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2020 Mazda CX-9 Review

The 2020 Mazda CX-9 earns a position near the top of our midsize SUV rankings. The CX-9 offers exceptional handling, high-end cabin materials, and a strong, fuel-efficient engine, but it has less seating and cargo space than most of its competitors.

Pros & Cons

  • Strong, fuel-efficient engine
  • Outstanding driving dynamics
  • Top-notch cabin materials and styling
  • Loads of standard features
  • Below-average cargo capacity
  • Lower tow rating than rivals

New for 2020

  • i-Activsense suite of active safety features now standard
  • Standard heated front seats
  • Reshuffling of features in upper trims

Rankings & Research

The 2020 Mazda CX-9's #4 ranking is based on its score within the Midsize SUVs category. Currently the Mazda CX-9 has a score of 8.3 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 39 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

8.3

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 8.9
Performance: 8.7
Interior: 7.2
Safety: 9.6
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Is the Mazda CX-9 a Good SUV?   

Yes, the 2020 Mazda CX-9 is an excellent midsize SUV. It stands out in a crowd of humdrum-handling rivals with some of the best driving dynamics in the class. It has a comfortable ride, and its fuel-efficient engine packs plenty of power for most driving situations. This Mazda comes with many cutting-edge features, including a suite of driver assistance technologies. The cabin features upscale materials and attractive styling.

The CX-9 does have a few drawbacks. Its seats aren’t as roomy as those of some rivals, cargo capacity is well below the class average, and towing capacity is low for a midsize SUV.

Should I Buy the Mazda CX-9?

The CX-9 is an excellent option for fun-seeking drivers who are bored with the typical three-row SUV. However, if you need an SUV with a lot of room, look at the Honda Pilot. It offers spacious seating and one of the largest cargo capacities in the class. The all-new Hyundai Palisade is another roomy option. It also has excellent handling.

Compare the CX-9, Pilot, and Palisade »

Should I Buy a New or Used Mazda CX-9?

Mazda adds a host of notable safety features to the 2020 CX-9. Mazda’s i-Activsense suite is now standard and includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert. Heated front seats are also standard for 2020. You may find older models with some of these options, but you might actually spend less by purchasing a 2020 model that has all of these features.

If you decide to go the used-car route, there are some notable differences between model years to keep in mind. After a full redesign for 2016, Mazda made blind spot monitoring and low-speed forward collision warning standard in the 2018 CX-9. The 2019 model gained Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in its upper trims.

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2016 CX-9, 2018 CX-9, and 2019 CX-9 reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts you can find on used vehicles.

Compare the 2018, 2019, and 2020 CX-9 »

We Did the Research for You: 39 Reviews Analyzed

We’ve analyzed 39 Mazda CX-9 reviews, as well as fuel economy estimates, reliability ratings, crash test ratings, and more, to provide you with the accurate and useful data you need to make an informed car-buying decision.

This 2020 CX-9 review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2016.

Why You Can Trust Us

Our Best Cars staff has been reviewing and ranking cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs since 2007. We have more 75 years of combined automotive experience and award the Best Cars for the Money, Best Cars for Families, and Best Vehicle Brands each year. To ensure our impartiality, a third party takes care of our advertising, and we never accept expensive gifts or trips from automakers.

How Much Does the Mazda CX-9 Cost?

The 2020 Mazda CX-9 starts at $33,790, which is below average for the midsize SUV class. The top-of-the-line CX-9 Signature trim has a starting price of $46,115.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Mazda dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Mazda deals page.

Mazda CX-9 Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Mazda CX-9 or Toyota Highlander?

The Toyota Highlander is a good alternative for families who require more room from their SUV. It has 12.5 more cubic feet of maximum cargo space than the CX-9, and it can accommodate one more passenger than the Mazda can. The Toyota also boasts an excellent reliability rating and an upscale cabin. The Highlander is a pretty good SUV, but the CX-9’s fun driving dynamics and stronger engine make it a better pick for most midsize SUV shoppers.

Which Is Better: Mazda CX-9 or Subaru Ascent?

The Subaru Ascent has plenty of cargo space, and it can seat up to eight passengers. The Mazda may be more fun to drive, but the Subaru has a well-balanced ride and standard all-wheel drive. You can't go wrong with either of these SUVs, both of which come with many of the same standard tech and safety features. Choosing between them will likely come down to preference.

Compare the CX-9, Highlander, and Ascent »

CX-9 Interior

How Many People Does the CX-9 Seat?

The standard CX-9 has seating for seven people in three rows, and models with the second-row captain’s chairs can seat six. While the seats are fairly accommodating for adults, they’re on the small side for the midsize SUV class. Still, the cabin is quiet, and the seats remain comfortable on longer trips. Additionally, the standard second row slides forward and backward to increase legroom or make accessing the third row easier. The available captain’s chairs make getting in and out of the last row a snap.

CX-9 and Child Car Seats

There are two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the CX-9’s second-row outboard seats, as well as a tether-only connection for the third-row passenger-side seat.

CX-9 Interior Quality

Inside, the CX-9 looks nicer than its price would suggest. Its cabin features handsome styling and is outfitted with top-notch materials, including real wood accents in upper trims.

CX-9 Cargo Space

The CX-9’s below-average cargo capacity is one of this crossover’s biggest downsides. This Mazda has about 10 less cubic feet of cargo space, on average, than what you’ll find in many three-row SUVs. With both rows of rear seats folded, the CX-9 has just over 71 cubic feet of space. Most rivals have more than 80 cubic feet.

A power liftgate and a hand’s-free power liftgate are available.

CX-9 Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

Standard features in the CX-9 include the Mazda Connect infotainment system with a 7-inch touch screen, Bluetooth, two USB ports, voice recognition, and internet radio integration with the Pandora, Aha, and Stitcher apps.

The cabin features dashboard controls that are logically arranged and easy to use, and the infotainment screen has vibrant graphics. However, it may take time to learn the system menus. Additionally, some touch-screen infotainment functions are hard to identify or are inacessible when the car is in motion.

Options include a 7-inch LCD driver's display, a 9-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, second- and third-row dual USB ports, navigation, and a 12-speaker Bose Centerpoint surround-sound stereo.

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto?

Read more about interior »

CX-9 Performance

CX-9 Engine: Effortless Power

The 2020 CX-9’s turbocharged four-cylinder engine is quite a powerhouse. Its 227-horsepower rating may not seem like much, but the CX-9 is no slowpoke. Acceleration is quick from a stop, and highway passing is easy. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, and most critics agree that it’s a good match for this engine. However, a few also note that an eight-speed automatic transmission, which many rivals offer, would improve the CX-9’s acceleration.

CX-9 Gas Mileage: Fewer Fill-ups

The CX-9 has some of the best fuel economy numbers in the midsize SUV class: 22 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

CX-9 Ride and Handling: Supple and Sporty

The CX-9 is one of the most fun-to-drive vehicles in the class thanks to its agile handling, sharp steering, firm suspension, and excellent composure around corners. You won’t have to sacrifice ride comfort in this nimble-handling SUV, as its suspension soaks up road bumps.

CX-9 Towing Capacity

When properly equipped, the 2020 CX-9 can tow up to 3,500 pounds. That’s one of the lower tow ratings in the class, as most competitors have a capacity of 5,000 pounds or more.

Read more about performance »

CX-9 Reliability

Is the Mazda CX-9 Reliable?

The 2020 Mazda CX-9 has a slightly above-average predicted reliability rating of 3.5 out of five from J.D. Power.

Mazda CX-9 Warranty

Mazda covers the CX-9 with a three-year/36,000-mile warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

CX-9 Safety

CX-9 Crash Test Results

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2020 CX-9 the highest rating of Good in all six crash evaluations and named it a Top Safety Pick. The CX-9’s available adaptive headlights earned the top rating of Good for how well they illuminate the road ahead, while the standard headlights received the second-lowest rating of Marginal. The IIHS has a different scale for grading active safety features. The CX-9 earned the highest rating of Superior for its standard vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention system, while the standard vehicle-to-pedestrian system received the second-highest rating of advanced.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2020 Mazda CX-9 an overall safety rating of five out of five stars. It earned five stars in side crash testing and four stars in the frontal crash and rollover evaluations.

CX-9 Safety Features

For 2020, Mazda makes the i-Activsense driver assistance bundle standard in all models. This suite of safety features includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist. A rearview camera, a traffic sign recognition system, and rain-sensing windshield wipers are also standard.

Front and rear parking sensors, adaptive headlights, and a surround-view parking camera system are available.

Read more about safety »

CX-9 Dimensions and Weight

The CX-9 is 16.5 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 4,225 to 4,388 pounds.

Where Is the 2020 Mazda CX-9 Built?

Mazda builds the 2020 CX-9 in Japan.

Which Mazda CX-9 Model Is Right for Me?

The 2020 Mazda CX-9 comes in four trims: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring, and Signature.

The CX-9 Sport base model is a great value. It comes with a good amount of family-friendly technology, as well as just about every driver assistance feature Mazda offers. If you want more connectivity and comfort for passengers, step up to the CX-9 Touring, which adds extra seat adjustments, smartphone integration, more USB ports, and the option to choose second-row captain’s chairs. Both the CX-9 Grand Touring and Signature trims increase this crossover’s luxury factor with upgraded styling and materials, as well as a few more technology and seating comfort features.

Front-wheel drive is standard in all but the Signature trim, which has standard all-wheel drive. You can add all-wheel drive to the other trims for $1,900.

Mazda CX-9 Sport

The base CX-9 Sport ($33,790) features tri-zone automatic climate control, proximity keyless entry, push-button start, and the Mazda Connect infotainment system with a 7-inch touch screen, Bluetooth, two USB ports, voice recognition, and six speakers. You also get internet radio integration with the Pandora, Aha, and Stitcher apps.

The standard i-Activsense safety suite includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist. Additional standard amenities include a rearview camera, rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated outside mirrors, a power-adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar support, and heated front seats, as well as a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

No packages are available in the base trim, but you can add Apple CarPlay for $200 and rear parking sensors for $500.

Mazda CX-9 Touring

Moving up to the CX-9 Touring ($35,610) gets you a few cabin upgrades like leather-trimmed upholstery, a power-adjustable passenger seat, remote start, a 9-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and two second-row USB ports. A rear power liftgate is also standard.

The CX-9 Touring comes with a power-tilting and sliding second-row bench seat. The available second-row captain’s chairs come with the Touring Premium package ($2,100), which also includes front and rear parking sensors, LED fog lights, a power-sliding glass moonroof with a one-touch open feature, a 12-speaker Bose Centerpoint surround-sound stereo, satellite radio, and third-row dual USB ports.

Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring

The CX-9 Grand Touring ($41,450) includes all the contents of the Touring Premium package, plus navigation, automatic power-folding side mirrors, a hand’s-free rear power liftgate, ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, and a heated steering wheel. This trim also comes with a few more safety features, including an active driving display with traffic sign recognition, a surround-view parking camera system, and adaptive headlights.

Mazda CX-9 Signature

The top-of-the-line CX-9 Signature ($46,115) comes with standard all-wheel drive and second-row captain’s chairs. It features a number of premium cabin design and material upgrades, including accent lighting, Nappa leather upholstery, genuine wood, and distinctive steering wheel and seat stitching.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Mazda dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Mazda deals page.

See 2020 Mazda CX-9 specs and trims »

The Final Call

If you want a little more fun than what the typical family SUV offers, the 2020 Mazda CX-9 is an excellent choice. Drivers can enjoy its engaging handling and capable engine, and all occupants will appreciate its cushioned ride. The CX-9 has excellent fuel economy for the midsize SUV class, a reasonable price, and numerous standard features, making it a great value. The CX-9’s only major flaw is its relatively small cargo area.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "As 3-row/7-passenger SUVs go, the 2020 Mazda CX-9 is in a class all by itself." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "If you had to drive your family and all of their gear to Las Vegas for a holiday weekend, what three-row SUV would you take? … I was more than happy in the 2020 Mazda CX-9 Signature, now with captain's chairs for the middle row. Late last year MotorTrend senior photographer William Walker said goodbye to our long-term CX-9 Touring. His verdict? A stylish, comfortable, fun-to-drive hauler." -- Motor Trend
  • "All in all, the CX-9 provides a welcome alternative from the herd of similar three-row family SUVs. Its upscale feel and satisfying road manners are pluses, even if the car falls short on some details. The CX-9 shines brighter on the road than it does in a spec-chart comparison." -- Consumer Reports

Buying

Expert Advice

Last Updated: February 27, 2020

Weak Sales: Compared to other midsize SUVs, the Mazda CX-9 was among the slowest sellers in the segment last year. Only the Ford Flex performed worse in the sales rankings. Dealerships sold 4.9 percent fewer CX-9 models this year compared to figures from 2018. Class sales leaders like the Toyota Highlander outsold the CX-9 nearly 10 to 1. 

Research more buying advice »
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