2018 Mazda CX-9

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MSRP: $32,130 - 44,315

2018 Mazda CX-9 Review

The 2018 Mazda CX-9 ranks well in the midsize SUV class. It has an outstanding safety score, athletic handling, and an upscale, spacious cabin. However, a below-average predicted reliability rating keeps it from ranking higher.




Critics' Rating: 8.9
Performance: 8.9
Interior: 8.2
Safety: 10.0
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Pros & Cons

  • Agile handling
  • Upmarket cabin
  • Top-tier gas mileage
  • Engine can be overtaxed by full loads
  • Some rivals have more advanced interior tech
  • Below-average predicted reliability

Is the Mazda CX-9 a Good SUV?

The CX-9 is a very good midsize SUV. Like many Mazdas, such as the smaller CX-5, the CX-9 has poised handling, a smooth ride, and excellent fuel economy. The CX-9’s upscale cabin offers more passenger space than most 3-row rivals. Not all is perfect, however. Cargo space is below class average, the infotainment system isn’t as dynamic as some competitors’, and the engine struggles under heavy loads.

Should I Buy the Mazda CX-9?

Anyone shopping for a midsize SUV should test-drive the CX-9. Enthusiasts will enjoy the vehicle's lively road manners, while those who need an SUV for family duty will appreciate the ample passenger space. The CX-9 is also one of few SUVs in the class that can comfortably fit two adults in the third row.

However, buyers who need to haul a lot of stuff or tow large trailers are better off with a rival SUV. The Honda Pilot boasts more cargo space and a higher towing capacity than the CX-9. The Ford Edge has more engine power, a larger cargo bay, and modern tech features.

Compare the CX-9, Pilot, and Edge »

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

The CX-9 was fully redesigned for the 2016 model year, and it's seen few substantial changes since. Instead of a new 2018 model, you may want to consider a similar used model to save money. Advanced safety technologies – like blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and low-speed automatic emergency braking – became standard for 2018, though you can find older models with these features.

If you're interested in a used model, be sure to visit our overviews of the 2016 Mazda CX-9 and 2017 Mazda CX-9. Also, check out our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts on used vehicles.

Compare the 2016, 2017, and 2018 Mazda CX-9 »

We Did the Research for You: 25 Reviews Analyzed

To help you decide if the Mazda CX-9 is the right SUV for you, we've gathered and analyzed 25 professional reviews. We've also included information about the CX-9's fuel economy, safety, and much more to give you an idea of its strengths and weaknesses. This 2018 Mazda CX-9 review incorporates applicable research for all model years in this generation, which spans the 2016 through 2018 model years.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking the best vehicles since 2007, and our editorial staff has more than 75 years of combined experience in the automotive industry. To keep our reviews impartial, we don't accept expensive trips or gifts from car companies, and an external partner places and sells the ads on our site.

How Much Does the Mazda CX-9 Cost?

The CX-9 starts at $32,130 for the base Sport trim. That's one of the highest starting prices in the midsize SUV class, but it's in line with the prices of 3-row competitors like the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander. A fully loaded CX-9 Signature will set you back $44,315, which is a bit less than you'd pay for similarly equipped Pilot and Highlander models.

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 Honda Pilot?

The Honda Pilot doesn't have the outright agility of the CX-9, but it's a better SUV for everyday family duty. That's not a knock on the Pilot's performance – its V6 engine has enough power to handle full loads of passengers and cargo, and it rides smoothly over bumpy roads. You can also tow more with the Pilot. Inside, this Honda has modern tech features, including some that you can’t get in the Mazda, like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. You can't beat the Pilot on space. Not only does it offer more cargo space than the CX-9, but it also has one more seat.

Which Is Better: Mazda CX-9 or Ford Edge?

The Ford Edge is probably the closest competitor to the CX-9 for carlike agility. It has three powerful engines to choose from, all of which outshine the CX-9's sole powertrain. You'll find a user-friendly infotainment system in the Edge, as well as features like smartphone integration that you can't get in the CX-9. Finally, the Edge has slightly more cargo space. Unlike the CX-9, the Edge doesn’t offer three rows of seats, nor does it have a perfect safety score. Both SUVs have a lot to offer buyers; your needs will dictate which is better for you.

Compare the CX-9, Pilot, and Edge »

CX-9 Interior

How Many People Does the CX-9 Seat?

The CX-9 seats seven in three rows. Cloth upholstery comes standard, while leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, heated front seats, heated second-row seats, and a heated steering wheel are available.

All three rows are roomy. The first row is especially spacious, with generous shoulder room between the driver and front passenger. Unlike most 3-row SUVs, the CX-9 can comfortably accommodate adults in the third row, though getting into and out of it can be difficult.

CX-9 and Car Seats

There are full sets of LATCH connectors on the second-row outboard seats. The middle second-row seat and the passenger-side third-row seat have a lower tether anchor only. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the LATCH systems on the outboard seats the second-highest rating of Acceptable for ease of use. The IIHS finds the anchors recessed too deep in the seats. The middle-seat’s tether anchor scores Marginal – the second-lowest score – because it’s hard to find and can be confused for other hardware.

CX-9 Interior Quality

Climb into the CX-9's cabin and you'll find a chic design and first-rate materials. The range-topping Signature model is especially luxurious, with real wood, metal, and leather trim pieces. Even the lower trim levels have nicely grained materials throughout.

CX-9 Cargo Space

With a maximum 71.2 cubic feet of cargo room, the CX-9 doesn't have as much cargo space as most competitors. The Honda Pilot, for example, has up to 83.9 cubic feet of cargo room. The CX-9 is easy to load, since the seatbacks fold nearly flat with the cargo floor. Numerous cubbies and bins give you plenty of options to stow your small personal items.

CX-9 Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

Many rivals have more-advanced infotainment systems than the one in the CX-9. While this means the Mazda Connect infotainment system is user-friendly, with intuitive menus and a logical interface, it also means the CX-9 doesn’t have some of the latest tech features available, like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration (the Honda Pilot offers both). Many of the CX-9's settings can be adjusted using straightforward physical buttons and knobs. The optional Bose audio system is worth the added cost if you can spring for it, as it delivers exceptional sound quality.

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto? Then, see the Best Cars With Apple CarPlay and Best Cars With Android Auto.

Read more about interior »

CX-9 Performance

CX-9 Engine: Adequate Acceleration

The CX-9's turbocharged four-cylinder engine provides good acceleration for city driving, and the automatic transmission shifts smoothly. The engine isn't quite as satisfactory at high speeds, however, and you may wish for more horsepower when lugging full loads of people and luggage. Unfortunately, the CX-9 is not available with a more powerful engine, unlike many competitors that have optional powertrains for added punch.

CX-9 Gas Mileage: Great for the Class

Few rivals can match the CX-9's excellent fuel economy. Front-wheel-drive models get up to 22 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway, while all-wheel-drive (AWD) models get 20/26 mpg.

CX-9 Ride and Handling: Crisp Cornering

The CX-9 is one of the most agile and fun-to-drive 3-row SUVs in the class. Precise steering and strong brakes help you head into turns with speed, and the well-tuned suspension keeps the crossover level and composed the whole way through. The CX-9 comes standard with front-wheel drive, but the available all-wheel drive provides more traction when cornering and on slick surfaces. For your daily commute or taking the kids to school, the smooth-riding CX-9 is easy to drive.

CX-9 Towing Capacity

The CX-9 can tow up to 3,500 pounds when properly equipped. That's not bad for a midsize SUV, but some V6-powered rivals can tow significantly heavier trailers.

Need to tow more? Check out the 12 SUVs With the Best Towing Capacity to find a model that fits the bill.

Read more about performance »

CX-9 Reliability

Is the Mazda CX-9 Reliable?

J.D. Power gives the 2018 CX-9 a below-average predicted reliability rating of 2.5 out of five.

Mazda CX-9 Warranty

The 2018 Mazda CX-9 is covered by a three-year/36,000-mile warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. Most rivals have similar warranty terms.

Read more about reliability »

CX-9 Safety

CX-9 Crash Test Results

The 2018 CX-9 aces all six crash tests at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, earning it a IIHS Top Safety Pick designation. This model also receives a score of Superior for its front crash prevention technologies and a score of Acceptable for its headlight performance.

CX-9 Safety Features

Several advanced safety features come standard in the CX-9, including a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and low-speed automatic emergency braking. Even more safety systems are available, including forward collision warning, full-speed automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, active lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control.

The CX-9 is rare among midsize SUVs in that it comes standard with low-speed automatic emergency braking. This system automatically applies the brakes (at speeds of up to around 18 mph) when it detects a possible collision. The available forward collision warning and full-speed automatic emergency braking systems work similarly, but at higher speeds. The forward collision warning system also notifies the driver of potential hazards before applying the brakes.

Read more about safety »

Which Mazda CX-9 Model Is Right for Me?

The base CX-9 Sport is well-equipped with both interior cabin tech and advanced safety features. Still, it's worth spending more for the Power Driver's Seat and i-Activsense package or the Touring trim. Both the package and Touring trim add a full complement of advanced safety features, as well as some comfort add-ons like heated seats.

All CX-9 models come standard with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and an automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard in all but the Signature trim. All-wheel drive is standard with Signature models and an $1,800 option in all other trims.

Mazda CX-9 Sport

Prices for the CX-9 Sport start at $32,130. Standard features in this trim include cloth upholstery, three-zone automatic climate control, push-button start, a 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system, Bluetooth, dual USB ports, a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and low-speed automatic emergency braking.

The Power Driver's Seat and i-Activsense package ($1,290) adds a power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, active lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control.

Mazda CX-9 Touring

The CX-9 Touring trim ($34,960) adds leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, heated front seats, an upgraded 8-inch touch-screen infotainment system, a power liftgate, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, active lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control.

The available Touring Premium package ($1,890) adds a 12-speaker Bose audio system, satellite radio, navigation, a moonroof, and front and rear parking sensors.

Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring

With the $40,470 Grand Touring model, you get heated second-row seats, a heated steering wheel, a 12-speaker Bose audio system, satellite radio, navigation, a moonroof, a traffic sign recognition system, and front and rear parking sensors.

There are no packages available for the Grand Touring model.

Mazda CX-9 Signature

Priced at $44,315, the range-topping CX-9 Signature comes standard with all-wheel drive, Nappa leather upholstery, and unique styling elements including genuine wood trim in the cabin.

There are no packages available for the Signature model.

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 2018 Mazda CX-9 specs and trims »

The Final Call

The fuel-efficient 2018 CX-9 offers an upscale cabin and athletic handling, so you can haul your family without giving up fun on twisty stretches of pavement. The CX-9 is one of the few vehicles in the midsize SUV class with an adult-friendly third-row seat. Still, some competitors have more cargo space and higher towing capacities.

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

  • "If your enthusiast-driving side is now in direct conflict with your growing family's transportation needs, the 2018 Mazda CX-9 offers the best of both worlds. From its stunning styling to its near-luxury-like interior, the CX-9 is as impressive to stare at as it is to drive." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "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 (2016)
  • "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 (2016)
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