I’ve been a happy Mazda CX-5 driver for a couple of years now, and I find it a splendid little SUV (well, technically it’s known as a CUV, a compact SUV, but that’s a goofy acronym at best). I did downsize, however, going from a Toyota Highlander with quite a bit more room. Three kids, two of them with their own cars, and it turns out I don’t really need as much room. Still, when I chose the CX-5 I also looked very closely at the CX-9 because of that glorious and helpful third row of seats. Did I really need that? I decided not, but still, every time I see a CX-9 there’s a tiny pull, as if I should have chosen that instead.
Which is why it was great to have a week behind the wheel in a brand new Snowflake White Pearl 2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD. With an Auburn interior the car has a beautiful finish and luxurious feel that lets it compete favorably with much more expensive SUVs in its class. In fact, I took a road trip from Boulder, Colorado up to the beautiful ski resort area of Breckenridge and it handled like a champ. My passenger said she felt the ride was far superior to the Lexus she had driven earlier that day. Not bad, Mazda!
Here’s the CX-9 in front of one of the zillion quaint shops and businesses in downtown Breckenridge:
Like a Tardis, there’s a lot more room inside the vehicle than may be obvious from the above photo, but notice how far forward the nose thrusts out too: it’s pretty darn long, all said and done, though nothing like a Ford Expedition or one of the other monster SUVs. Breckenridge is at 9200 foot elevation and the route through the Rocky Mountains crests at over 11,000 foot elevation (the highest point on any highway in the United States, actually). It drove beautifully throughout, with no performance issues whatsoever. Cars that are lean on their carburetor mix can have an issue with the diminished oxygen. Certainly we did, getting out of breath from a single flight of stairs.
That third row? Yeah, there’s a lot of room in the interior of the CX-9:
You can also see the two-tone of the Auburn interior and Nappa leather trimmed upholstery. It’s very plush and comfortable. Mazda’s come a long way from its humble roots, and this almost-$50,000 SUV reflects the company’s aspiration to compete at the top levels in the industry.
Space for the passengers? Not too bad, even with the driver’s seat pushed as far back as it’ll go (I’m 6’3″ so need legroom!)
Notice the speaker on the passenger door. This Signature edition comes with a lovely 12-speaker Bose sound system. It sounds really good turned wayyyyy up too. Not that I’d blast music while driving, of course. 🙂
The overall entertainment system was a bit glitchy in this particular vehicle, however, and I found that it took a weirdly long time to start up, sometimes forgot that it had a Sirius XM subscription, sometimes forgot what channel I’d tuned to, and in one short drive, restarted twice in less than five minutes. It did work fine with Apple CarPlay and I really appreciated that the CarPlay-enabled USB plug is in the armrest, allowing the interior to stay neat and organized. Still, when I asked about the entertainment system performance on the r/Mazda reddit group, a lot of people were quick to opine that Mazda needs a completely new system. I don’t know if I’m quite that harsh in my judgment, but even my CX-5 entertainment system takes a long time to start up when it should be fully functional in max 5 seconds.
Here’s a bit of the dashboard, showing the environmental controls and that glorious strip of seatbelt status lights. On a car with three rows of seats that’s a lotta lights:
Moving a bit further up the front dash, the triple gauge display was excellent, bright, easy to read and functional. The below picture also highlights one of my least favorite parts of this 2019 Mazda CX-9:
Oh that lack of fuel efficiency. 22.7mpg? Yes it’s a big vehicle, and yes, I drove it 6,000 miles up in elevation, but I’m tired of poor mileage. This same vehicle with 32.7mpg? That’d be awesome. The EPA numbers are 20/26, but as you can see, that 22.7 sure isn’t 26mpg highway. It does have a big engine to help with performance, so the Skyactiv-G 2.5L Turbo Engine is fairly thirsty, but still, come on, Mazda, let’s see what your engineers can do with a more efficient engine in the 2020 CX-9…
One thing I found really cool is the complex camera display when backing up or moving into a parking spot:
What I hadn’t really noticed on other vehicles but did on the CX-9 is that when it’s beeping at you with a proximity sensor, the beep comes from the correct point in the car. In other words, if I was getting too close to the wall in front, the beep came from the front. If I was reversing into that spot, the beep would come from behind me. Crazy smart. Do all cars do this? 🙂
Let’s step outside just for a sec so you can see the lines of the CX-9:
Again, does that look like a vehicle with three rows of seats? Not at all, right?
Open up that rear hatch, though, and you can reveal one of my favorite features: The hidden storage compartment:
I know it’s just the engineers utilizing dead space, but this is so useful, I really wish I had this with my CX-5! It’s surprisingly big too, considering it hides under the rear compartment mat. Just the place to store a laptop or other valuables. What I like is that it represents careful thought about how to make the experience of driving and owning this vehicle the best possible. Does every car manufacturer focus on that? Some yes, some no. But Mazda’s definitely going places and the 2019 CX-9 Signature demonstrates why you should be checking them out!
And after a week of driving the CX-9, I was glad to get back into my CX-5. The smaller size just works really well for me and my family, and the better fuel efficiency (about 5-6mpg better) is appreciated, though again, 40mpg, 50mpg, 100mpg is the long term goal, right?! If you need lots of space for your family or stuff, the 2019 Mazda CX-9 is definitely worth a test drive nonetheless.
AS DRIVEN: 2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD with Snowflake White Pearl MC exterior and Auburn interior. Featuring a Skyactiv-G 2.5L turbo engine and 6spd transmission. Additions above the base Signature included the cargo mat, illuminated door sills and white pearl paint. MSRP: $45,365, AS DRIVEN: $47,285
Disclosure: Mazda loaned me the CX-9 for a week so that I could write up this review. Thanks Mazda!