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The Mazda CX-9 is the solution for drivers who need three rows of seating but are not willing to give up on driving a sporty vehicle. Like most Mazdas out there, the CX-9 offers plenty of luxury in the cabin and impressive power underneath the hood. Of course, no SUV is perfect. There are some design flaws that may have you hesitating before choosing this as the next vehicle for your family. Let's take a look at both the good and the bad so you can see which one comes out ahead.
What's New for 2021?
This year, the CX-9 makes major upgrades to its infotainment system. All models now get a 10.3-inch touchscreen and the system itself is supposed to be more user-friendly. It also includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, finally making these features standard on all models of the CX-9. From the Touring trim level and up, a wireless charging pad joins the list of standard equipment.
The top-of-the-line Signature trim gains some new features for 2021. On the safety front, it adds a driver-attention monitor and reverse automatic emergency braking. As far as its design, the interior gets new quilted leather and the exterior is showing off a new grille design.
Top 10 Reasons to Buy a 2021 Mazda CX-9 – The Pros
1. Standard Fun Turbocharged Engine
A turbocharged four-cylinder engine powers the 2021 CX-9. Since most competitors go with V6s, you may worry that the CX-9 is underpowered. That is not the case, however. The turbo four-cylinder can give you 227-horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque when you fill up with regular gasoline. For even much punch, opt for premium fuel and you will get 250-horsepower along with 320 lb-ft of torque. This is enough power to have the CX-9 feeling light and responsive. All of that torque means you get satisfying acceleration. In fact, it can go from zero to 60 in just 7.1 seconds. That is pretty quick for a vehicle of this size.
2. Strong Fuel Economy Numbers
The reason that Mazda elected to go with the four-cylinder over the V6 is likely to improve its fuel economy numbers. This strategy worked, with front-wheel drive models able to give you 22mpg in the city and 28mpg on the highway. If you decide you need all-wheel drive in your life, the CX-9 gives you 20mpg city and 26mpg highway. For a non-hybrid three-row midsize SUV, these numbers are better than many rivals.
3. Sleek Exterior Look
A large part of the CX-9's appeal is the fact that it is a competent family-hauler without actually looking like a competent family-hauler. Its sleek lines make it one of the best looking midsize SUVs out there. The Signature trim level is particularly impressive, showing off a titanium finish metallic grille and newly redesigned 20-inch alloy wheels.
4. Standard i-Activsense Suite
Although it is no longer terribly uncommon for a vehicle to come standard with driver aids, the ones found on the CX-9 are just a bit more advanced than average. All models have what Mazda calls Advanced Smart City Brake Support with Pedestrian Detection. Unlike most forward-collision systems, this one is designed to detect pedestrians both day and night. Also standard on all trim levels are blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-keep assist. Rounding out the advanced safety features found on all models are automatic high beams.
5. Impressive All-Wheel-Drive System Available
All-wheel drive is available on all trims except the Signature, where it comes standard. The i-ACTIV AWD system is incredibly good at adjusting to changing traction. In fact, it is so quick that you may wonder if it is psychic. This makes the CX-9 a great choice for anywhere that has bad weather of any kind and/or for people who like to occasionally leave the pavement.
6. Upscale and Comfortable Cabin
When comparing the CX-9 to its rivals, it is immediately clear that this three-row Mazda SUV has more luxury and sophistication. Standard for all models are upscale features like heated front seats. You will find a variety of soft-touch surfaces throughout the cabin. Depending on the trim, there are also several types of fancy interior trim types you can find. Examples include brushed aluminum and rosewood, which is reserved for that Signature trim level. The standard setup for the CX-9 includes a second-row bench seat and room for seven. You can also choose to go with second-row captain's chairs, which opens up the back but reduces seating to six.
7. Agile and Engaging Handling
There are few, if any, three-row midsize SUVs out there that are as fun to drive as the Mazda CX-9. The handling is sharp enough to engage even the most thrill-seeking drivers and the engine has enough zip to keep things interesting. At the same time, it provides your passengers with a smooth ride that will make them happy to hop into the CX-9 time and time again.
8. Multi-function Commander Control
If you are someone who is not a fan of touchscreen controls, the CX-9's multi-function commander control was made for you. It allows you to switch between all of the features included in your vehicle's infotainment system. It utilizes both buttons and knobs, which are placed so that they are easy to reach from the driver's seat. Many people using these buttons preferable to searching through touchscreen commands.
9. Handy MyMazda App
The MyMazda App grants access to the Mazda Connected Services features. This means you get access to many remote features right on your smartphone. You can plan your next adventure by checking out your current vehicle stats, including how much fuel you have. The app will also alert you if it detects something that needs your attention, such as your headlights. For some people, the most useful feature may be the app's ability to help find the CX-9.
10. Available Carbon Edition
Drivers who go with the Grand Touring trim level can now choose to add the Carbon Edition package. Although this is pretty much just an appearance package, it is bold and impressive enough that it is worth mentioning. On the outside, the package blacks-out many exterior features and gives the CX-9 unique 20-inch wheels. Inside, models with the Carbon Edition package get deluxe red leather upholstery with metallic trim. Models with this package equipped automatically come with Polymetal Gray Metallic paint.
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Reasons Not to Buy a 2021 Mazda CX-9 – The Cons
1. Small Cargo Area
One of the definite disadvantages of choosing the CX-9 is you are losing out on cargo space. When folding down both back rows of seats, you get only 71 cubic feet. Considering that nearly all rivals offer more than 80 cubic feet, this is fairly significant. Not every driver will need that amount of cargo space, however, and may not be bothered by this.
2. Lack of Third-Row Space
There is plenty of room for up to seven people, as long as two of those people are small children. The back row of the CX-9 continues to be the biggest problem for this SUV with its cramped leg and headroom. As a result, this SUV is better suited for smaller families or families with smaller children.
3. Weak Maximum Towing Capacity
The turbocharged four-cylinder wows in a lot of ways. It does not, unfortunately, lead to impressive towing numbers. Properly equipped 2021 CX-9 models top out at 3,500 pounds. This is a number easily beat by many of its rivals.
How it Stacks Up to the Competition:
2021 Mazda CX-9 vs 2021 Toyota Highlander
These are both good options for families needing three-rows in their SUV. The Highlander does offer more cargo space and space to stretch out in its third-row. It does not come with standard heated front seats or power lumbar adjustment, however, like the CX-9 does. The Highlander also lacks standard blind-spot monitoring, which is one of the more popular driver aids currently out there.
2021 Mazda CX-9 vs 2021 Subaru Ascent
The Ascent is another attractive choice. It comes standard with all-wheel drive and is considerably roomier in the cargo area. Like the CX-9, the Ascent goes with a four-cylinder engine as well. The Ascent's manages to make significantly less torque, resulting in far less satisfying acceleration. Overall, it simply does not have the driving dynamics that you get from the 2021 CX-9.
Overall, the 2021 Mazda CX-9 is a strong choice for drivers and their families. The upgrades to the infotainment system help give it an edge in its segment of the market. Plus, its fuel economy and high-tech safety features are very appealing. Hopefully, Mazda will be able to redesign this SUV in a way that can offer more cargo and third-row space without destroying the driving dynamics that everyone loves. If they can, the Mazda CX-9 will be close to perfect.
• Why buy a 2020 Mazda CX-9? w/ pros vs cons