The 2022 Mazda CX-9 is a three-row crossover SUV capable of seating seven passengers. Its sharp handling and zippy turbo-4 endow it with better moves on winding roads than many rivals, and its interior can be outfitted with rather nice interior trim.
This year, the CX-9 lineup gains a new mid-level Touring Plus trim that builds on the Touring with cooled front seats including additional adjustment, black-finish exterior trim and wheels, and a frameless rearview mirror. All-wheel drive is newly standard across the lineup.
Every CX-9 makes use of a 227-horsepower 2.5-liter turbo-4 linked to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The permanent all-wheel-drive system requires no input from drivers, though the CX-9 is not meant for off-road use.
Fuel economy is par for the three-row crossover SUV course at 20 mpg city, 26 highway, 23 combined regardless of trim level.
The CX-9 has performed well in crash tests. The IIHS rates it a Top Safety Pick+ no matter the trim level and the NHTSA says it boasts a five-star overall rating. Standard fare includes automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and active lane control, and a head-up display is optional.
The CX-9 starts at $36,505 in Sport trim, which includes 18-inch alloy wheels, cloth upholstery, keyless start, power adjustment for the driver’s seat, heated front seats, and a 10.3-inch non-touch display with standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility.
The step-up Touring runs $38,655 and drapes the cabin in leather, plus it adds power adjustment for the passenger’s seat, a sunroof, a power liftgate, a 12-speaker Bose audio system, and a wireless device charging pad.
This year’s new Touring Plus swaps in cooled seats and a few other niceties, plus blacked-out trim for $42,885.
The Carbon Edition costs $44,805, and it adds red leather upholstery and special exterior trim plus hands-free access to the tailgate, heated rear seats, and a heated steering wheel.
Next up the line, the Grand Touring costs $45,665, which buys a navigation system and special exterior trim. The range-topping Signature runs $48,435, and it does a proper luxury impression with soft nappa leather, real wood trim, a panoramic sunroof, and even more audio speakers.
Second-row captain’s chairs are optional on the Touring and Touring Plus. They’re mandatory with the Carbon Edition, Grand Touring, and Signature.
Though it’s been on the road for a few years, the CX-9 retains its understated and sleek styling. It’s still fresh.
Subtle curves and delicate details eschew the brightwork seen in so many rivals. It’s lithe and lean against its competitors, and it looks sporty on the 20-inch wheels fitted to most models. Those wheels vary in design by trim level, though, as do many of the exterior brightwork details. Shop carefully for the one that suits your taste the best.
A low-slung dash with a 10.3-inch non-touch display perched up high gives the CX-9 a sedan-like feel emphasized by narrow roof pillars and a high center console. It’s simple and linear, and it’s not unlike the automaker’s small cars.
Even base models have a nice feel inside, and leather upholstery is widely available. The CX-9 Signature borders on Audi-like inside with its high-end, fragrant leather and its gorgeous wood trim.
Front-seat passengers have firm, well-bolstered thrones with standard heating and available cooling. The second row isn’t quite as spacious, though the big doors open up to reveal a standard bench or, on higher trims, separate captain’s chairs with a small pass-through. The third row is a tight fit for adults or bigger kids.
Cargo space trails some rivals, but is still expansive, owing to the fact that the CX-9 is a big vehicle. You’ll find 14.4 cubic feet behind the third row, 38.2 cubic feet behind the second row, and 71.2 cubic feet behind the front seats
It may be a cliché, but we’ll buy into it: Mazda makes fun vehicles. The CX-9 should be its least-fun model, and even it’s a delight to drive with balanced handling and terrific steering. It handles and even rides like a car, not an SUV.
The 227-hp 2.5-liter turbo-4 is down on grunt compared to many other SUVs, and its 6-speed automatic is short a gear or two against the segment’s best and brightest. Still, once the turbo’s boost builds up, it moves well enough.
A modest 3,500-pound towing capacity should be enough for a light utility trailer.
Light road noise from the biggest wheel options aside, the CX-9 is a serene highway cruiser with excellent straight-line stability and standard adaptive cruise control that works well.
Between its willing handling and upscale cabin, the Mazda CX-9 is a great choice among three-row SUVs for smaller families.
—By Andrew Ganz, with driving impressions from The Car Connection