2019 Mazda CX-9 GT AWD Review - Style, Substance

Fast Facts

2019 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD

2.5-liter turbocharged inline-four (227 hp @ 5,000 rpm, 310 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm)
Six-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive
20 city / 26 highway / 23 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
21.4 (observed mileage, MPG)
11.6 city / 9.1 highway / 10.5 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price: $43,635 US / $50,526 CAD
As Tested: $45,060 / $50,726 CAD
Prices include $995 destination charge in the United States and $2,026 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2019 mazda cx 9 gt awd review style substance

Yet another three-row crossover. Yawn.

It’s even painted white, like the appliance it’s certain to be.

But people keep buying these things, like it or not. Since few want my ideal family hauler – the minivan – this genre is the best way to haul more than five people. And I’d argue that this 2019 Mazda CX-9 is the best of the breed.

I’m not going to lapse into lazy tropes such as “the CX-9 is like a Miata, only a crossover!” or some such thing. It’s good, but physics is a reality. There’s only so much performance one can get out of a tall vehicle that weighs roughly double that of the Miata, after all.

But neither is the CX-9 a chore to drive. Conversely, this is one of the better handling three-row vehicles of any type I’ve experienced. Power from the turbocharged four-cylinder is good, if not neck-snapping. Steering, while light, is quick and precise. The ride is firm enough to minimize lean when hustling around an off-ramp while running late for the kid’s basketball game, yet not too firm to upset the kids shuffled to the third row when Grandma hops in after yet another devastating loss to those uppity girls from the private school, offering to let the kids drown their sorrows in ice cream.

Leg room is a touch tight in that third row – the younger child at just under five feet tall was fine, while the five-foot-five seventh grader complained about her knees against the second-row seatback. But she’s nearly a teenager – she always complains about something. One thing the CX-9 gains by nipping at that third-row legroom? Decent cargo space behind the third row. This is one of the best three-row crossovers for useable luggage space behind that third row. Road trips are possible.

Second-row seats are all-day comfortable, with head and legroom aplenty. Up front, I found plenty of power adjustments on the driver’s seat, allowing me to quickly relax in comfort. I’m not completely enamored with the color of the leather seats in a family vehicle. While the seats look handsome, I’d be concerned that the off-white leather would quickly degrade toward the “off” side of the equation when confronted with the filth my always-active-in-sports kids can hand out.

[Get new and used Mazda CX-9 pricing here!]

There’s a reason I always try to photograph the interior of my test cars before the kids have been in the car.

When it was time to pick the kids up, the CX-9 was easily the best-looking crossover in line at the school. It’s simply stunning, at least from the front, where the chromed pentagon(ish) corporate grille blends beautifully into the wraparound headlamps.

Behind the A-pillar, the styling is a bit more generic, but the gentle downward slope to the upper window line – paired with the fast rake to the rear glass – visually lowers the roofline without affecting actual headroom. It’s a neat visual trick. A more upright rear glass might give a bit more cargo room, but at this point, the CX-9 looks a little less crossover and a little more tall wagon to me. It’s a fine distinction, to be certain, but it’s a nice change from the basic blobs that fill the parking lot.

That’s the beauty of this CX-9. It’s just different enough to get noticed, but not radical enough to offend. It’s plush enough to woo luxury buyers, but priced more like a mainstream model. It drives well, it looks good. What’s not to love?

[Images: © 2019 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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3 of 36 comments
  • Bd2 Bd2 on Mar 29, 2019

    The CX-9 is more handsome than the Mazda sedans/hatches and has better handling and a better interior than its competition, but a bit for someone who considers the minivan to be the best family hauler to think the CX-9 being the best of breed when it has relatively poor packaging for its size/length. There are shorter CUVs w/ greater 3rd row space. Now, for people who only use the 3rd row in a pinch, that may not matter so much, but there's a reason why the CX-9 sales lags behind relatively newcomers like the Ascent (and presumably the Telluride, once supply increases).

    • Lex Lex on Apr 01, 2019

      My perception of Mazda is that they aren't setting out to crush the segment, rather, hoping that they can solidify the brand and get folks interested in the other segments based on the uniqueness of their platform/ driving dynamics and what not. Subaru, in my opinion pioneered this and are capitalizing on a market that they already hold captive (urban adventure... folks that already owns another Subbie, perhaps outback, and as that population continues to age and get families then they have a viable solution without leaving Subaru. It's smart. The one I actually expected people to compare it with is the Atlas which is a great option from a space standpoint, tech (cockpit display..etc). Disclaimer: I have a CX-9 and most people I know that have one bought it because of experience with owning another Mazda.

  • Stevelovescars Stevelovescars on Apr 03, 2019

    My wife has had a CX-9 for just over a year now and it's been flawless from a reliability standpoint. I have also never found myself wanting for more power. Granted, I've never even thought about towing anything but neither do 95% of CUV owners. For comparison, my other cars include a Corvette and an Alfa Giulia, so I understand power and torque and think Mazda nailed this engine apart from marketing hyperbole. It's also quiet and smooth, which is what I want in my family hauler. We have two boys, ages 15 and 10, the 15 year old is 5'8" and he likes sitting in the third row, something we do occasionally while carrying grandparents around in the middle row. The middle row can be moved forward and aft to adjust for leg room if needed. With those seats moved back the legroom is limousine-like. With them moved a bit forward adult-sized people can fit comfortably in the third row... I am not sure why testers always seem to complain about this. Yeah, it's no Chrysler Pacifica in terms of interior space but it suits us fine. The ride and interior comfort are outstanding. I've driven a Chevy Traverse and found the seats in the Mazda much more comfortable and supportive. I've always felt like Mazda was selling a luxury car for mid-level money here, the interior seriously challenges Lexus and Volvo, not Jeep or Chevrolet. In terms of price, we got a mid-level Touring model (2017) and were able to add the moonroof, Bose, and safety equipment from the Grand Touring (automatic cruise control, lane departure, etc). I can't recall exactly, but I thought the MSRP was around $38k. The only obvious difference is that we have 18" wheels rather than the 20's, but on our potholed Michigan roads, I think they are preferable, anyway, and there is no noticeable handling difference.

  • 2ACL What tickles me is that the Bronco looks the business with virtually none of the black plastic cladding many less capable crossovers use.
  • IBx1 For all this time with the hellcat engine, everything they made was pathetic automatic scum save for the Challenger. A manual Durango, Grand Cherokee, Charger, 300C, et al would have been the real last gasp for driving enthusiasts. As it is, the party is long over.
  • MaintenanceCosts The sweet spot of this generation isn't made anymore: the SRT 392. The Scat Pack is more or less filling the same space but it lacks a lot of the goodies, including SRT suspension, brakes, and seats. The Hellcat is too much and isn't available with a manual anymore.
  • Arthur Dailey I am normally a fan of Exner's designs but by this time the front end on the Stutz like most of the rest of the vehicle is a laughable monstrosity of gauche. The interior finishes suit the rest of the vehicle. Corey please put this series out of its misery. This is one vehicle manufacturer best left on the scrap heap of history.
  • Art Vandelay I always thought what my Challenger really needed was a convertible top to make it heavier and make visability worse.