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2020 Mazda CX-9 Interior Review

Scorecard

Interior: 7.2

The 2020 Mazda CX-9 has a quiet and comfortable cabin, with rich materials that you’d expect from a luxury brand. You get lots of standard amenities in the CX-9, including a wealth of advanced driver assistance features. Most of the cabin technology is easy to operate, though some critics say the touch-screen infotainment controls can be frustrating.

The CX-9’s first two rows seat five comfortably, though most rivals offer roomier seats. That disappointing amount of space extends to the cargo bay, which is on the small side for a three-row SUV.

  • "The CX-9's cabin wows with upscale materials and detailed styling, but compared with other SUVs in the segment, it's short on passenger and cargo space." -- Car and Driver
  • "It can comfortably accommodate five adults and two kids, and it looks like a more expensive luxury SUV. A small 3rd-row seat, limited cargo space and somewhat limited towing are the only real downsides." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Inside, the CX-9 looks more plush than the purposeful Pilot or Highlander rivals. Swanky top-trim Signature models have rich brown leather and chunks of real wood, but even our mid-trim Touring is nicely trimmed. But the narrow cockpit might compromise comfort." -- Consumer Reports

Seating

In its standard configuration, the CX-9 has seating for seven people in three rows. The optional second-row captain’s chairs reduce seating capacity to six.

The seats are fairly accommodating, but they’re on the small side compared to many rivals. Still, they’re comfortable, and the second row can slide backward and forward for flexibility. The available captain’s chairs offer easy access to the third row. The cabin keeps out wind and road noise.

For securing child safety seats, the CX-9 comes with two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the second-row outboard seats. There’s also a tether-only connection for the third-row passenger-side seat.

  • "Cabin room falls behind the cavernous standards of the class; the Pilot and Highlander feel more like a minivan inside than the CX-9. While most competitors go for a relaxed fit, the Mazda's narrow cockpit comes in slim-fit cut. The second-row seat is very roomy and slides fore-aft. Third-row passengers better be kids, but teens can fit in a pinch." -- Consumer Reports
  • "Although the CX-9 does provide 3-row seating, it is not as accommodating as in a Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder or Chevrolet Traverse. The CX-9’s rearmost seats are comfortable for kids, however, and the available 2nd-row captain’s chairs make accessing the third row oh so easy." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The biggest change to the CX-9 for 2020 is the addition of … captain's chairs, and they made a massive difference in the way my family was able to experience the long ride. Because there's just four of us, the lack of a middle seat in the second row wasn't a problem at all, and the heated rear chairs with their fore and aft adjustment were hugely appreciated. In fact, at one point the Mazda's cabin got surprisingly quiet, and when I looked around at my passengers, everyone was snuggled up and catching some shut-eye while I dutifully piloted us through the night." -- Motor Trend

Interior Features

Standard features in the CX-9 include 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 internet radio integration with the Pandora, Aha, and Stitcher apps.

Most reviewers find the CX-9’s dashboard controls, which consist of a rotary knob and secondary physical buttons, to be easy to operate and smartly arranged. They also agree that the touch screen features crisp graphics. However, some note that the infotainment system itself takes a bit of time to master, and some basic functions are difficult to find or access while driving.

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, a moonroof, and a 12-speaker Bose Centerpoint surround-sound stereo.

The standard i-Activsense safety suite includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, 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.

See 2020 Mazda CX-9 specs »

  • "Controls are logically laid out, with an aluminum rotary knob and auxiliary buttons for controlling the dash-mounted 7- or 9-inch infotainment screen." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "All CX-9s come with Mazda's user-friendly infotainment system. Sport models have a 7.0-inch screen, while Touring, Grand Touring, and Signature models receive [a larger screen]. The system can be controlled via the touchscreen, a rotary knob, or redundant buttons on the center console near the shifter; it also responds to voice commands. The software is easy to navigate and the graphics are crisp, especially on the larger screen. Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, HD radio, and onboard internet radio apps for Pandora, Stitcher, and Aha are standard." -- Car and Driver
  • "Most onscreen fonts are large and easy to read. While the screen also acts as a touch screen when the car is parked, it is locked out of use when the car is moving, even for very simple functions. Plenty of car companies incorporate a controller knob for their infotainment system. But Mazda Connect falls short because it isn't intuitive to use. Icons across the bottom of the screen control various functions, but they aren't labeled except for the instant they’re chosen, and their function isn't immediately obvious. Simple adjustments that should be quick, like skipping audio tracks, take several steps; we really wish there were seek/skip hard keys." -- Consumer Reports

Cargo

Behind its third row, the CX-9 has a disappointing 14.4 cubic feet of space, which is likely not enough room for most large families to store luggage for a weekend away. Most midsize SUVs offer more than 25 cubic feet of space with all seats in use. The CX-9 has 38.2 cubic feet of room with the second-row seats folded and 71.2 cubic feet with both rear rows folded, which is still below average for the class.

On the plus side, the second-row seats have a 60/40 split, and both rows fold flat for easy loading.

  • "The CX-9's smaller measurements mean real-world limitations. We managed to fit just two of our carry-on suitcases behind the Mazda's third row, which [is] one-third of what the Ford Explorer could muster. The CX-9's second and third rows of seats fold easily for quick configuration changes, though, and the resultant load floor is flat, making it easy to load bulky items. With second- and third-row seats down, the CX-9 accommodated 25 of our carry-on cases." -- Car and Driver
  • "That rakish sloping roof line contributes to a sleek design but ultimately limits cargo volume and compromises visibility." -- Consumer Reports
  • "When it comes time to road trip, the CX-9’s cargo bay isn’t as generous as the Nissan Pathfinder, Kia Sorento or Honda Pilot, but folding the rear seats flat creates 71.2 cubic feet of storage space." -- Kelley Blue Book 
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2020 Mazda CX-9

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