Reviews

2015 Mazda CX-9 Walk Around

The Mazda CX-9 shares its basic structure with the five-passenger Ford Edge, although the Mazda is longer, by two inches of wheelbase and 14 inches overall. In fact, at just over 200 inches long, the CX-9 is the largest Mazda ever. What is perhaps most surprising about the CX-9 is that it doesn’t look big from the outside.

The CX-9’s nose features a version of the five-point grille that is used on most of today’s Mazdas. It’s clean and simple, and far better looking than earlier versions of the CX-9’s nose. The windshield is sharply raked, leading to a roof that arches, crests and then slides back and down. One surprise is a pronounced bulge in the tailgate, like an old-fashioned bustle. It is a neat trick that adds a little extra storage capacity. Along the sides, the fenders feature prominent flares.

Safety researchers say the strength of the vehicle’s body is also crucial in providing protection in a side-impact crash. Mazda took this into consideration, providing B-pillars that are extra wide and strong. (The B-pillar is the second roof pillar back from the windshield, which uses the A-pillar.) It works because the CX-9 gets a five-star rating in the government’s side impact safety test.

Interior

The CX-9’s cabin is attractive but not entirely upscale. The armrests are nicely padded, but the dashboard and door panels are mostly plastic with only a few soft-touch surfaces.

The basic controls are simple and easy to use. The infotainment system, however, isn’t up to today’s standards. It features a small 5.8-inch touchscreen, satellite radio, a TomTom navigation system with real-time traffic information, and, when connected to a smartphone, text-to-speech delivery of text messages and Pandora internet radio. The text-to-speech and Pandora capability are nice features, but most of today’s infotainment systems offer far more features with larger central screens.

Storage includes a relatively small center bin with a split lid, a small cubby at the base of the center console, and relatively thin storage compartments on the front doors.

Buyers have a choice of black or beige upholstery, and the latter makes the interior seem brighter and roomier. The look is appealing, and nothing about it says boring family transportation.

The CX-9’s step-in height makes entry easy for shorter drivers, yet the seating position is as high as in most truck-type SUVs, which provides a good look down the road. However, average to taller folks will have to duck out of the way of the front pillars when entering because the windshield is so sharply raked. Once inside, there is plenty of head room, though.

The CX-9 has a surprising amount of room inside. Carrying seven people means two up front, three in the second row, and two in the rear. One tester, at 6-feet, 4-inches, could be comfortable in the driver’s seat, then move back to the second row and still find enough legroom. That second row, incidentally, is split 60/40, and both sides move fore and aft up to five inches. That allows a nice amount of flexibility for carrying people and cargo of different sizes. Second-row legroom is good if the seat is set halfway through its range or farther back.

With the second row set halfway back, we climbed into the third row and found adequate legroom there, too. Head room is tight, though, as anyone over about 5-foot, 8-inches will rub their heads on the roof. To get to the third row one grabs a handle built into the top of the second-row seat and pulls. That releases the seat and slides it forward. The opening is smallish, in part because the wheel arch intrudes, but with a wiggle and a twist an adult can reach the third row without a severe loss of dignity.

Mazda says there is 17.2 cubic feet of cargo space with the third row upright. That’s about the size of a trunk of a midsize sedan, and to use it all would require piling luggage up to the roof, blocking the rearward view. To carry more stuff and fewer people, the Mazda’s third row (a 50/50 split) can be lowered by pulling a strap. Gravity does the work. With both sides down the result is 48.3 cubic feet of space. Getting the seat back up requires pulling the same strap, which isn’t a problem because it’s easy to reach.

The second row can also be folded down easily. However, it doesn’t create a completely flat cargo area. There is a slight uphill slant. With both rear rows folded, there is a cavernous 100.7 cubic feet of space. You wouldn’t know it looking at the CX-9 from the outside.

One thing the very tall person (6-foot 4-inch, for one of our testers) will quickly learn is that the open tailgate does not have a 6-foot 4-inch clearance. There is nothing like a good rap on the forehead to brighten the day.

Request More Info