Since its debut in 2016, the Mazda CX-9 has been the midsized three-row that defined style in the segment. Stepping away from the utilitarian focus of most of its competitors, the CX-9 aims for looks and drive dynamics instead. But does so without becoming useless otherwise. Despite its looks, the Mazda CX-9 is a good daily driver and a useful people mover.
The 2021 Mazda CX-9 adds a few details including making the 10.25-inch infotainment display standard equipment and bringing a new Carbon Edition trim and a unique grille to the Signature trim. Even at its base level, though, the CX-9 features a lot of thoughtful touches and safety tech.
Best known for its drive quality, the CX-9 starts that reputation off with a well-matched 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. Using premium fuel will bump those numbers to 250 HP and 320 lb-ft. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard and is the primary fuel efficiency suck for the crossover. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional on all CX-9 trim levels.
The engine is engaging and the transmission, while having fewer gears than rivals with better MPG ratings, moves through gears in an enjoyable way. Drive dynamics are intuitive and have little slop in the CX-9. This isn’t a Nurburgring racer, of course, but the Mazda CX-9 drives smaller than it is and is engaging at all times. That’s saying something when comparing this crossover to the three-row models it competes with.
To pay for that sportiness and engagement, though, the CX-9 has a smaller cargo area than most of its rivals and its third row seats are even less accommodating than the norm–which is already a pretty low bar in the midsize arena. Yet they are usable for kids and stow nicely when not needed. The amount of cargo lost is mostly in the upper portion where the roofline constricts loading/unloading bulky items. For everyday runs to the grocery store and monthly warehouse store loads, the 2021 Mazda CX-9 has plenty of room.
For 2021, the CX-9 has five trim levels and several package options to fit buyers needs and several wants. The base level Sport model comes nicely equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlamps, heated side mirrors and front seats, rain-sensing windshield wipers, tri-zone climate, Apple CarPlay and Anddroid Auto, and a 10.25-inch infotainment display with Mazda’s newest interface. The Sport has a second row bench and third row (7 seats in all) as standard. Safety systems such as forward collision mitigation with automatic braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assistance, and adaptive cruise control are also standard.
From the CX-9’s Sport model there comes the Touring, which adds a few amenities like keyless ignition and entry, leather seating, USB ports in the back, and a power liftgate. Along with access to several options like premium sound, wireless smartphone charging, etc. The new Carbon Edition slots just above the Touring by adding all of the Touring trim’s add-ons along with exclusive Polymetal Gray paint, red leather seating and trim points, a blackened grille, 20-inch wheels, second row captain’s chairs, and a load of other items.
From there, the 2021 Mazda CX-9 starts getting downright luxurious with the Grand Touring and Signature trims. Our test model was a Signature, which has standard AWD, an exclusive grille design, quilted leather upholstery, and wood interior trim.
As an everyday vehicle for getting around and hauling some family or people or the large amounts of household goods that families entail, the CX-9 is a great vehicle. It’s engaging and fun to drive, looks beautiful on the road, and is priced from around $35,000.
This review first appeared on DriveModeShow.com.