By on March 28, 2019

2019 Mazda CX-9 front quarter

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.

2019 Mazda CX-9 profile

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.

2019 Mazda CX-9 dashboard

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.

2019 Mazda CX-9 third row 2019 Mazda CX-9 second row

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.

2019 Mazda CX-9 front seat

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.

2019 Mazda CX-9 interior

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.

2019 Mazda CX-9 front 2019 Mazda CX-9 rear

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?

2019 Mazda CX-9 rear quarter

[Images: © 2019 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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36 Comments on “2019 Mazda CX-9 GT AWD Review – Style, Substance...”

  • avatar

    And yet, I went with Highlander: v6, shorter, cheaper. I will miss mazda command , $50 navigation, interior design and better comfort; and probably transmission. Besides turbo 4 that is not more efficient than many v6, I don’t see any fault with cx9. But since I am not the one to drive it on regular basis, its ok. My priorities were: fit into garage, have reliable non-turbo engine, and pay as little as possible.

  • avatar

    Hmmm…think I am going to try and find auto reviews from people who have owned and lived with their purchases for a while.

    Other than the great points, what about the rear view and that front grill protruding out in front of the bumper.
    Is there an actual bumper?

    • 0 avatar

      I have one, sitting at around 30K miles, 2017 model year, with most of the same hardware set as the tester and the vehicle has been mostly flawless. The issues I have encountered are mostly the infotainment fritzing, which I have largely resolved with the addition of Car-play/ Android Auto. Front bumper and rear visibility is not really an issue for me either.

      People getting wound up on the 225HP rating shouldn’t worry. The vehicle does not drive at all like a wheezy 4 banger. In my opinion, Mazda nailed it when it came to this one both in the shifts and the torque spec (310lb-ft). For the 2 years, I have run a solid 25 MPG on 87 octane (both calculator and end-to-end fill up measurements). Overall still very pleased with this car, to the extend that I would still buy another one if I had to replace it today.

  • avatar
    Peter Gazis

    Chris Tonn

    Sounds like you haven’t driven that many 3 row crossovers. The ones made by the Detroit companies all have more cargo space, and you can actually fit adults in the 3rd row. Plus they are all made in the U.S./Canada.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes–most 3-row CUVs are mid-size vehicles. Those few that are truly full-size minivan replacements are made by GM and Ford.

      • 0 avatar
        Peter Gazis

        The 3 row: Ford Exploder; Chevy Traverse; Dodge Durango & Buick Enclave are considered midsized. All have adult sized 3rd rows, and all have more cargo space than the Mazda CX-9.

  • avatar

    yet another vehicle with an ipad stuck in the dash. This was stupid the first time some designer did it and it is stupid every time someone copies it. I will not buy any vehicle with this appendage. end rant. Otherwise not a bad looking minivan for people who don’t like minivans.

    • 0 avatar

      Trust me, in Mazda, it is much better executed than my Highlander’s in-dash integrated setup. In Mazda I can reach the screen and use a commander control. In Highlander, there is no control and I can barely reach the left most part and I have to lift myself off the seat and to the right to reach right-side buttons.

    • 0 avatar

      Again, there’s reasons for that.

      Allows for a lower dash-line (less claustrophobic) and for the screen to be closer to eye level.

      In addition, w/ ever increasing screen sizes, a screen integrated into the dash would mean the center vents having to be placed too low.

      It also allows for a more pleasing and horizontal dash layout/design.

      Automakers are also doing a better job nowadays integrating the tablet form factor.

  • avatar

    And the frustration with Mazda continues…

    By all appearances it is a very attractive option, deflated only by the weak powertrain. All of the competition I can think of in this market segment offers a lot more HP (280-300 is the norm), several with NA V6s. I really don’t understand why Mazda seems so committed to keeping the HP numbers low (the new 3 has the same problem) relative to the competition, especially given that they have always sort of positioned themselves as building “driver’s cars” and are now heavily touting that they are going more “upscale”. If they are serious about positioning themselves as the Japanese Audi alternative then they need to back it up with the powertrains in addition to the great work they have done with interior quality, styling, and driving dynamics.

    You are getting SO close Mazda, just give us the POWER we crave and you’ll be almost unstoppable!

    • 0 avatar

      Drivers’ cars require chassis tuning that can keep up with the car’s HP and mechanical grip. Which resolves to: Either track car like suspension hardness, or less power and less grip. Overtired and overpowered does not make for a driver’s car. But instead, just another spec sheet racer.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m sorry, but this comment is just plain dumb. The vehicle has 310 TQ at 2000 RPM, which matters far more in a large SUV than the peak HP number that no driver ever touches because they aren’t reving a three row SUV to 5500 RPM. The CX-9 has excellent, strong acceleration. Armchair geniuses who think they know everything about a vehicle they’ve never driven based on a poor interpretation of raw numbers are tiresome.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s pretty typical for Mazda fanboys to want to fight ardently about how fast Mazda’s are even if they are slower than the competition. It’s a trait I see everyday when I see a Mazda drivers trying to show off the zoom zoom with a car that’s slower than its competition. Typically CX5’s or 3’s in my neck of the woods.

        Car and Driver shows the CX9 0-60 as 7.1 with turbo, and the Pilot 0-60 as 6.0. Having just driven a few crossovers, I chose the Pilot because I know I can reliably drive it for 15 or more years, my experience with prior 3.5 Pilots.

    • 0 avatar

      310 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 RPM. This would have been called a “stump-puller” engine not that long ago.

      If you want more power, you can put 93 octane gas in it, and then the rating goes to 250HP.

      Still, some competitors give more power, that’s true.

    • 0 avatar

      For decades, Mazda has seemed incapable of making a higher-output engine with balanced power delivery. From 9000RPM rotaries with no torque, to the manic MZR turbo, to this tractor-y Skyactiv.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not really a weak powertrain, though. This has 310 lb/ft of torque. 310! They specifically designed this motor to make its power and torque down low as that’s how most people driving these SUVs. They don’t care about revving out a motor, which is about the only way to get power out of the V6 competitors you bring up.

      Power is the least of this cars issues.

    • 0 avatar

      “By all appearances it is a very attractive option, deflated only by the weak powertrain.”

      This car is a bit quicker than my Highlander with 295HP. What else you need? I agree that a car like this should have a modern v6 (this is why I got highlander after all). But as far as power goes, whats the issue here? May be, when its loaded, it has issues – I don’t know. Does anyone tests how cars perform with 4 adults in them?

  • avatar

    I guess the engine is tuned for torque? How can you get only 227 hp out of a turbo 2.5?

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, it’s tuned for torque at lower RPMs. Also, that’s on regular gas. Use premium, and it’s rated at 250HP.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s exactly what the engine is tuned for. Mazda studied how driver’s of three row SUVs actually DRIVE their vehicles and found they rarely reved them high enough to achieve peak horsepower. So instead, they tuned the engine for maximum TQ at low RPM. The result? It DRIVES better than competing vehicles and there is no discernable performance difference between regular gas and premium below 4000 RPM. That’s actually smart.

  • avatar

    The CX-9 is held back by minor annoyances like weak A/C, too short seat bottoms and disappointing infotainment, and by one very large issue in that it’s really bad at doing what 3-row crossovers are supposed to do. There is definitely a price to be paid in terms of packaging efficiency for the long hood and low roofline. It might be a good driver’s crossover, but it fails on the utility front.

  • avatar

    Haters gonna hate. CX9 costs as much as an Outback, that’s your point of reference, not some crappy oversized Chevy with its hideous interior. I rented CX9 for a week and within an hour my wife just blurted that this just could be our next car. And we are not even shopping right now. I could not disagree. It is super nice inside, drives nice and looks good. I thought today I was insane and looked at Grand Cherokee. Holy cow that this is hideous inside. We are talking Chevy 1999 plastics and interior trim. I mean, if, like the guy above, you are just chasing a V6, vertical volume and reliability, yeah, get a Chevy or Highlander. But I felt like I was sitting in a Volvo interior, just prettier. The kid was loving rear individual climate controls. The turbo pulled just fine. It is long, so our skis slipped right in, and we still had 3 rear seats available, plus all the luggage. The only issue I had was the tire noise on Idaho roads. Don’t know if it is the car or the rough roads. It was pretty loud on the concrete stretches, but fine on normal asphalt. The mileage was 21 mpg average, compared to 25 average I get on my Forester. I thought Mazda could do better on mileage. Just like the Forester, Mazda sits lower than your typical CRV or Highlander, so if you are strapping kayaks to the roof like I do by myself, it is very helpful.

    • 0 avatar

      And yet, no one purchases the CX9:

      FEB 19 YTD
      Mazda CX9 2,422 4,282
      Volks Atlas 4,795 8,598
      Subaru Ascent 6,160 11,141

      …and because it was mentioned:

      FEB 19 YTD
      Subaru Outback 12,328 23,269

      To be fair, I’ll list Mazda’s largest volume vehicle in the US Market though not a mid-sized SUV:

      FEB 19 YTD
      Mazda CX5 13,377 24,029

      I’m not believing hate of Mazda. It’s just that no one in the US Market really wants to purchase a Mazda product for whatever the reason.

    • 0 avatar

      “Mazda sits lower than your typical CRV or Highlander”

      Ground clearance
      CX9 – 8.8″ (also tallest in the group here)
      Highlander – 8″
      CRV -7.8

      I rest my case

  • avatar

    Very nice looking, but unfortunately the exact reason why the CX-9 may turns off some CUV buyers. Its competition is conservatively styled and more rugged looking to better suit the tastes of consumers who prefer ease of use and perceived off-road cred above all else and leave the swoopy styling and trick engines to the higher end vehicles.

  • avatar

    Just asking…but has anybody DRIVEN a CX-9 with the 2.5T engine?
    I have this same engine in my ’19 CX-5 Signature. 310 lb-ft is nothing to sneeze at, and in a vehicle that weighs 560 lbs less than the CX-9, it positively scoots. And that torque is there at 2K rpm. I’ll take low and midrange torque over high rpm horsepower any day, especially in a vehicle like either the CX-5 or the CX-9.
    True, it might not bee as much fun if that engine were in my Miata or my wife’s Mazda5, but for its application in the CXs, it’s perfectly fine.
    A plus…I only have one cylinder head and one turbocharger(Edge ST V6-TT) to worry about.

    • 0 avatar

      Get v6 Highlander and all you will have to worry about is to put some gas :-)

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll have to take your word on it being appealing for the CUVs (I have not driven a CX-5 nor a CX-9). However, I *have* driven it in the Mazda6 Signature and I’m disappointed that they dropped the 2.5T basically unchanged into that car because I found it lacking verve in that application.

      • 0 avatar

        One thing about 4-banger that is positive, it is that with everything else equal, it is lighter and hence, car is better balanced and lighter. But then, again, for an SUV, this balance is not as important because there is big body behind engine and being nimble also is not as important. Unless this is Stelvio Quadrifoglio

  • avatar

    I like the CX-9 as a two row hauler with a nice sized cargo area, to me the third row is basically “jump seats” for occasional use. The CX-9 appeals to me for actually being engaging to drive, sort of the opposite of the way a Highlander is.

    • 0 avatar

      Haha. I’ve got Highlander exactly for this – 2 row hauler (BTW, my old HL didn’t have 3rd row). But the third row received unexpected use. It will never(*) be used for people. But we set it up to hold the shopping from rolling all over the trunk.

      * never say never. but this time this is very close to never

      • 0 avatar

        lol I’ve got a 2nd gen Highlander with 3rd row and the only time it gets used is when relatives are visiting and being too cheap to rent a car. That really makes me want to buy a sedan or 2 row vehicle for my next purchase.

        I also need something more engaging than a Toyota. The driving dynamics of my Toyota make me think of my long gone Oldsmobiles.

  • avatar

    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).

    • 0 avatar

      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.

  • avatar

    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.

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