By on September 13, 2017

2016 Mazda CX9 rear - Image: MazdaIt was a tidbit easy to skip over, a tacked-on phrase designed to illicit nary a response, a drip-drip-drip of information without the two latter drips. In Mazda’s press release announcing the addition of more safety equipment to the base Sport model of the 2018 Mazda CX-9, the company briefly made mention of a reconfigured passenger compartment.

“Among the highlights are more features at every price point,” Mazda says, “such as an improved second row for both greater comfort and easier third-row access and greater sound insulation in what is already one of the quietest vehicles in its class.”

An improved second row? Easier third row access? Of all the things the second-generation Mazda CX-9 required, those elements would certainly rank near the top of the list. But is this just a fanciful claim, or did Mazda actually make meaningful changes to the CX-9 less than a year and a half into its lifecycle?

We have answers.

“The CX-9’s rear seat improvements were made because engineers are constantly receiving feedback from world markets where it is sold to create the best customer experience out there,” Mazda spokesperson Jacob Brown tells TTAC. “Our engineers do not wait for major model changes to make meaningful improvements that benefit our customers.”

Therefore, while adding blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert to the entry-level CX-9 — and consequently increasing its price, as we reported yesterday — Mazda also decreased the effort required to operate the second-row seats’ levers.

*Crickets*2016 Mazda CX-9 third row - Image: MazdaNo wait, there’s more. Mazda also made the second row slide farther forward so real humans can actually get into the third row. That gap measured 2.36 inches in the 2017 CX-9; it measures 7.87 inches in the 2018 Mazda CX-9. This is a difference maker.

But wait, there’s more. Previously, when the second-row seat was moved forward, the rake of the seat was just 50 degrees — it wasn’t leaning that far forward. Now the second row leans forward to a 33-degree angle.

Finally, aiding comfort in the second row is a seatback angle that’s now more like the CX-5: 22 degrees rather than the MY2017 CX-9’s upright 6 degrees.

Mazda didn’t add any actual legroom to the CX-9’s somewhat snug third row. (Remember, if you need a truly comfortable third row you need to consider the Pacifica, Sienna, Odyssey, Grand Caravan, or Sedona; not a crossover.) Yet the greater ease with which passengers can climb into the CX-9’s rearmost seats is a boon to overall useability.

Small changes such as these won’t turn the Mazda CX-9 from a relatively uncommon family vehicle to a top seller. But we will always applaud an automaker that, rather than defending the indefensible, steps up to the plate and responds to key complaints with tangible improvements.

[Images: Mazda]

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

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32 Comments on “At Least Partially, One of the Mazda CX-9’s Key Faults Is Fixed for 2018...”

  • avatar

    Please CX-7 us Mazda. I have no use for vestigial 3rd rows and the curb weight/length they bring.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    What’s going on with that ghost image on the left?

  • avatar

    Everyone together…3….2….1…click bait!

  • avatar

    I tested the CX-9 (2017) last week. I’m 48 and have a bad back and I found the 3rd row comfortable and roomy enough. I didn’t have much trouble getting in and out, but these changes do sound helpful.

    For me, these are an extra occasional use feature. If I needed to haul adults in three rows all the time, none of the SUVs on the market come close to a Pacifica. But I don’t. They will likely stay folded flat 95% of the time or unless I need to separate my two boys on long trips, in which case, the 8 year old has plenty of space in the way back.

    Agree, too, the CX-5 is very comfortable for front and rear-seat passengers and is just right-sized for most people. The front seats are very nice and put most competitors to shame in terms of support. The revised suspension for 2017 is very compliant and just felt fantastic, even with the smaller diameter wheels on the mid-level touring… or perhaps because of those high-profile tire.

  • avatar

    You know what else helps third-row space? Not shoving the seats under an unnecessarily raked rear hatch. Yes, it’s more about claustrophobia than actual space (on paper), but if you’re ever trying to actually take 6-7 people of a trip of any kid, every little bit of extra cube helps.

    You’ve already added the weight and wheelbase for the third row, don’t chop their heads off and make them even more miserable. The main point of a third row is to be able to consolidate cars (or having lots of kids) and a penalty box isn’t kind to either one of them.

  • avatar

    But did they fix the poor Air conditioner ???? people in the hot climate want to know

  • avatar

    Many online reviews mention the weak a/c, what have they done about that?

  • avatar

    Until mazda addresses their two historical weaknesses – rust and weak A/C – they have excluded themselves from much of the US market.

    • 0 avatar

      For what it’s worth, my 8 year old Mazda has no rust. Can’t speak to the ac issue – I don’t use it.

      • 0 avatar

        Two things with me. Firstly Since I live in FL the RUst can be dismissed. I cant speak on it. However Living in FL …I have had one issue with AC when the compressor went out two years ago. I have had the CX9 now for nearly 10 years.

        This folks should stop with the same sad song…

    • 0 avatar

      Every Mazda I’ve owned or driven has had subpar ac as well. Edmunds has a long term cx9 and they posted in a recent update that the ac worked well in Death Valley in July.

  • avatar

    Those changes to the angle and movement of the second row are pretty significant. It’s still not as much space as a van, or one of GM’s square three row SUVS (which are full size, so really a different category).

    Does this put closer to the 3rd row leg room that something like a Traverse or Highlander has vs something like….the MDX, which I understand is pretty cramped?

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      Mazda didn’t add any actual legroom to the CX-9’s somewhat snug third row.

      • 0 avatar

        If the seats in the second row now move roughly 5.5 inches more forward, wouldn’t that increase the amount of leg room available for 3rd row passengers???

        • 0 avatar
          Timothy Cain

          Sliding farther forward for ingress/egress does not additional legroom make. “The third row’s space remains the same,” Mazda told TTAC.

          • 0 avatar


            Technically, yes, the vehicle isn’t any larger inside…but from a practical use viewpoint (as the owner of a similarly sized vehicle) this seems like splitting hairs or making sure they don’t say something incorrect that could get them sued as false advertising.

            Let’s use the phrase ‘potential’ then. Wouldn’t a greater range of forward movement in the 2nd row allow for more potential legroom in the 3rd row (while obviously diminishing leg room in the 2nd row?) You could leave them in the forward position, but with the seat back in the up position after the 3rd row passengers are seated.

          • 0 avatar

            I had assumed the additional travel on second row seat rails implied that it allowed the position of the second row to move farther and fixed for actual people to sit in. I didn’t’ realize they may have simply increased the travel of the seat for the purpose of getting people in/out of the third row. The former would have been a smart move, the latter, while better than nothing, seems less noteworthy.

  • avatar

    WHat about the rust?// Wat about the AC??? What about the children…

  • avatar

    Excellent news, this is now on my shortlist of vehicles to check out when I’m tired of nursing my ’07 Pacifica.

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