I love consistency in all things; in relationships, with interaction with people, in the work place and even in the auto industry. This is why I have a strong appreciation for Mazda. Each and every vehicle they produce has the same vibe and feel. That might make it predictable, but it also makes it consistent. And I really appreciate that. You will always know what you get with a Mazda. My tester this week is no exception.

The 2018 Mazda CX-9 may not have many new features for this model year, but it also doesn’t really need them. The midsize SUV is the biggest vehicle in the Mazda product line. Mazda’s “car mentality” is what makes their product line so consistently good. Even the bigger CX-9 performs like a fun sedan. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a Miata, but in a segment full of stale, boring SUVs, the CX-9 has personality. The old Mazda slogan of Zoom Zoom applies to the CX-9 certainly.

PERFORMANCE

The performance of the CX-9 separates it from the pack of doldrums within the segment. The athletic performance of the CX-9 is aided by a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. The 227 horsepower seems unimpressive, but the CX-9 performs like an SUV that has more than 300 horses. The handling is the best I’ve experienced from a three-row SUV. It hugs corners and has a great feel for the road. You can almost close your eyes (don’t REALLY do that while driving) and have a little bit of a Miata vibe. This is that Mazda performance consistency I reference. They all drive this way, even the bigger vehicles like this CX-9. The only issue with the performance is the six-speed automatic transmission can’t keep up with the turbo at times. Some more gears would be ideal.

Also, the all-wheel drive CX-9 can only tow up to 3,500 pounds, so it’s really very limited in that regard.

EXTERIOR

On looks, very little is changed from the 2017 version. The CX-5 and CX-7 all have a “look” to them. In my book, that makes for a good car maker. I like when a product line has an identifiable look. The front end of the CX-9 matches other Mazdas with a simple, almost cutesy style. If you like aggressive car styling, this vehicle won’t be for you. It has a simple, clean, but distinctive fit and finish and overall look. The back side is the CX-9’s best feature with a chromed up cross bar that connects the tail lights. The angles on the back side flow with the angular look found on the rest of the CX-9. 20-inch wheels gives the CX-9 a nice posture on the road, making it look and feel like an SUV.

INTERIOR

The interior of the CX-9 is full of quality touch points. It can’t be called “luxury” but certainly the CX-9 has ample amount of high-end materials that surpass other vehicles in the segment. The seats are comfortable and supportive, and a cushiony dashboard and side door panels help keep road noise to a minimum. The panoramic sunroof really makes the interior pop with natural light.

Cargo room is limited in the CX-9 compared to other midsize SUVs. Behind the third-row seat there is only 14.4 cubic feet of space. The seats fold almost flat but with all seats down, there’s 71.2 cubic feet of cargo area.

Speaking of my consistency theme, I’m consistently annoyed with the Mazda infotainment system. Other critics have praised it, but I don’t find it intuitive and the interface is cumbersome to manage. Add to that, that the CX-9 does not have Apple CarTalk or Android Auto and the infotainment system is disappointing. A 7-inch touchscreen is standard, but my tester had an 8-inch color touchscreen along with a 12-speaker Bose audio system. The sound quality is excellent, and the organization of the center stack is neat, and the touch commands are responsive.

TRIM/PRICING

The CX-9 has four trim offerings: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and Signature. My tester was the Grand Touring trim with a base price of $42,270. The aforementioned 8-inch touchscreen and Bose audio system starts on this trim level. This trim also comes with heated second row, heated steering wheel and sensor-based safety features like collision avoidance braking and front and rear parking sensors. The moonroof which adds so much natural light to the interior starts at this trim too. My tester had a final MSRP of $43,905.

FUEL ECONOMY

The CX-9’s size means it falls squarely in the mid 20s when it comes to fuel economy. It has an EPA rating of 20 mpg/city and 26 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of driving I averaged 23.5 mpg.

Consistency is not boring. Consistency in styling, engine performance and overall value is great in the automotive industry. The entire Mazda line offers consistency in every vehicle and the 2018 CX-9 is as consistent as they come.

SPECS

2018 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring

Price/As tested price…………………… $42,270/$43,905

Mileage…………………………………… 20 mpg/city; 26 mpg/hwy

Engine……………………………………… 2.5-liter turbo 4-cylinder

Horsepower…………………………… 227 hp/310 lbs./ft.

Transmission…………………………… Six-speed automatic

Drive Wheels………………………… All-wheel drive

Final Assembly Point………………… Hiroshima, Japan

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Jimmy Dinsmore

For several years Jimmy Dinsmore has reviewed new vehicles, offering up a unique look and an interesting voice in his weekly column. Jimmy looks at vehicles from the consumer’s point of view. Light on the technical jargon, and lacking the cynicism that pervades many other auto reviews, Driver’s Side treats each vehicle fairly, offering a light-hearted take. Email him at - jimmydinsmore@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @driversside.

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