- Very attractive
- Well-done interior
- Good safety gear
- Engaging responsiveness
- Lousy infotainment
- Cramped third-row and cargo space
- Limited lineup
features & specs
The 2020 Mazda CX-9 is a crossover SUV that rewards drivers more than it does other passengers.
The 2020 Mazda CX-9 may be the most stylish crossover SUV on the market, but its appearance overshadows a big deficit. The 2020 CX-9 isn’t especially good at doing what most consumers want from a crossover SUV with seating for up to seven passengers.
Good handling and a luxurious interior make the CX-9 a lovely place to spend time. We can’t ignore that the biggest Mazda is tight inside for passengers and their cargo.
Overall, we land at 6.7 out of 10 for the 2020 CX-9, which can be had in Sport, Touring, Grand Touring, and Signature trim levels. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Considered as a five-passenger crossover, the Mazda CX-9 is a good choice. Its interior is composed of nice materials and boasts an attractive design, while power from the 250-horsepower 2.5-liter turbo-4 is reasonable. The 6-speed automatic transmission could use another cog or two to both boost performance and fuel economy, though.
Ride and handling are above average, especially with the 18-inch wheels standard on base and Touring trims.
Newly standard this year is a suite of active safety features that can help prevent a collision. That’s something we can applaud, especially when combined with the crossover’s good crash-test ratings. The IIHS rates versions with the optional adaptive LED headlights a Top Safety Pick+.
All is well unless you consider the third row and cargo space to be important features. The CX-9’s rearmost seats are clearly an afterthought, and cargo suffers as a result as well. The CX-9 is not as practical as most rivals.
Consider its pros and cons before buying a CX-9. If the third row is a just-in-case feature—and you don’t mind paying for something you may rarely use—the CX-9 is a solid choice.
2020 Mazda CX-9
Crossover SUVs shouldn’t be as pretty as the 2020 Mazda CX-9.
The 2020 Mazda CX-9 looks like it could have come from one of Europe’s best design houses. It marries the two-box profile of a crossover SUV with svelte lines and sumptuous curves that make it look smaller than it actually is. And that’s just the exterior.
We award the 2020 CX-9 an 8 out of 10 for its styling. It’s one of the best-looking crossovers around, period.
The CX-9 has few straight lines. Its body relies instead on subtle curves that add the appearance of motion. Big wheels that fill its wheel wells help, too, though watch for potholes if you live where roads are rough.
Inside, the CX-9 has a low dash and an infotainment screen that sticks up like a tablet. Small-item storage isn’t very good, but the finishes are attractive and the overall appearance looks more like Aston Martin on a budget than dressed-up Toyota. Pop for the CX-9 Signature and Mazda swaps in softer leather and open-pore wood trim that looks divine but may not hold up well to family use.
2020 Mazda CX-9
The 2020 Mazda CX-9 handles well, but the 6-speed transmission feels overworked.
Mazda tends to build cars that are fun to drive, and the CX-9 is no exception. It doesn’t quite deliver on its sports car in an SUV package promise, but it comes reasonably close. We rate it at 6 out of 10 with a point above average for its polished road manners.
Underhood sits a 250-hp 2.5-liter turbo-4 (rated at just 227 hp using regular fuel, so pump accordingly). Power is sent to the front or all four wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission, which is down a couple of gears versus most contemporary rivals. It’s the gearbox that holds this engine back. An extra cog or two would open up a wider range for more responsive acceleration, especially on the highway.
Handling is this crossover’s forte. The CX-9 feels like Mazda did its best to combat the high center of gravity inherent in a crossover. Steering effort is good, turn-in off center is sharp, and the crossover grips pavement well. Body motions are largely kept in check, making the CX-9 a hoot to shuttle down a curvy road. Ride comfort is best with the standard 18-inch wheels. The optional 20s fitted to most versions have low-profile sidewalls that absorb bumps a little too stiffly for our taste.
Don’t let that road turn to dirt, however. With its sporty tires, the CX-9 is no off-roader.
2020 Mazda CX-9
Comfort & Quality
The 2020 Mazda CX-9 puts materials over space.
If a third row of seats is something you rarely see yourself using, the Mazda CX-9 might be the crossover SUV for you.
The 2020 CX-9 has good room up front, decent space in row two, and can barely accommodate short adults in the third row. Nearly every rival makes better use of interior space, though few do so with nicer materials and design.
We rate the 2020 Mazda CX-9 at 7 out of 10 for its comfort, deducting a point for the cramped third row but adding points for decent cargo space, comfy front seats, and nice trim.
Up front, the standard cloth thrones are supportive but not especially plush. The optional leather has a nice feel, especially the ultra-soft hides fitted to the Signature.
Row two is accessed via wide-opening doors, and the bench itself sits high enough with a convenient recline feature. The third row is tough to access and offers limited space. It’s only for kids, and even they will prefer the rivals' third rows.
Cargo space isn’t great for a three-row crossover SUV, but it’s still impressive. Behind row three, the CX-9 can lug around 14 cubic feet of cargo, with much of that above the window line. That figure balloons to 38 cubes with the second row folded, which is how we’d keep our CX-9 most of the time anyway.
Here’s an idea, Mazda: make the third row optional. It’ll save buyers a few bucks anyway.
2020 Mazda CX-9
The 2020 Mazda CX-9 now comes with collision-avoidance tech on every trim level.
Mazda no longer charges extra for crash-avoidance gear we consider essential on the CX-9, so we have elevated its score to 8 out of 10 for safety.
The 2020 Mazda CX-9 comes with automatic emergency braking, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and rear cross-traffic alerts. That’s a good array of gear.
A five-star overall rating from the NHTSA is an asset, too, although frontal impact scores were just four stars.
The IIHS offers more praise: a Top Safety Pick+ award for high-trim CX-9s with adaptive LED lights. The other light options Mazda offers score “Marginal” or “Acceptable,” which would keep them from earning the IIHS’ top award.
2020 Mazda CX-9
The 2020 Mazda CX-9 can be outfitted like a luxury crossover, but we can’t stand its infotainment system.
So close, Mazda. The automaker added active safety gear to the solid standard features offered in the 2020 Mazda CX-9. However, the controller and software for the infotainment screen is a nightmare to operate, so we wind up at just 6 out of 10.
The CX-9 comes in Sport, Touring, Grand Touring, and Signature trims. The lineup starts at around $35,000, which is more than some direct rivals. For that money, though, the Sport comes well-equipped with a 7.0-inch screen, heated front seats, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, collision-avoidance tech, and adaptive cruise control.
Our money would be on the Touring, which for about $2,000 more adds a power liftgate, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a power passenger’s seat, and leather upholstery.
Go all in and the CX-9 Signature pampers for around $47,000 with premium audio, softer leather, real wood trim, a panoramic moonroof, and more. It’s not a bad value, but we’d save around $10,000 and stick with the well-equipped Touring.
No matter the trim, the CX-9 is saddled with a rotary control knob that pairs with a menu-intensive infotainment system to frustrate at every opportunity. Apple and Android support is better, but a touchscreen and total software revamp would make it more user-friendly.
2020 Mazda CX-9
Fuel economy is just par for the course in the 2020 Mazda CX-9.
The 2020 Mazda CX-9 lineup would benefit from a hybrid option like its Ford and Toyota competitors. For now, its turbo-4 delivers just adequate fuel economy and unfortunately prefers premium fuel.
We rate the 2020 CX-9 at 5 out of 10 for its frugality.
Front-wheel-drive versions are rated by the EPA at 22 mpg city, 28 highway, 24 combined. Opt for all-wheel drive and those figures slide to 20/26/23 mpg.
The EPA rates the CX-9 lineup using regular, but Mazda says that maximum power from the turbo-4 requires premium fuel.