2012 Mazda CX-9

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Senior Editor
January 3, 2012

Buying tip

Consider the base CX-9 Sport to be a relative bargain; at the price of a Grand Touring model, you could have one of several luxury-brand models, so we don't see those making as much fiscal sense.

features & specs

AWD 4-Door Grand Touring
AWD 4-Door Sport
AWD 4-Door Touring
16 city / 22 hwy
16 city / 22 hwy
16 city / 22 hwy

The 2012 Mazda CX-9 is a little more enjoyable to drive than most crossovers its size, while it manages three rows of seating, a plush cabin, and decent comfort.

The 2012 Mazda CX-9 is a roomy, family-size crossover with three rows of seating, as well as a little more eagerness from the driver's seat compared to other vehicles in this vein.

The CX-9 starts with a close connection to the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossovers, but also follows a different direction design-wise to fit Mazda's distinctive 'zoom-zoom' ethos. Overall, we've found the CX-9's more carlike stance--and curvy, smoothed-over sheetmetal--to be among the better-looking in this class, even though it's been around essentially in the same form for several years. Inside, the CX-9 borrows some pieces from Ford (or vice versa), but it remains sporty, with a noticeably more cockpit-like instrument panel.

With a 273-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 and smart six-speed automatic transmission, the CX-9 looks about par for today's class of premium-trim crossovers, but the key here is the way Mazda has tuned the setup. The whole dynamic setup feels responsive yet refined, with a somewhat firm ride, as well as good steering that has a quick ratio for such a large vehicle, making it somehow feel more maneuverable. The big 20-inch wheels are for looks only, as they seem to make the ride a little harsher with no improvement in handling.

Review continues below

On the outside, the CX-9 is only the length and width of one of the larger mid-size sedans--so it's quite manageable to drive--yet it also has three rows of seating. Five adults will still be friends after a stint in the first and second rows, but you won't be putting anyone fully-grown in the third row unless they're under five feet tall. Getting back to the third row is a little challenging, too, but It's a bit tough to climb over the second-row seats, too; but with the rear seatbacks folded you can fit both the back rows will fold down so the CX-9 can swallow a large load of groceries while you're carrying the kids in the second row. Interior appointments are pretty good--definitely not luxury-caliber, but nicely detailed.

The 2012 Mazda CX-9 has a pretty good safety record, but its 'marginal' IIHS roof-strength rating is a blemish to that. Otherwise, a blind-spot monitoring system and rear backup camera are optional, and leather-trimmed Touring and Grand Touring models bring on the luxury features, such as navigation with real-time traffic, a Bose Centerpoint surround-sound system, and DVD entertainment. However, add those options, and the bottom-line price for the CX-9 can easily be over the $40k mark--luxury territory to most.

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Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 9
Performance 8
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 7
Features 8
Fuel Economy 6
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