By on July 15, 2017

MY16 Mazda CX-9 - Image: MazdaShocker. The 2017 Mazda CX-9 entered a buff book comparison test against four comparable three-row crossovers and scored a victory.

That’s what Mazdas do. It’s what I assumed the CX-9 would do when, one year ago, I called the second-generation CX-9 a class leader, asking “is perfect too strong a word?”

Swaying the jury seems to be straightforward business for Mazda. The justification for rendering a pro-Mazda verdict is familiar. “It drives so much better than any of the others,” Car And Driver’s Jeff Sabatini writes of the CX-9, after the Mazda bested the Honda Pilot, Dodge Durango, GMC Acadia, and Volkswagen Atlas. “The CX-9 is nimble and agile,” Car And Driver says. “Weight transfers smoothly in the CX-9,” and, “There is a flow to the controls.” The publication credits the quiet cabin and the attractive exterior, as well.

Also described? The reason 98 percent of buyers in the Mazda CX-9’s segment choose a different vehicle.

2016 Mazda CX-9 - Image: MazdaEssentially, if you need the three-row Mazda CX-9 to operate as a three-row vehicle, you ought to look elsewhere.

Granted, if you truly need a three-row vehicle, a minivan’s the better option. But we already knew that.

“Because if you have too many offspring — perhaps as few as two — your family will have outgrown the Mazda CX-9,” Sabatini writes. “Its third row is tiny and tough to access, and even the second row is comparatively tight.”

If you need a minivan but have determined that you’re willing to make certain compromises in order to not look like you drive a minivan, the Mazda CX-9 is too small. And it doesn’t matter if it’s agile. It doesn’t matter that, with 310 lb-ft of torque, acceleration is at least mid-pack. It doesn’t matter that the interior, both in terms of design and materials, is stunning. And it doesn’t matter that the CX-9 is an attractive vehicle outside, standing out from a crowd of all too similar crossovers.2016 Mazda CX-9 interior - Image: MazdaMazda has enough of a problem getting U.S. consumers to consider a Mazda. But in the CX-9’s case, a prospective buyer who actually explores the idea of Mazda ownership after cross-shopping a Pilot, Highlander, or Durango discovers all-around smallness.

Undeniably, U.S. sales of the new Mazda CX-9 are significantly healthier than they’d been in years. That’s not surprising given the old CX-9’s age, the market’s resurgent interest in utility vehicles, and the dramatic CX-9 improvements.

Yet the CX-9 remains a rare beast, with the current pace suggesting around 25,000 will be sold in the U.S. in 2017, well off its peak pace of 34,421 sales in 2011. Compared with rivals — not just a Ford Explorer that can sell as many copies in one month as the CX-9 does all year but also the surging Toyota Highlander and the new GMC Acadia — the CX-9 is a drop in the midsize crossover bucket. And if you think the second-gen model is still gaining momentum, you’d be wrong. June volume fell to a five-month low of 1,699 units, down 11 percent compared with the CX-9’s launch month from a year ago.

It was never Mazda’s intention to sell boatloads of CX-9s in America — global capacity is capped at 50,000 units. But 80 percent of that capacity, or 40,000 annual units, was originally expected to be used in North America, where only around 15,000 CX-9s were sold in the first half of 2017.

So the CX-9 isn’t popular. It may even be less popular than expected. But if you can overlook the fact the Mazda CX-9 is not an adequate minivan replacement, well, it’s best in class material.

[Images: Mazda]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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84 Comments on “The Mazda CX-9 Predictably Won a Comparison Test of Minivan Alternatives, As Mazdas Do...”


  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    Not sure I really see the issue here. C&D is a magazine for self-proclaimed car enthusiasts. Is it any more surprising, or wrong, that the buff books and their readers would have a different set of priorities than most consumers, than the fact that the average American diner would rather eat out at the Cheesecake Factory than Alinea?

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      Then why do a comparison test of 3 row CUVs at all?

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “C&D is a magazine for self-proclaimed car enthusiasts.”

      who hate CUVs.

      ” Is it any more surprising, or wrong, that the buff books and their readers would have a different set of priorities than most consumers,”

      no, but it does make them *irrelevant.*

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      Right- and here, the editorial priority always seems to be who’s popular, and especially who’s unpopular and all the reasons why.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      C&D places a greater emphasis on performance & handling than Motor Trend (with it’s “Big Test”) which takes a more “holistic” view (tho not quite as holistic as Consumer Reports).

      A few years ago, C&D ranked the Avalon first among the full-size sedans since they liked the more sporty approach even tho it resulted in a harsher ride (which is not what most buyers in this segment are looking for); presently, the Maxima (the sportiest in the segment) is ranked #1 followed by the Cadenza and then the Avalon.

      Motor Trend around the same time ranked the Avalon 3rd, remarking on its harsh ride.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Expectations, expectations…all fun and games until someone find the parking spot at the mall is a snow covered mound and gets stuck.

      https://youtu.be/AhacSO7uMys

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    Nice Tribeca Mazda have built there!

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    I test drove and I have the same complaint I have with all of these three rowers and why I am forced to keep looking at edges or, sorry to say, Highlanders….the rear seat for its seldom use takes to much cargo space.

    If I was only given the opportunity to not get one and instead the extra depth they be my choices

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      I’m pretty sure the Highlander has a 3rd row. The one my family member briefly owned had one, useless as it was.

      I was just amazed at the half-@$$ quality on that one. Everywhere you looked, it was shameful.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        You have the choice of the third row.
        Not the boring drive, however.
        If only the Ford and Lincoln got better MPG. They are terrible.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        I remember when Toyota thought having a seven-seat option on the RAV-4 was a good idea.

        https://seattle.craigslist.org/tac/ctd/d/toyota-rav-wd-limited-rd/6221088592.html

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    For someone who actually needs a comfortable third row on a consistent basis and a bit of cargo room behind it, the choices have always been BoF SUV or minivan. Pretty much everything else is just a jumpseat affair.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      This.

      If you go BOF, fullsize van, or minivan the 3rd row is serviceable at the minimum. Just about anything else I’ve been in is only fit for children, and a few have 3rd rows not fit for humans.

  • avatar
    turbo_awd

    1) when they called the Pentastar “anemic”, right then I knew I was reading the wrong review.. Unless the Durango is THAT much heavier than the GC/T&C? In our ’15 T&C, the 3.6 is downright “quick” – I can easily pull ahead of pretty much all NA 4-cyl cars when merging on the freeway. Driving to Vegas, was one of the faster cars up the hills and only getting somewhat hotter. Same with the Gravepine – no problem with power..

    2) Really, $50K+ for these “minivans with modified doors and AWD”? Unless you NEED RWD (Durango) or AWD, you can save $10-15k easily. Our T&C can hold full 4x8s and tow around 3000 lbs, IIRC.. Sure, we didn’t get the super-luxo trim, but we got it for ~$18k with 29k miles on it and I’m sure others have done even better..

    • 0 avatar
      packardhell1

      I’d have to agree with you! We have owned our 2012 Grand Caravan w/ Pentastar for about 6 months. It has 101k on it now. I definitely wouldn’t call it sluggish, especially mated to the 6 speed auto.

      I get the style factor of the CX-9, I really do. The CX-9 is handsome. I just read C/D’s review of the 2016 CX-9 and found this:

      EPA city/highway driving: 21/27 mpg
      C/D observed: 19 mpg

      Our GC sees between 19-20 average. C/D also lists the CX-9’s curb weight at 4336 lbs. This is lighter than our van, but not by much. The Durango is heavier, yes, but it can also tow almost twice as much.

      The Durango goes 0-60 in 7.4 seconds and that is anemic? Anemic for what? In an earlier story on C/D’s own website:

      “The 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine also enjoys its job motivating the big Durango, doing so with adequate punch and a pleasing engine note to boot—even if it can’t match the growl of the Hemi.”

      They write in the same article, “The last Durango we tested with the V-6 and all-wheel drive averaged 19 mpg during its stay.”

      I get why the CX-9 won and I also get why this TTAC article is correct. Realistically, people need space. We owned a 2007 Chrysler Pacifica and it was work to get in those back seats. Now that we have our GC, it is much easier to get in the back.

      Great job, Mazda, for doing what you do and doing it well. I hope the people who don’t need as much space go for it and enjoy it. For the rest of us? Well, I love my Caravan…..

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I’d suggest not using Car and Driver or Motor Trend for anything beyond their acceleration numbers. And, even those are often inflated.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        Car & Driver hasn’t been able to keep their story straight for a long time now. I forget what car it was, but in the space of 8 months one of their writers went from talking about its “agreeable interior” to “dollar store” even though it hadn’t been changed at all.

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        Keep in mind, Car & Driver (most of the buff books, really) drives everything like the Cannonball Run is still a thing, so their fuel economy estimates tend to be a worst case scenario. The only takeaway from their findings is that if you’re an equally aggressive driver, you won’t experience any fuel savings because you’re perpetually in boost. I don’t think most crossover buyers are that kind of aggressive (most of the ones I encounter are of the variety that’s afraid to merge on the highway at an adequate speed), so it’s sort of irrelevant to them.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      It’s a comparison test, so everything is relative.

      The Durango was slowest in the test in 0-100 mph, 1/4-mile, 5-60 mph, 30-50 mph, and 50-70 mph. It beat the Atlas in 0-30 mph and 0-60 mph but was considerably slower than the other three in every acceleration category.

      It’s quick enough that these numbers should be irrelevant to most buyers as long as the transmission is responsive, but again, it is a comparison test so it loses in that regard. A car with a 5.0 second 0-60 mph time might be called anemic if everything else in the test is sub-4.0 seconds.

      As for the fuel economy, the Durango was easily the worst on their 400 mile test drive at 16 mpg. The second worst was the Pilot at 19 mpg. The Mazda CX-9 was the best at 21 mpg. For the purposes of a comparison test, it doesn’t matter what sort of fuel economy you personally get driving a vehicle. They drove the vehicles together the way they did at the same time and at the same pace and that was the outcome.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        This is what the C/D article says:

        “And it also uses the same anemic Pentastar V-6, making 295 horsepower here, that powers almost everything Mopar, from minivans to pickups”

        I think that is a bad sentence because he’s calling the *engine itself* anemic even though its power ratings are well within this competitive set.

        I’m no automotive journalist, but why not something like this instead:

        “It uses the same 295 horsepower Pentastar V-6 that powers almost everything Mopar, but the highest as-tested weight led to anemic acceleration times compared to three of the contenders”

        • 0 avatar
          rpn453

          I agree that it’s poorly written. The problem – if a 0-60 of 7.8 seconds can even be called that – is more the weight of the vehicle than the engine. I would only connect the terms “anemic” and “295 horsepower” in the context of a semi-truck.

          Perhaps it’s the Hayabusa effect at play!

          http://www.roadandtrack.com/car-culture/a33503/the-hayabusa-effect-is-real/

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            there are a ton of semi trucks out there which only have about 350 horsepower.

            and my favorite sentence from that article:

            “A Hayabusa will kill you quicker than just about anything short of a jealous husband whose tour in Marine Force Recon ended a day sooner than you’d expected.”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Well, that is a nice interior.

  • avatar
    deanst

    From a sales point of view, Mazda would probably be better off just making it a two row vehicle. Americans have never embraced a small- for-its-segment vehicle, no matter how good it is. If they positioned it against the edge, grand Cherokee, etc. people would be satisfied with the room and it would likely sell more.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Don’t they still have a two-row CUV not much smaller than this?

      I get what you’re saying. Maybe make this version two row, then make an extended (wheelbase/body) version with a usable 3rd row, instead of cutting off potential buyers who won’t consider a two-row.

      • 0 avatar
        Rocket

        The CX-5 is next in line, and it’s a lot smaller. A 189″ long 2-row CX-7 would perfectly split the 20″ gap between the CX-5 and CX-9. I’m sure Ford, Nissan and Jeep don’t have a problem with Mazda’s lack of interest in the larger 2-row segment.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      At least make 2 rows, with a bigger trunk, an option. Say, in a low end stripper trim, and a higher end sport trim. For people who “need” a CUV for outdoor activities, rather than hauling around massive families and boy scout troops.

      • 0 avatar
        formula m

        Was in the mazda dealer last week and the cx-9 has a gorgeous interior. It was sale priced at $55,800 cdn, the cx-5 beside it in the showroom that had a better looking exterior was sale priced at $33,500 cdn. The cx-9 even as nice as the great interior, better engine and a longer wheel base is doesn’t make up for the $22,000 price premium. If it was priced in the mid 40’s it would be a massive seller but they don’t do the volume to do that.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The CX-9 is actually longer than most of the other vehicles in the segment.

      The CX-9 has a wheelbase of 115.3″ and a length of 199.4″.

      The Pilot has a wheelbase of 110″ and a length of 194.5″.

      The Highlander has a wheelbase of 109.8″ and a length of 191.1″.

      A lot of the CX-9’s tightness in the 3rd row has to do with the packaging (opting for a roomier 2nd row) and in having that long hood; it’s also narrower than the Pilot.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Make the 3rd row optional, like it was in 2009 Highlander. In fact, that Highlander was the smallest CUV in class and sold very well. It had tight 3rd row. But it was light and with v6 it was the quickest and it had best braking. But you could have I4 with rows and huge trunk

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        It is optional. You an fold it into the floor and forget about it. ;)

        These third row medium size SUVs all have what amounts to a third row of jumpseats which is perfect for alot of people, my family included.

        If I was hauling seven people plus on a regular basis and driving long distances I’d have a real full size van with room enough for their gear.

  • avatar

    Can’t wait for the turbos to blow in these like they blew in the CX-7.

  • avatar
    derekson

    Who is buying their 3 row CUV / minivan alternative on the criterion of nimble and agile handling? I’m sure it’s an appreciated bonus if it happens to be there, but the evaluation criteria don’t seem to fit the market segment they’re looking at. I skimmed the article and it seems like by any reasonable criteria of evaluation for purpose the Pilot or Atlas would be the winner given their stated impressions.

    “The best minivan-replacement CUV is the one with an unusable third row!” Brilliant job, mates.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      My thoughts exactly.

      It could be the “drivers choice” of them, but it fails at being a minivan alternative if it has a useless 3rd row. How do you win a comparison test when a major qualifier (3rd row usability) is thrown out of the window?

      Its like, okay, you need a roomy family car. Well we tested them, and the Ford Mustang won!
      WTF?
      Oh, okay, so its not technically great at being a “roomy family car”, which was supposed to be the point. But it drives way better than an Altima!

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      There are plenty of sources of automotive testing for people who don’t care about driving dynamics. But some do, and Car and Driver is one of the few who caters to them. It’s not for you.

    • 0 avatar
      S197GT

      “Who is buying their 3 row CUV / minivan alternative on the criterion of nimble and agile handling?”

      My wife and I. She wanted a 3-row CUV. I said fine but I don’t want a big boat and our 2011 CX-9 is way more fun to drive and has a nicer interior (I think) than my brother’s ’11 Highlander. It drives way more like a car than seems possible. Yeah, with the 20″ wheels (Grand Touring) the ride can be a bit harsh at times. We have gotten a lot of compliments from her female friends who have ridden in it.

      But, her friends also go buy something else. The main issue is the lack of dealerships and just unfamiliarity with Mazda.

      So, yeah, we are the exception. But we love it. Just crossed 100k miles (Bought with 30k miles). No rust if you are curious and she drives it exclusively in the winter here in the midwest.

      We did convince our neighbors to buy a new ’15. But they were an empty nest couple. Probably will never use the 3rd row.

  • avatar
    mypoint02

    I test drove a CX-9 last weekend. It looks great inside and out and was definitely feature rich for the price. But I couldn’t get past the four banger under the hood in such a large vehicle. It seemed powerful enough but there was no mistaking what It was. We drove the smaller RDX immediately beforehand and we’re much more impressed with that. If you don’t need the third row, it had a much larger back seat and adequate cargo room. No doubt this is the enthusiasts choice for three row CUVs, but we’re dealing with a family hauler here. I’m not sure how much that matters. My wife certainly doesn’t care about the driving dynamics – she just wants something roomy and reliable. And I don’t really care enough about them either for this purpose. I have other cars to drive if I want something fun.

  • avatar
    BC

    Isn’t the “cross over owners really are just minivan owners in disguise” trope a little tired by now? It’s a hugely popular segment. And guess what? Most automobile owners are pretty good at gauging their own needs. My wife drives a 3 row SUV. A last gen xc90. We have 2 small kids. We have NEVER not had enough room. We use the 3rd row occasionally when family visits and put the seats down when we need to haul things from Home Depot. A van is bigger and more cumbersome and we don’t need the space. If you don’t like the segment, you’re not the market. And thus not going to provide much useful information in your “review.”

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      There used to be reasonably sized vans, and people didn’t buy them. If nothing else, what’s wrong with sliding doors? Those are useful, right?

      I’m also not sure if automobile owners are that good at gauging their own needs, but that there’s limited consequence for focusing on arguably superficial concerns over absolute rational optimization of needs. Which, I dunno, FREEDOM! or something…

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        Modern minivans are exactly the right size because they allow for a comfortable third row AND cargo space, not OR.

        • 0 avatar
          BC

          Don’t you see how pretentious that is? “I know what these college educated successful people need more than what they think they need.”

          Yes, I’ll grant you the superficial aspect of the equation probably plays a role – possibly a big role. But what car buying decision doesn’t? Does anyone need a 911? A sports sedan? Does everyone who buys a full size pickup work outside?

          But back to my point. If you can’t understand what is appealing about a 3 row SUV, don’t review them.

          • 0 avatar
            Maymar

            Oh, cut the offended sanctimony, everyone here judges everything. I drive a subcompact car – if you ask the B&B, I’m clearly an idiot for not buying a CPO Camry (it’s more car for the same money, it must be better!). And yes, I’m judging my neighbours with shiny full-sized trucks who need multiple tries to get around some of the corners in our parking garage (I mean, I won’t claim they make sense as daily drivers in the boonies, but at least everything is sized for them out there).

            Now, ask yourself – ever heard something to the effect of “Ew! A minivan? I wouldn’t be caught dead in one of those.” If that’s acceptable, I figure “Ew! A crossover? I wouldn’t be caught dead in one of those.” may as well happen too.

            And you might as well tell a movie critic that if they don’t understand what’s appealing about Adam Sandler movies, they shouldn’t review them.

  • avatar
    whitworth

    I definitely think a big mistake almost all the car companies make is is designing their cars around car magazines giving them a pat on the head by when the average consumer actually has entirely different criteria to make vehicle purchases.

    Mazda as a whole is a great example, they basically make all their cars handle and ride like Miatas because that’s what car magazine writers say they want. And their sales are in the toilet and are basically an asterisk.

    The idea that someone really wants a 3 row CUV handle like a sports car is silly. Unless you write for a car magazine.

    • 0 avatar
      BC

      This. The Explorer and Highlander are at the top because they know their market. For example: both have ceiling air vents in the back seats that still work even with rear facing car seats. The car magazines are more concerned with slalom times which is ridiculous.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      Many manufacturers have performance SUV/CUV offerings. They are a niche market, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be profitable even if the average person might consider them silly.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        Do these performance CUVs/SUVs haul special children who don’t get car sick?

        I get not wanting a big wobbly SUV that jiggles and wallows. I bought one of these “sporty” CUVs but aside from an exit ramp I entered too fast last weekend (no tire howling), I don’t need any sports car abilities in a people hauler. I’m satisfied with car like driving and handling qualities.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Keep in mind that Mazda doesn’t necessarily design their vehicles primarily for the US market.

      There are markets which place a greater emphasis on driving dynamics and interior quality (“dash-strokers”) and aren’t necessarily looking for the most/cavernous interior space.

      Mazda does better in Europe and Canada and really does well in Australia (take out the Hilux and fleet sales and Mazda would be #1 in Australia).

      Mazda also pricing its offering on a more premium level (Americans are notorious bargain shoppers) and its limited dealer network here doesn’t help.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Exactly – I am not surprised Mr Cain brought this up as he seems keen for them to fail. They are increasing sales globally and holding their own in the US market. Their cars are designed and mainly sold globally (CX4 and CX8 excluded).

        This class of vehicle is typically purchased by people with two kids (or less). If you have three kids (like me) then a minivan is the best bet. If you have three kids then buy the Pilot in this class. However if you have 2 kids then the CX9 will work OK for you since the third row can fit adults – when I tried it. The load area is small if you have 7 people. Most people don`t travel with 6 friends and cargo. Therefore the CX9 works for most people.

  • avatar

    As a Mazda owner, I can say with or without bias that I have enjoyed the design and drivability of every one of their vehicles in nearly the past decade.

    What I believe is hindering Mazda’s success is a multiple pronged problem.

    1.) Lack of dealership network in a lot of areas. I know I have to travel roughly 100 miles to get to one. I don’t know how many there actually are, but I’d easily say less than 1200.

    2.) Frame of reference – yeah, commericials can influence someone, but so can a car that you actually see on the road. Doesn’t Mazda only have like, 2.5% of the US market, and I bet 25% of that are Miatas and 3’s. It is difficult to want a Mazda when you don’t see or hear about them all that much, combined with problem number 1. Also, there’s less than 300,000 of yhem being sold per year, no?

    3.) I have only heard bad things about Mazda dealerships, especially with warranty issues and service. I’m sure we all could tell a story about this. In fact, the Mazda in Charleston, WV has a bad enoigh track record (and garage isn’t open on Saturdzy or Sunday…) that I bring mine 130 miles to Uniontown, PA (Joe Romeo’s). With few dealerships to choose from, and a poor dealership reputation, people are proactively avoiding future hassles.

    4.) They’re selling cars that are fantastic in terms of drivability, interior aestherics, and exterior design… but something isn’t hitting with the American people. Maybe they need a Mazda truck, or try a few diff marketing campaigns because it seems as if the bait they’re using isn’t catching much…

  • avatar

    As a Mazda owner, I can say with or without bias that I have enjoyed the design and drivability of every one of their vehicles in nearly the past decade.

    What I believe is hindering Mazda’s success is a multiple pronged problem.

    1.) Lack of dealership network in a lot of areas. I know I have to travel roughly 100 miles to get to one. I don’t know how many there actually are, but I’d easily say less than 1200.

    2.) Frame of reference – yeah, commericials can influence someone, but so can a car that you actually see on the road. Doesn’t Mazda only have like, 2.5% of the US market, and I bet 25% of that are Miatas and 3’s. It is difficult to want a Mazda when you don’t see or hear about them all that much, combined with problem number 1. Also, there’s less than 300,000 of yhem being sold per year, no?

    3.) I have only heard bad things about Mazda dealerships, especially with warranty issues and service. I’m sure we all could tell a story about this. In fact, the Mazda in Charleston, WV has a bad enoigh track record (and garage isn’t open on Saturdzy or Sunday…) that I bring mine 130 miles to Uniontown, PA (Joe Romeo’s). With few dealerships to choose from, and a poor dealership reputation, people are proactively avoiding future hassles.

    4.) They’re selling cars that are fantastic in terms of drivability, interior aestherics, and exterior design… but something isn’t hitting with the American people. Maybe they need a Mazda truck, or try a few diff marketing campaigns because it seems as if the bait they’re using isn’t catching much…

    (If this is a double post, I apologize. Dashboard say comment posted. Comment is not displayed…)

    • 0 avatar
      S197GT

      1 & 2 are the biggest issues our friends have with Mazda after being impressed with our ’11 CX-9.

      We live in a larger city so we have at least three dealers to choose from. But outside our city they get sparse… fast. I haven’t had a bad experience at the two I have been to. The worst thing was that the service adviser told me that they only do a two-wheel alignment on the CX-9 since the rears are not adjustable.

      I was like…. yeah, I won’t be paying you guys to do an alignment…

  • avatar
    Dan

    Beyond the already stupid of asking wanna-be speed racers their opinion on family cars, which everybody here already gets, how do you do a comparison like this while leaving out the top four selling vehicles in the segment? The Explorer comes pretty close to outselling this entire competition all by itself.

    That’s like holding a Camcord championship of the universe between Mitsubishi, VW, and Kia.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Agreed. I personally don’t like the Explorer, since I’m not a CUV person, but it does seem weird when they do a comparison test and leave out major players.

      We know the Explorer drives like the heavy blob it is, but there are other factors when looking at this class.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        The Explorer lost to the Durango in 2011 and is still essentially the same vehicle. They don’t typically bring back old vehicles unless they won the last one.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    They need to make the CX-7. It outsold the old CX-9 briefly, and would probably double their sales. More importantly, it would make a great replacement for my wife’s MKX, which is averaging about 19 MPG in mixed driving, while being slower than the CX-9. Lopping another ~300-400lb off and shortening it would only make it more excellent and attractive.

  • avatar
    JEFFSHADOW

    I prefer our ultra-cool 2017 Chrysler Pacifica over any platypus CUV.
    It’s a new TTAC lexicon out there, improving and morphing everyday!

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Interior/cargo room too small to really go toe-to-toe with the mainstream thre-row players IMO. These new CX9s are surprisingly small looking even from the outside. I’m sure they are really nice driving cars however. Like others have said, I’d be weary of the Mazda-turbo reliability, recent efforts have been less than trouble-free. Should have kept the V6.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      They would have kept having to buy them from Ford. But, even if that isn’t possible or workable at this point, why not buy a V-6 from Toyota, Nissan or Honda? Hell, a 3.6L GM “High Feature” would do wonders for this and the Mazda6.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Which would be weird since the CX-9 is actually longer than most in the segment.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Hmm I guess it’s the very sloping and shorter roofline that makes it smaller. 71 cu ft of max cargo capacity is less than the CRV, Rogue, Rav4, etc.

        A Highlander that is 7 inches shorter has 84 cu ft of total cargo capacity with seats folded. I hate space-inefficient designs.

  • avatar
    Carrera

    I will be in the market for a new 7-8 seater SUV soon. While the wife’s 2006 Pilot with 150,000 miles has been flawless, it is getting long in the tooth.
    I looked at the Santa Fe…felt very cheap and underpowered even with the V6. I wouldn’t pay more than 22,000 for it and they were asking 29,000 or something crazy like that.
    The Mazda CX9 looked very nice but I think the shape compromises the view out a little. Also the back seats are less accommodating than my 2006 Pilot’s.
    As a 5 seater with very, very rare 3rd row use, the CX9 is very sexy looking. As a day to day, occasional use of 3rd row…not so sure.
    The Atlas looked very nice but buying a VW is akin to Russian roulette.
    So, probably the compromise will be a nice Pilot EX-L without the horrid 9 speed transmission

  • avatar
    Daniel J

    Everyone torching Car and Driver and the Mazda but they do publish their scoring method. The Atlas, with the best 3rd row was number 2. If it wasn’t for price, I’d get one and rip out the 3rd row.

    • 0 avatar
      Rocket

      I’ve been a loyal subscriber for more than 30 years, and I promise you their “winners” are not always the best vehicles in their respective categories. Car and Driver keeps enough subjective judging categories to allow them to manipulate their comparison tests as needed. The CX-9 is well styled and fun-to-drive, but it is the worst “utility” vehicle in that test. Had they been looking for the best handling or maybe even the best value, the CX-9 taking the crown makes some sense. But the best minivan alternative? Not a chance.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        The logical way to judge a comparison test would be to have the testers simply state which vehicle they would buy for themselves. So it makes sense to manipulate seemingly objective criteria toward that result, since it is impossible to say how strongly any individual might value each individual category.

        For example, if a vehicle was objectively the best in every single category but provided no feedback from the steering, I would go with something else. I drive on winter roads far too often, and enjoy such conditions far too much, to put up with not knowing the available traction of my tires. For me, nothing could compensate for that.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        This is my favorite C/D results ever:
        Mustang beats GTO by one point overall with a 7-point “Gotta Have it” margin.

        media.caranddriver.com/files/2005-pontiac-gto-vs-2005-ford-mustang-gt21st-century-muscle-results.pdf

        Most of these numbers are pulled directly from their butts anyway. Other than one being higher, what’s the actual difference between a 6/10 and 7/10 for something like “styling” or a 20 vs a 22 for “Fun to drive”?

        Just pick the winner and don’t bother with this arbitrary scoring system stuff.

        • 0 avatar
          S197GT

          The success of the GTO has certainly proved C/D wrong!

          You’ve convinced me, I’m going to go trade my Mustang in on a new Pontiac GTO right now!!

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            This comment gets a 9/10 in the snark category, a 8/10 for fanboyism, and a 23/25 for the “missing the point” score.

            The particular finishing order of a 12 year old comparison test isn’t my problem. My issue is that C/D’s point system has always been arbitrary and just a way for them to appear “scientific” or objective.

      • 0 avatar
        Daniel J

        The Mazda won only by a few points in their point system. The atlas has better utility and is reflected as such. Easy to read. If readers are too lazy to read the point system and scores, that’s the readers fault. It’s not like the Mazda ran away with it. The Mazda scored slightly higher in performance. If that’s not as valuable to the reader in their needs, they can rate the atlas higher.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “The Mazda won only by a few points in their point system.”

          I place zero authority behind C/D’s made up points system.

          • 0 avatar
            Daniel J

            Ok? You don’t have to read the magazine. They are producing content for who they think their audience is, and those are usually people who value performance. The numbers mean it’s easier to discern where they are being more subjective. There are plenty of other outlets producing content that’s more geared towards family buying preferences.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      I see Car Trend and Motor Driver as mostly interchangeable. They are fun diversions, with specs, rumors, and sometimes nice photography. They aren’t my choice for well written articles nor for insightful reviews and comparisons. I am, however, glad they serve the enthusiast market and care about driving dynamics.

      I’ll just add that Road and Track and Automobile Magazine does a bit better job on writing, depth, and nuance.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        I remember reading an article back in the 90s about a VW Eurovan Weekender (camper). It was written by someone who admitted they did not see the appeal of camping in a van.

        To me that was the completely wrong person to be reviewing that vehicle.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    No Highlander in the comparo? In my experience the Highlander is actually smaller on the inside than the CX9. And speaking of back seats. My neighbors Durango second row is wider than my CX9 but not anymore leg room.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    I seriously considered this vehicle not long ago. Not as my exclusive family hauler but as my daily driver also capable of hauling whole family. I drove it a few times in various trims. My thoughts were that it was very nice interior, very handsome exterior. Massive front overhang is much more pronounced in person than in pictures. The engine, while producing adequate power for literally every conceivable need, except tracking it, is a very different animal than crossover shoppers are used to. It feels and sounds much different. That will scare people off right from the get go I am sure.

    The third row is workable. I suspect that most 3 row crossover shoppers aren’t putting adults in the 3rd row, though it is entirely possible in the CX-9, not for cross country trips. The second row slides fore and aft. I am six foot tall and I was able to sit in all three rows with seating position adjusted for my height. The killer for this vehicle, and any three row crossover in my opinion, is that the lack of second row captains chair option makes any third row a painful place to access, to be in, etc. There is also the very real fact that with so many three row crossovers, I believe, all those mentioned above, utilizing the 3rd row means there is, in practice, ZERO cargo room behind it.

    I disagree that a minivan is the only solution. The GM lambda’s and Ford Flex are both suitable non-minivan replacements. Both can be had with captain chairs in second row. Both have cargo space behind third row, both have a third row that is a mildly pleasant place for adults, perfectly acceptable for children.

    I went from a Flex, to an Odyssey and then to an Enclave. Have 3 kids. We travel comfortably on long trips. Havent missed the minivan. Wife doesn’t have to drive a vehicle that screams MOM! (though the Lambda and Flex might mildly shout it) Both the Flex and the Enclave are more satisfying to drive and if you can think outside of the box, you can purchase both a hitch mounted cargo carrier and roof mounted cargo box for any trips where you may require massive amounts of cargo space (they are not prohibitively expensive, even for quality equipment). I have both. Use them once or twice a year and have a perfectly well suited car for my wife and family hauling duties the remaining 360 days a year.

    Bottom line, most three row crossovers really need to add more functionality. Most are not a replacement for a minivan. I am not sure why more auto manufacturers don’t build around a certain interior layout/volume to create a 3 row crossover that can be used comfortably for its intended purpose.

    If cold, hard functionality is top on your list, Minivan is still in a category all its own as long as you don’t mind making sacrifices to get that functionality.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Interesting, we went from an Enclave to Sienna AWD. Much better driveline and sight lines. Little bit more road noise, but we’d never go back.We don’t mind the stigma, well ,because my wife’s hot.

    • 0 avatar
      stevelovescars

      You win, best comment of this thread.

      As a guy who used to drive a Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 with my son’s booster seat strapped to the front passenger seat, I’ll just say you aren’t fooling anyone that you aren’t a mom or dad by driving an SUV any more than I was. It was like that scene from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, flirting with the cute girl in the car next to you only to realize she’s laughing at your pirate costume… or noticing your toddler singing along to kid’s songs on the Blaupunkt.

      Get over it and enjoy the ride.

      That said, I am pretty anti SUV and agree that the minivan is superior at hauling people and stuff. However, I only have two kids and rarely use the third row of my current car, but it is handy to have it. I’m sorry to admit that I’m eyeing a CX-9 at the moment despite really wanting an Alfa Giulia.

  • avatar
    Ashy Larry

    I adore the interior on this car and appreciate Mazda’s steadfast detrmination to make a family CUV drive like a much smaller car, but its staggering length is surprising given the comparatively small interior space. This is a big miss by Mazda, i think. Seems like form over function — in an effort to make the car seem lower and sleeker, they stretched the nose (hell, everything forward of the windshield) to its limit. The car looks great (perhaps long-nosed form some angles) but it will take up tons of garage space, and parking a car with that long of a nose seems like a potential challenge as well.

    If I am going to have a car with this big of a footprint, I want to be able to have high cargo capacity. I will allow some reduced capacity for the sloping rear roof given the looks but Mazda probably went too far in style over function.

    Still, with that Signature interior, WOW!


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