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2022 Toyota Highlander vs Mazda CX-9

2022 Toyota Highlander vs Mazda CX-9

2022 Highlander vs CX-9 - How Do They Stack Up? Which is Better?

Fitting seven or eight people in a midsize SUV can be tricky. That does not stop nearly every popular brand from entering this segment of the market. A three-row midsize SUV can balance practicality with drivability, but only if it is done right.

The 2022 Toyota Highlander and the 2022 Mazda CX-9 are both well-known entries in this popular automotive class. They both have strong selling points, although they are not the same ones. What will ultimately determine the best choice for a family will depend on their day-to-day driving needs. To aid in this decision, the following guide points out the similarities and differences between the 2022 Highlander and the 2022 CX-9.

The Powertrain

Every new gas-powered Highlander model is equipped with a 3.5L V6 engine that creates 295 horsepower along with 263 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive complete the standard setup, although every trim level is also available with all-wheel drive.

The Highlander is somewhat unique, being one of the few three-row midsize SUVs with a hybrid powertrain option. It is based on a 2.5L four-cylinder engine and has a total output of 243 horsepower. All trims come standard with front-wheel drive with all-wheel drive as an option, and they all use a continuously variable transmission.

As its standard engine, the 2022 CX-9 goes with a turbo 2.5L four-cylinder engine that makes 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque with regular gasoline. Switching to premium will mean getting 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque. Mazda pairs the engine with a six-speed automatic transmission. Like every SUV in the lineup, the CX-9 now comes standard with all-wheel drive. This vehicle is not offered with a more powerful engine or as a hybrid.

With front-wheel drive, the Highlander is estimated to get 21mpg in the city and 29mpg on the highway. This is decent when compared to other midsize SUVs with V6 engines, but falls behind the many competitors that go with a four-cylinder instead. Opting for all-wheel drive for the Highlander will mean getting 20mpg city and 27mpg highway.

The Highlander Hybrid does considerably better. Buyers can expect 36mpg city and 35mpg highway with front-wheel drive. Going with all-wheel drive will mean getting 35mpg in the city and either 34 or 35mpg on the highway, depending on the trim level.

All Mazda CX-9 models have the same powertrain and standard all-wheel drive, so they all have the same estimated fuel efficiency. They get 20mpg in the city and 26mpg on the highway. Although these are not class-leading numbers, they are solid for the class.

When properly equipped, the Highlander can handle up to 5,000 pounds. This is what is expected of a midsize SUV. Unfortunately, the CX-9 can only handle 3,500 pounds, which is something that those with a boat or trailer should keep in mind when deciding between these two vehicles.

Both Toyota and Mazda give their vehicles a relatively standard warranty. It includes powertrain coverage for five years or 60,000 miles. The Highlander and CX-9 are also covered for three years or 36,000 miles by a limited comprehensive warranty.

For some buyers, a predicted reliability score from J.D. Power is a significant factor in their decision-making. The 2022 Highlander received a score of 82 out of 100. As for the 2022 CX-9, it did almost as well, getting a score of 80 out of 100.


When it comes to handling, the 2022 Highlander is perfectly acceptable. It offers up a comfortable ride and is easy to drive. The steering feels a bit numb, however, which prevents it from being labeled as sporty.

That is not an issue for the 2022 CX-9. This SUV is widely applauded for its engaging driving dynamics. The steering is weighted beautifully, there is very little body roll, and the brakes provide all of the stopping power needed. Going with the available 20-inch wheels will mean sacrificing some ride quality, but the standard setup does an excellent job of absorbing the bumps in the road.

Cargo capacity is a large selling point for some. The Highlander is more than respectable, giving buyers 16 cubic feet behind the third row. This is more than the CX-9, which has 14.4 cubic feet. Folding down the very last row will mean getting 48.4 cubic feet in the Highlander but only 38.2 cubic feet in the CX-9. The maximum cargo capacity for the Highlander is 84.3 cubic feet, while the Mazda SUV tops out at 71.2 cubic feet.

Maximum seating capacity may be a deciding factor between these two vehicles. In its standard setup, the new Highlander has room for up to eight. Many trim levels opt for second-row captain's chairs, however, which means having room for seven. As for the CX-9, it can only handle up to seven, with some versions of the SUV dropping down to seating for six.

Both of these SUVs are relatively spacious in their first two rows. The CX-9 is narrower than most of the vehicles in this class, so buyers should be aware that they may be closer to their front passenger than they would like. The third row is only suitable for children in both of these SUVs. It is easy to see out of the front and sides of the CX-9, but the roofline makes seeing out of the back a bit more challenging. Outward visibility is excellent in all directions for the Highlander.

The infotainment setup for the Highlander runs on an 8-inch touchscreen. Meanwhile, the CX-9 comes with a 10.3-inch display. Both of these SUVs are equipped with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and a Wi-Fi hotspot. They both also have a six-speaker sound system.

Despite having the smaller screen, the Highlander impresses with its additional standard tech features. All models are equipped with Amazon Alexa compatibility, and this SUV has five USB ports. The entry-level CX-9 has only two USB ports, which may be an issue when the whole family is along for the ride.

Both of these SUVs offer navigation and a premium sound system. For the Highlander, the system has 11 speakers and is made by JBL. The CX-9 goes with a 12-speaker setup instead, and it can add up to four additional USB ports on upper trim levels.


The National Highway Safety Administration has tested both the 2022 Highlander and the 2022 CX-9. Overall, both of these vehicles received a score of five stars. They both got five stars for side crash testing, but four stars for frontal crashes and rollovers.

Buyers can also look at the crash test results from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In the six main categories tested, the top score of "Good" was received across the board for the Highlander and the CX-9. The headlights for the CX-9 also got the score "Good." For the Highlander, only the top Platinum trim received that score. All other trim levels had "Acceptable" headlights.

Both of these SUVs come with an extensive list of standard driver assistance features. For the Highlander, buyers will get forward-collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, lane trace assist, automatic high beams, and traffic sign recognition. A rear-seat reminder is included as well.

The CX-9 also has adaptive cruise control, forward-collision mitigation, lane-keeping assist, and automatic high beams. It is missing the traffic sign recognition, but it does add standard blind-spot monitoring. This is an available feature for the Highlander.

Both of these SUVs are offered with some of the most sophisticated driver assistance features currently out there. They can have a surround-view camera system, for example, as well as adaptive headlights that corner with the vehicle. Front and rear parking sensors are available on the CX-9 and Highlander. The CX-9 offers driver attention monitoring, while the Highlander offers rain-sensing windshield wipers.

Which Has the Best Value?

The entry-level Highlander L has a starting price of $35,405, which is on the high side for the class. As for the CX-9, it starts out at $35,280. While still high, it is easier to justify the extra expense for the Mazda because of the standard all-wheel drive. These two SUVs have similar starting prices for their most expensive models as well, with the Highlander Platinum estimated to cost $47,750 and the CX-9 Signature coming in at $47,000.

It is important to also think about the costs of owning a particular vehicle when deciding if it will fit into the budget. This is best done by looking at the estimated "true cost-to-own" estimates for both vehicles. Numbers are not yet out for the 2022 models, so this guide will compare the 2021 models instead.

The Highlander received no major changes this year, while the CX-9 got standard all-wheel drive. For that reason, the comparison will be between the 2021 Highlander L and the all-wheel-drive 2021 Mazda CX-9 Touring. The numbers are based on the assumption that the vehicles are driven 15,000 miles per year.

First, there is the depreciation to consider. The Highlander is estimated to lose $21,300 over the first five years. As for the CX-9, it will lose around $23,250. Next, there are the estimated fuel costs. The CX-9 will cost around $10,000, while the Highlander will cost around $9,700. Keep in mind that this is for the front-wheel-drive Highlander versus the all-wheel-drive CX-9.

Maintenance costs for the Highlander are estimated to be around $4,000. This may seem steep, but the CX-9 will cost around $5,000 to maintain over the course of five years. Repair estimates are also slightly higher for the CX-9, which is estimated to cost $1,900 while the Highlander costs $1,700.

Which is Better?

There are many things that both the 2022 Toyota Highlander and the 2022 Mazda CX-9 do well. Some of them are the same, while others are quite different. For that reason, buyers should be able to see a clear winner for their needs.

The 2022 Toyota Highlander has an impressive amount of cargo space and seating for up to eight people. It also holds its value better over the years, and it is estimated to have fewer out-of-pocket expenses. Many families will appreciate the five standard USB ports as well. As a bonus, the Highlander is available as a hybrid in 2022.

On the other hand, the 2022 Mazda CX-9 is a lot more fun to drive. All models come standard with all-wheel drive, so buyers do not need to worry about how much extra that feature will cost them. For some, standard features like blind-spot monitoring and the larger infotainment screen will make the CX-9 an obvious choice.

Those who need a roomy and practical SUV for the whole family should check out the 2022 Highlander, while those who prioritize an engaging driving experience and a high-tech cabin will want the 2022 Mazda CX-9.

View Comparisons for other Years:

2021 Toyota Highlander VS Mazda CX-9
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