row passengers will have no difficulty settling in for their trips. If you have a child seat in the second row, you can still slide the seat all the way forward without having to remove it. That's a big plus for families of five or more who routinely use both second and third rows when shuttling their clans from soccer practice to band camp and dance recitals.

The third row draws mixed reviews from a number of critics. Compared with the 2015 model, legroom is down a couple inches, and headroom isn’t as generous. The accommodations back there are definitely tighter. Some reviewers say that an adult can ride reasonably comfortably in the third row for moderate lengths of time. Others disagree. Your experience may hinge on your passengers’ heights. The taller they are, the less comfortable they’ll probably be. In fact, the real problem with the third row may be how difficult it is to climb back there. The space between the second and third rows is a bit narrow.

The second and third rows both fold flat. You can fold the third row down from the back of the CX-9. To lower the second row, however, you’ll have to do so from the sliding door, as there’s no method for dropping the second row from the rear of the SUV.

Feel the Music … Manage the Infotainment System

While the standard six-speaker stereo system is serviceable, the available 12-speaker Bose speakers are top notch. These speakers are new to the CX-9, and their sound quality earns critical praise.

The Mazda Connect infotainment system that directs the music to these improved speakers is either a model of efficiency or a bit behind the times, depending on your perspective. The system is controlled by a rotary knob on the center console, which is simple enough to use. That’s all good. Some critics find, however, that you have to dig through several layers of menus to do fairly basic tasks, like selecting a radio station. Not so good. The available navigation system works well and will get you where you need to go. So far so good. But you still can’t get Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

Mazda Connect runs through a standard 7-inch touch screen, a more-than-one-inch improvement over last year’s model. An 8-inch touch screen is available in higher trims. The touch functions won’t work while the car is in motion, however, so get comfortable with the knob.

Fortunately, all of the infotainment controls, as well as the other gauges that you will need when driving, are smartly arranged and easily reachable.

A Little Less Cargo Room

The CX-9 trails most rivals when it comes to cargo room, and can’t touch class leaders like the Honda Pilot or Toyota Highlander. However, some improvements have made what space there is very useable.

The second and third rows both fold flat, and a power liftgate is standard on all but the base model. This makes putting stuff in, and getting it back out, fairly easy. Unfortunately, you can’t lower the second row from the back of the CX-9. You’ll have to walk around to the side door to do that.

Still, the numbers are the numbers. There’s 14.4 cubic feet behind the third row, 38.2 behind the second, and 71.2 behind the first. Those are decent, but if lots of space is your first concern, look elsewhere.

Pricing, Options, and Trims

The CX-9 comes in four trims and ranges in price from about $31,500 up to just over $44,000. All models are outfitted with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard in all but the highest trim, which comes with all-wheel drive. You can add all-wheel drive to the other trims for about $1,800.

The CX-9 Sport is the base trim, and for $31,500 you get tri-zone automatic climate control, a six-speaker stereo, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming, a 7-inch touch-screen Mazda Connect infotainment system, and a rearview camera.

Moving up to the Touring trim (starting at just under $36,000) adds a power liftgate, heated front seats, leather seats in the first two rows, power-adjustable front seats, and an 8-inch touch screen. Additional safety features include blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.

The Grand Touring trim starts at just over $40,100 and adds a bevy of features. Added comfort features include a head-up display, a 12-speaker Bose stereo, and a navigation system. New safety features include lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and an automatic braking system that will stop the car if it senses an imminent collision.

The top-of-the line Signature trim costs just over $44,000 and comes with a number of luxury features, including Nappa leather seats and rosewood interior trim. All-wheel drive is standard.

Read more about interior »

CX-9 Performance

Down-Sized Power, Up-Sized Performance

Mazda has a reputation for making cars that are fun to drive, regardless of their engine power or horsepower rating. The same is true of the 2016 CX-9. For 2016, Mazda replaced the CX-9's V6 engine with a turbocharged four-cylinder that generates 227 horsepower with regular fuel. With premium fuel, horsepower is increased to 250. 

This engine works best in the tachometer’s middle range (starting around 2,000 rpm). Push the pedal harder, and you won’t find the punch a 300-plus horsepower V6 will deliver. However, what the CX-9 lost in power, it picked up in torque – the force that moves your vehicle quickly when you take off from a start or jump from a slow lane of traffic into a quicker lane. The switch in engines makes sense to many auto reviewers, who note that most people who drive the CX-9 won’t be pushing it like a sports car.

Translation: For day-to-day driving, the CX-9 has more than enough under the hood to meet your needs.

Athletic Handling for Its Size

The CX-9 exceeds two tons in weight, but test drivers agree that it doesn’t feel that heavy when you’re driving. There are a number of reasons for this.

First is steering. When you turn the wheel, the CX-9 will go exactly where you want it. The steering system is nicely weighted, with reassuring feedback. When you have to turn sharply, you won’t need the strength of Hercules to do so. Next up is the CX-9’s suspension, which keeps it planted in turns and smooths out bumpy roads. Finally, there’s very little body roll as you pull the CX-9 through curves. What body roll there is feels reassuring, not distressing. That’s because it allows you to sense exactly what the mass of wheels and metal beneath you is doing on the road.

Modest Towing

Midsize SUVs may not spring to the top of mind when considering vehicles to tow with, but many are capable of medium size loads. The CX-9 has a towing capacity of 3,500 pounds, which is on the lower end of the class. The Jeep Grand Cherokee can tow 7,400 pounds, and several others like the Nissan Pathfinder or Hyundai Santa Fe can pull 5,000 pounds.

If your plans include hauling a couple of jet skis to the lake on summer weekends, you may want to consider something else.

Read more about performance »

CX-9 Safety and Reliability

At the time of writing, neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety nor the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration had crash tested the 2016 CX-9.

The CX-9 comes with a wide array of safety features, including a full suite of air bags and a rearview camera standard on all models. Available active safety features, which are designed to keep you out of a crash, include adaptive cruise control, which allows you to maintain a constant distance between you and the car in front of you, and blind spot monitoring.

The CX-9 is also equipped in upper trim levels with a system that detects imminent collisions and takes control of the braking in order to stop the car and avoid a rear-end collision. Several test drivers have noted, however, that the system is hypersensitive and will stop the car when no collision is imminent, sometimes leaving as much as 10 feet between the stopped CX-9 and the car in front of it. The settings can be adjusted, but when you shut the car off, the system resets to its default settings. Thus, if you want to desensitize the system, you’ll have to do so every time you start the engine.

Where the CX-9 falls down is with its predicted reliability rating, which is determined by J.D. Power. With an overall rating of two-and-a-half out of five circles, you may end up spending more time at the mechanic than you prefer.

Read more about safety »

Other SUVs to Consider

If you want lots of room and the confidence of a V6 engine under the hood, look to the Honda Pilot. It has roughly the same base price as the CX-9, and the top-of-the-line model is only a couple thousand dollars more than the CX-9's Signature trim. In addition to an upscale interior and a smooth, quiet ride, the Pilot has an abundance of cargo space. Behind the first row, there’s an impressive 83.9 cubic feet.

For those who want to get the most out their infotainment system, consider looking at the Dodge Durango. Its intuitive available infotainment system is one of the better ones in the class. If power is your first concern, the Durango has a standard V6 engine, and you can get a V8 that provides exceptional power. Handling isn’t bad either, especially in the R/T trim. The interior is upscale and generally quiet.

Compare the CX-9, Pilot, and Durango in more detail »

Details: 2016 Mazda CX-9

The 2016 Mazda CX-9 seats seven and comes standard with front-wheel drive, while all-wheel drive is available. The CX-9 is powered by a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The CX-9 comes in four trims: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring, and Signature, which is new for 2016. The 2016 CX-9 has been completely redesigned.

Standard features include tri-zone automatic climate control, a six-speaker stereo system, two USB ports, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming, a 7-inch touch-screen Mazda Connect infotainment system, and a rearview camera.

Optional features include a 12-speaker Bose stereo system, heated front seats, leather upholstery, power front seats, an 8-inch touch screen, navigation, SiriusXM radio, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, rear backup sensors, automatic braking, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert

See 2016 Mazda CX-9 specs and trims »

  • "It's hard not to like the 2016 Mazda CX-9. It's better than the outgoing model in virtually every respect. It's smaller and lighter on its tires, it's as nimble as any offering in its class, and the serious upgrades to its interior have it punching above its weight. It's now a vehicle that's worthy of being the flagship for the brand. While Mazda will have a tough job ahead of it turning the heads of customers shopping for luxury vehicles in the three-row crossover segment, it's now not out of the realm for them to seriously consider the CX-9 as viable option. They should. The CX-9 is that good." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Remember to turn off the jumpy collision-warning system, and the CX-9 is an excellent three-row crossover. It doesn't have the third-row space of some competitors, but it is more stylish, promises to be more efficient, and is more entertaining and rewarding to drive than the rest of the three-row herd." -- Car and Driver
  • "And while last year's CX-9 still injected the fun driving dynamics that go hand in hand with Mazdas, it lagged fresher rivals like the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and Nissan Pathfinder in terms of technology, efficiency and amenities. That all changes with the fully revamped 2016 Mazda CX-9. This 3-row crossover SUV is the last in Mazda's lineup to receive the full SkyActiv powertrain technology as well as its sleek and curvy 'Kodo' design influence, bringing completion to the automaker's lineup transformation. The new CX-9 is also the most premium yet, with higher-end trims like the new CX-9 Signature model being able to pass for a luxury SUV. The wait was long, but after driving this new midsize family hauler over hill and dale, we can say it was worth it." -- Kelley Blue Book
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