- Very attractive
- Well-done interior
- Good safety gear
- Engaging responsiveness
- Distracting infotainment controller
- Cramped third-row and cargo space
- Limited lineup
features & specs
The 2021 Mazda CX-9 crossover SUV rewards drivers with good road manners, but takes a penalty in third-row space.
What kind of car is the 2021 Mazda CX-9? What does it compare to?
The 2021 Mazda CX-9 is a three-row, seven-seat crossover that is one of the most stylish of its kind. It’s a rival for cars like the Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, even the Volvo XC90.
Is the 2021 Mazda CX-9 a good car?
It’s well above average, with a TCC Rating of 6.5 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
What’s new for the 2021 Mazda CX-9?
Mazda’s added a Carbon edition with 20-inch wheels and gloss-black trim, and it’s made a 10.3-inch infotainment display standard on all versions.
A few years into its current model cycle, we’re still smitten with the CX-9’s looks. It’s pretty from nearly every angle, with a slim front end, a reasonably sized and shaped grille (ahem) and sleek curves that belie its actual size. The cabin’s neatly split by a metallic band of trim that gives it a roomy look—and in Signature versions it’s trimmed out with lovely luxury-grade wood and leather.
Mazda taps a 2.5-liter turbo-4 for power. The CX-9 sends its 227 horsepower to either the front or all four wheels through a 6-speed automatic, which is fewer gears than you’ll find in a teensy Jeep Renegade. With some turbo lag off the line and middling power for such a large vehicle, the CX-9 could swap in a transmission with more gears for a noticeable performance boost. While it’s average in acceleration, it’s well above that in ride and handling; the CX-9 damps the road like a sprinkler in summer, and cuts into corners like its next re-election counts on it, even on the smaller 18-inch wheels that come with base and Touring models.
The CX-9 has a lovely interior, but it’s better viewed as a spacious five-seater than as a seven-passenger piece. Front passengers have well-shaped buckets, while even second-row riders get easy access to their bench seats. Row three’s tough to reach and lacks head and leg room even for small passengers. It’s better at cargo, with about 38 cubic feet of space behind the second-row seats.
Crash-test scores have been good, and every 2021 CX-9 has automatic emergency braking. Power features and a 10.3-inch display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also included, but we dislike Mazda’s rotary-knob input for infotainment, which takes too many spins and clicks to register inputs. No touch inputs are allowed on its screen, either; time for a reboot.
How much does the 2021 Mazda CX-9 cost?
The base $35,060 CX-9 Sport represents good value, and so does the next-up Touring trim. A Signature edition costs more than $47,000, though.
Where is the Mazda CX-9 made?
2021 Mazda CX-9
The CX-9’s pretty, inside and out.
Is the Mazda CX-9 a good-looking car?
We think so. Its subtle curves and relatively unadorned body read as timeless design work, and the interior makes the most of the two-box crossover shape without cladding it in layers of inexpensive plastic. We give it an 8 here, with a couple of points for the exterior and one for the interior.
It’s not exactly svelte, but the CX-9 looks much leaner and more lithe than it should, given its height. Its sumptuous curves adapt from Mazda’s smaller vehicles quite well, giving it a sense of implied motion even when it’s still. With very few straight lines, the CX-9 shrink-wraps its cabin and sits low on big wheel wells that give it a sporty stance.
It belies its size on the outside, but inside, the CX-9 makes the most of its space with a low dash, where a tablet-style 10.3-inch display sits. Mazda reduces visual distractions and clutter in the CX-9 cockpit and treats it as it would its sports cars, with linear and simple design that relies on pricier finishes to pull off a convincing feel of quality. It’s remarkable on the Signature trim, where soft leather and open-pore wood imbue the cabin with a high-end feel.
2021 Mazda CX-9
The CX-9’s powertrain works hard to live up to its very good handling.
The CX-9 gives Mazda one more piece of proof that its cars can be fun to drive. It’s a large crossover, though, and the CX-9 may put a little too much emphasis on sporty handling, while it can only muster average powertrain response. We give it a 6 here, with an extra point for its crisp responses.
How fast is the Mazda CX-9?
It’s about average. Mazda fits it with a 227-hp 2.5-liter turbo-4 and ships power to either the CX-9’s front or all four wheels, depending on its configuration. That turbo power suffers from a bit of boost lag, and it’s sent to the wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission that’s down a few gears versus most of its three-row rivals. The transmission holds the engine back some; with an extra cog or three, the CX-9 could launch itself more effectively, and cruise in a more comfortable gear on the highway.
Is the Mazda CX-9 4WD?
All-wheel drive is an option, and its all-weather traction fits the CX-9’s road-friendly manners just fine. Mazda’s done well in tuning the suspension of its biggest vehicle to overcome its tall wagon weight and its high center of gravity. The CX-9’s steering feels good, with sharp turn-in off center and good feedback. It grips well with standard 18-inch all-season tires, and we’d pass on the available 20-inchers that can stiffen the ride and create more tire noise. Mazda quells the CX-9’s vertical ride motions without making it stiff-kneed, and it’s composed enough to hustle down some back roads that might leave other big crossovers gasping for grip and for air.
2021 Mazda CX-9
Comfort & Quality
Three rows, yes, but who’s counting?
Three-row SUVs typically duke it out for top honors in interior space. Well, most of them do. Mazda slips a third row in a less useful space in the CX-9, and it shows. It’s better off when used as a five-seater—but it’s still plush and loaded with cargo space. We give it a 7 here.
The CX-9 has fine room in front, good space in the second row, and tight accommodations in row three. In front, cloth seats in base models have firm and supportive shapes, but they’re better when covered in the optional leather upholstery (especially in the very soft hides found in the Signature edition).
The seats get less commodious in row two, though the CX-9 has tall doors that open wide to make access to the high-mounted bench seat more convenient. The seatbacks recline, too, though we wouldn’t necessarily put three adults in there for a long trip. We wouldn’t dare ask them to sit in the wayback; the CX-9’s third-row seat isn’t easy to reach and it’s small. Even medium-size kids may balk at their place on the seating chart.
The CX-9 has good but not great interior space, a consequence of its tidier footprint. Behind the third row it has about 14 cubic feet, which expands to about 38 cubic feet behind row two. It may not be extra-large, but the CX-9’s cabin is at least extra-nice, with a better grade of interior trim than the stuff you’ll find in a similarly priced Honda or Nissan.
2021 Mazda CX-9
Crash-test data is good in the Mazda CX-9.
How safe is the Mazda CX-9?
With standard automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control, the CX-9 has all the safety touches we deem necessary. It’s also scored well in crash tests; the IIHS dubs it a Top Safety Pick+, and the NHTSA gives it five stars overall (though it gives the SUV four stars for front-impact protection). We score it an 8 here, with points for those crash results and for its standard hardware.
2021 Mazda CX-9
The CX-9 gets luxury features—and a wonky infotainment system.
Mazda’s made safety standard on every CX-9, and fits a swell number of luxury features. The options list and 3-year/36,000-mile warranty aren’t special, and its infotainment’s a standout—for the wrong reasons. It’s a 6 here.
Which Mazda CX-9 should I buy?
The $35,060 CX-9 Sport offers good but not great value. It’s fitted with a power driver seat, power features, and heated front seats, as well a new 10.3-inch display with standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
We’d spend a little more for the CX-9 Touring. For $36,850 it gains a power passenger front seat, leather upholstery, and a power liftgate. All-wheel drive’s a $1,900 option.
How much is a fully loaded Mazda CX-9?
A new Carbon Edition gets 20-inch wheels and lots of gloss-black trim, as well as reverse automatic emergency braking. But at that point you may as well spend up for the $47,705 CX-9 Signature, which gets nappa leather, premium audio, wood trim, and a panoramic sunroof.
Every CX-9 now gets that same 10.3-inch display, but it still sports a hapless control-knob interface that has no touchscreen input whatsoever. Though our editors don’t all agree on how misguided this is, it can be frustrating to spin and click a wheel when, as Steve Jobs so famously put it, you have a finger.
2021 Mazda CX-9
Gas mileage is just average in the CX-9.
Is the Mazda CX-9 good on gas?
With no hybrid edition in the offing, the Mazda CX-9’s gas mileage is middle-of-the-pack. The EPA pegs front-drive CX-9 crossovers at 22 mpg city, 28 highway, 24 combined. With all-wheel drive, it’s rated at 20/26/23 mpg. Both numbers come with regular unleaded. With those scores, we give it a 4 for fuel economy.