2021 Mazda CX-9

By January 6, 2021

The 2021 Mazda CX-9 is a three-row crossover that’s very attractive, and has a well-done interior, engaging responsiveness, and good standard safety equipment. Its ride and handling are excellent, while its infotainment interface is complex.

For 2021 it gets a 10.3-inch infotainment display on every model, and there’s a new Carbon Edition with 20-inch wheels and glossy black trim.

The engine is a 2.5-liter turbo-4 making 227 horsepower, mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission, with standard front-wheel drive and available all-wheel drive. It’s EPA rated at 22 mpg city, 28 highway, 24 combined; with all-wheel drive the mileage drops a bit, to 20/26/23 mpg. It takes regular fuel.

For safety, the IIHS has named it a Top Safety Pick+, and the NHTSA gives it five stars overall. Standard safety equipment on all models includes automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control.

Model Lineup

The CX-9 comes in four models: Sport, Touring, Signature and the new Carbon Edition.

The base $35,060 CX-9 Sport comes with heated cloth seats, power features, a power driver’s seat, and a 10.3-inch display screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

The CX-9 Touring at $36,850 adds leather upholstery, power adjustment to the passenger front seat, and a power liftgate.

The $47,705 Signature adds nappa leather, premium audio, wood trim, and a panoramic sunroof.

All-wheel drive is a $1,900 option. A 3-year/36,000-mile warranty is standard.

Exterior

The CX-9 looks lovely from every angle, with a slim front end, a reasonably-sized grille, and subtle curves on clean sheetmetal. For a crossover, it’s lean and lithe.

It’s high but sits low on 18-inch wheels that give it a sporty stance. Its posture suggests motion.

Interior

Mazda is the best in the business at clean instrument panels. A low dash allows with one band of metal trim creates an open feeling around the tablet-style 10.3-inch display screen. The simple, linear design could be in a sports car, and the materials are good enough to create a convincing feel of quality. On the Signature trim, nappa leather and open-pore wood pull off absolute luxury.

The cloth seats in the Sport are firm and supportive, and also heated, but the leather in the Touring of course feels better. There’s good room in front, and not quite as good in the second row, although the tall rear doors open wide to make access to the high-mounted bench seat easy. The seatbacks recline, too. Three will fit, but not well for a long trip.

The third row is small and hard to reach. Lacking head and leg room, it’s really only good for small kids. Although the CX-9 technically seats seven, we’d call it a spacious five-seater, with a vast 38 cubic feet for cargo behind the second row. There’s 14 cubic feet of cargo space when the third row is raised.

Mazda’s infotainment system has a 10.3-inch display but allows no touch input. It makes the system frustrating to use, as it forces drivers to spin and click a wheel to access most functions.

Driving Impressions

The CX-9’s engine, a 227-hp 2.5-liter turbo-4, delivers acceleration that’s about average for the class. And there’s some turbo lag. So what it needs, in our opinion, is more gears in the transmission. The CX-9 uses a 6-speed automatic, when many rivals use an 8-speed or 9-speed; if there were more gears, the engine could find a sweeter spot in the powerband when it needed it, and also cruise in a more comfortable gear on the highway.

Where the CX-9 excels is in its ride and sporty handling. The suspension is well tuned to the weight of the CX-9 and its high center of gravity. The steering feels good, with a sharp turn-in and good feedback. The CX-9 is composed enough to hustle along back roads that leave other big crossovers struggling.

The standard 18-inch all-season tires grip well enough, and quell the vertical motions, while the available 20-inchers stiffen the ride and create more tire noise.

The optional all-wheel drive with its all-weather traction fits the CX-9’s road-friendly manners just fine.

Final Word

The 2021 Mazda CX-9 is about the best-looking three-row crossover you can buy. The ride and handling are well above average, too. The third-row seat is small, and power and fuel economy are average, but the 2021 CX-9 is a satisfying three-row SUV that’s a fine fit for most families.

 

—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection

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