2010 Mazda CX-9 Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
September 18, 2009

The 2010 Mazda CX-9 loves curves more than almost any other roomy crossover, yet has three rows of useful seating.

Experts from TheCarConnection.com have driven the Mazda CX-9 and present you the pros, cons, and firsthand driving impressions on this sporty, spacious crossover vehicle. The editors of TheCarConnection.com have also read a wide range of reviews pertaining to the 2010 Mazda CX-9 in order to compile a full review.

Originally introduced in 2007, the seven-passenger CX-9 crossover is closely related to the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX. The 2010 Mazda CX-9 is quite curvy, combining the handling and road manners of a wagon, the ride height and utility of an SUV, and a sporty style that’s in line with Mazda's recent zoom-zoom tack.

For 2010, the CX-9 receives slightly different styling at the front, along with redesigned side mirrors, plus additional chrome plating for some instrument panel and door panel edges. The CX-9’s interior remains stylish but not too obvious. Overall, the look of the CX-9 is more aggressive and overt compared to other roomy crossover models, yet it doesn’t make any reference to off-roading.

The strong, 273-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 in the 2010 Mazda CX-9 outmuscles most other rival engines, and unlike some others, it doesn’t require premium fuel. A smooth, six-speed automatic is standard, and maximum towing capacity is 3,500 pounds. The CX-9 has crisp, responsive handling for a vehicle of its size and weight, though it’s not as nimble as Mazda’s smaller CX-7 and the ride quality can be too firm for potholed surfaces. But fuel economy remains near the low end of the pack, with an EPA city fuel economy estimate of 17 mpg city. The CX-7 is able to tow up to 3,500 pounds.

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Even though the 2010 Mazda CX-9 is just a mid-size offering as far as crossover vehicles go, all three rows are usable, and the front two rows are spacious for even the largest adults. The second row is split 60/40, reclines, or folds flat for cargo duty—although there isn’t a tremendous amount of space behind the third row. The interior looks and feels upscale, with pleasing materials and impressive build quality.

The CX-9 is arguably one of the safest vehicles in its class, with top crash-test scores and a host of active and passive safety features now including standard active headrests, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control. A blind-spot monitoring system and rear backup camera are optional.

The CX-9 is the best bargain, TheCarConnection.com thinks, in its base-model Sport form, which comes as well-equipped as some luxury-brand crossovers for slightly over $30,000. On the more upscale, leather-trimmed Touring and Grand Touring models, true luxury features are offered. However, fitted with top options like the Bose Centerpoint surround-sound system, a nav system with real-time traffic, and a DVD entertainment system, the bottom line can exceed $40,000—past the price of entry for some luxury-brand crossovers its size.

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2010 Mazda CX-9

Styling

The 2010 Mazda CX-9 manages to stand out in a crowded field with a universally appealing exterior and quite attractive interior.

The 2010 Mazda CX-9 has a sporty, aggressive appearance, with oversize wheels and a rakish wagon look; the rather low, curvy snout gives it a curvier, more carlike silhouette from the front than most other crossovers. For 2010, the CX-9 receives slightly different styling at the front, along with redesigned side mirrors, plus additional chrome plating for some instrument panel and door panel edges.

Most reviewers love the look of the CX-9. Edmunds says, "Mazda has gotten this crossover thing right...without it looking like a minivan." Consumer Reports likens the CX-9 to "a longer version of the CX-7 but...much nicer," while Cars.com contends "the CX-9 manages to avoid the chunkiness of many SUVs, in part because of its angular nose and car-like honeycomb grille." For such a large vehicle, it's "almost svelte, with a sleek windshield, a sinuous waistline, and buff haunches," says Automobile Magazine. Car and Driver notes its "handsome styling" and feels the Mazda CX-9, swathed in chrome and Copper Red paint, looks classy and expensive. Motor Trend asserts that "from the steeply angled windshield and sharp fender flares to the slanted headlamps and the distinct trapezoidal chrome exhaust tips, the CX-9 puts a spin on the traditional two-box sport 'ute and punts it into orbit."

Opinions are split on the success of the interior. Edmunds asserts that the Mazda CX-9 "offers one of, if not the best, interiors in its class in terms of styling, ergonomics, quality and space." Road & Track finds the Mazda CX-9 has an "equally appealing, if slightly less dynamic, interior design."

"The interior is beautifully designed, but there are some ergonomic oddities," assesses Car and Driver. ConsumerGuide states, "the navigation system...places some buttons and knobs out of easy reach for some of our testers."

Motor Trend reviewers are a bit more specific about what they enjoy in the Mazda CX-9, citing "metal-rimmed gauges and simple but elegant center stack, delights aesthetically and ergonomically." They note the effect on the CX-9 is brought together with "calming, indirect blue lighting and a pleasing mix of horizontal and vertical elements."

TheCarConnection.com’s editors note that the brightwork in the CX-9 is amped up a bit more for 2010—to good effect.

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2010 Mazda CX-9

Performance

For agility, acceleration, and sheer spaciousness, the 2010 Mazda CX-9 strikes a balance that’s unrivaled.

The 2010 Mazda CX-9 remains one of the fastest-accelerating and best-handling crossovers its size, and it’s about the choice for those who love to drive but need three rows of seating on occasion.

There’s a single engine offering on all Mazda CX-9 models: a 273-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 that's almost unanimously lauded in reviews. Motor Trend reports, "While we still wouldn't mind a tad more low-end grunt, the 3.7 nonetheless behaves in a silky, refined manner." Unlike many high-horsepower V-6 engines out there, the Mazda's does not require premium fuel to hit its claimed power.

A six-speed automatic that Motor Trend describes as "seamless as a rubber glove" is standard in the 2010 Mazda CX-9. Automobile Magazine says its normally cranky critics "have been moved to paroxysms of joy when discussing the CX-9. One called the V-6 engine charming, the six-speed manu-matic transmission silky." Road & Track agrees that the transmission "shifts quietly and smoothly."

Car and Driver reports a surprisingly short 7.2-second time to 60 mph, while Motor Trend clocks in just slightly slower, at 7.8 seconds to 60 mph. ConsumerGuide notes that "CX-9s with the 3.7-liter V-6 averaged 17.3-18.1 mpg with slightly more highway driving than city use." That about matches the government fuel economy ratings of 16 mpg city, 22 highway (1 mpg lower with all-wheel drive).

Mazda’s established a strong reputation around handling, and reviews read by TheCarConnection.com praise the handling of this Mazda. Car and Driver asks, "How does Mazda get such lively steering in each of its vehicles? It feels like the CX-9 wants to be a sports car." Motor Trend describes steering as exemplary for a minivan or an SUV, citing "a solid, on-center feel with zero play off-center and superb, linear response throughout the turning range."

The CX-9 is "taut and agile," says Consumer Reports, "and the ride is firm and steady, yet comfortable," though "braking distances are a bit long." Road & Track describes the steering as "satisfyingly firm with zero float."

The base-model 2009 Mazda CX-9 comes with front-wheel drive and 18-inch all-weather tires. However, for about $1,300, one may upgrade to 20-inch tires and the advanced "Active Torque Split all-wheel-drive system" glowingly described by Motor Trend.

In other extensive road tests of the Mazda CX-9, reviewers at Kelley Blue Book find it "acquits itself surprisingly well on curvy country roads." ConsumerGuide reports that "a tidy turning radius makes it easy to maneuver in tight spots, a surprise given this crossover's large overall size."

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2010 Mazda CX-9

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Mazda CX-9 has a very roomy, functional interior with a price-appropriate look and feel.

The 2010 Mazda CX-9 offers one of the roomiest seating packages among vehicles its size. That said, the third row will still be tight for most adult passengers, and entry and exit isn’t easy. Otherwise, the CX-9 offers a very comfortable interior.

Kelley Blue Book says seating is a high priority in this Mazda; the CX-9 blends "front bucket seats and two-tone trim [that says] 'sports car'" with the passenger comfort and cargo capacity of a minivan. Second-row seats can be folded down to afford extra legroom for adults in the third-row seats. Additionally, the second-row seat slides five inches and has "reclining backrests." ConsumerGuide describes the 2010 Mazda CX-9 as having "ample legroom with chair-height seating [that] provides a commanding view forward and to the side."

Motor Trend cautions that "of course, the Mazda CX-9 isn't perfect, delivering the slightest first-row legroom of the other three-row crossovers in its class."

Edmunds says the "the 60/40-split second-row seat offers 5 inches of fore and aft travel for added comfort." They further describe the 2009 Mazda CX-9: "although the measurements for passenger accommodation are impressive, the CX-9 still seems a little tight to us (especially in headroom)."

Cargo space is pretty good in the 2010 Mazda CX-9; Cars.com points to "17.2 cubic feet of cargo room behind the 50/50-split third-row seat, which can also fold flat." With 100.7 cubic feet of cargo space with the second- and third-rows folded flat, the Mazda CX-9 is perfect for weekend trips to IKEA.

Build quality is as sturdy as you might expect from Mazda—which is to say, it’s great, but don’t expect luxury-style details. Car and Driver notes the "top-notch interior" and figures "the [Mazda 2009] CX-9 should enjoy an impressive resale value." ConsumerGuide remarks, "some materials feel hard to the touch and sound hollow, cheapening the atmosphere a bit" and "coarse-surface tire thrum is intrusive, particularly in the Grand Touring." They also dislike the instrument panel lighting, pointing out there are only two settings: day (which is too bright) and night (which is too dim).

Finally, ride quality should be a consideration when you’re looking at the 2010 Mazda CX-9. ConsumerGuide reports that "this crossover rides more firmly than others in this class." But Kelley Blue Book notes that the Mazda CX-9 "rides smoothly and quietly at freeway speeds." Be sure to take it out on a variety of roads on the test drive.

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2010 Mazda CX-9

Safety

The very family-friendly design of the 2010 Mazda CX-9 doesn’t skip anything with respect to safety.

The 2010 Mazda CX-9 scores very well in crash tests and has all the requisite safety features for family-oriented buyers; for those who want to option up, there are several handy tech features that might help in accident avoidance.

The CX-9 scores five stars in all crash tests by NHTSA and earns the IIHS's "good" rating.

Motor Trend assesses that "the CX-9 offers ample protection in the form of front, side, and side-curtain airbags as well as seatbelt pretensioners and load limiters."

Motor Trend also appreciates that the 2010 Mazda CX-9 "comes standard with an anti-lock brake system, electronic brake-force distribution, traction control, dynamic-stability control, and roll-stability control." An additional safety feature option is a blind-spot monitoring system, which Car and Driver describes as putting "clear yet unobtrusive light-up icons on the side mirrors." Active headrests are also standard for front-seat occupants.

Jalopnik points out that the rearview camera system alerts drivers to obstacles behind the vehicle via a "high-res 2.4[-inch] LCD display housed inside an automatic-dimming rear view mirror."

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2010 Mazda CX-9

Features

To take advantage of all the luxury options on the 2010 Mazda CX-9, you have to reach beyond $40,000, but the base Sport has enough to make most families happy.

The 2010 Mazda CX-9 comes reasonably well equipped in base Sport trim and quite luxuriously outfitted in its Touring and Grand Touring models.

Standard equipment on the 2010 Mazda CX-9 includes power everything, a tri-zone automatic climate-control system with rear seat controls, cruise control, keyless entry, a media-player interface, Bluetooth, and big 18-inch alloy wheels.

The way that options are packaged is a bit odd. A third-row entertainment system is one of the top options. A moonroof is another major option, packaged with the Bose Centerpoint surround sound system. Motor Trend says the rear-seat entertainment system "that features a nine-inch LCD and 5.1 surround sound with 11 speakers" is "not available with a moonroof."

However, Car and Driver finds "the rear-seat DVD system is a delight and is as intuitive as one might hope: Pop in the disc, hit the power button on the wireless headphones, and enjoy."

Other options include all-wheel drive, satellite radio, a navigation system, a power tailgate, and a Bose audio system. Car and Driver tests a fully loaded model: "With a final sticker price of $41,855, that agreeable bottom line turned a bit pricey."

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8.4
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Styling 9.0
Performance 8.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
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