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

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
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.

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]

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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  • 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.

  • NJRide So this is an average age of car to be junked now and of course this is a lower end (and now semi-orphaned) product. But street examples seem to still be worth 2500? So are cars getting junked only coming in because of a traumatic repair? If not it seems a lot of cars being junked that would still possibly worth more than scrap.Also Murilee I remember your Taurus article way back what is the king of the junkyard in 2024?
  • AMcA I applaud Toyota for getting away from the TRD performance name. TuRD. This is another great example of "if they'd just thought to preview the name with a 13 year old boy."
  • Jeff Does this really surprise anyone? How about the shoes and the clothes you wear. Anything you can think of that is either directly made in China or has components made in China likely has some slave labor involved. The very smart phone, tablet, and laptop you are using probably has some component in it that is either mined or made by slave labor. Not endorsing slave labor just trying to be real.
  • Jeff Self-driving is still a far ways from being perfected. I would say at the present time if my car took over if I had a bad day I would have a much worse day. Would be better to get an Uber
  • 2manyvettes Time for me to take my 79 Corvette coupe out of the garage and drive if to foil the forces of evil. As long as I can get the 8 track player working...