Mazda CX-9 AWD Petrol Limited 2013 Review

Mazda CX-9 AWD Petrol Limited 2013 Review

What better time to have a powerful, spacious seven-seat car than when you’re heading on a road trip with some mates. It’s exactly the kind of scenario that no one has ever bought a seven-seat car for, but it’s oh so convenient.

Being young(ish), single and unencumbered with offspring, I don’t usually have a need for three rows of seats. If I needed to carry large loads on a regular basis I’d just buy

the five-seat Mazda CX-5 AWD and have a more frugal, nicer looking vehicle without the inconvenience of lacking a cargo blind to hide things in the boot (this is something Mazda NZ is looking into fixing, but is the case because the CX-9’s powered tailgate motor takes up some of the room a cargo blind channel would need). But when you’ve got a few mates, some camping gear and a festival to go to, the CX-9 is an excellent proposition.

Redesigned for 2013 with the KODO design language, the CX-9’s grille makes a stronger statement. It is flanked by a new set of LED lights and some new curves. While it’s not an upscaled CX-5, the CX-9 is better proportioned than some of its competition sitting on 20-inch wheels as opposed to the 18-inch wheels of, for example, the Mitsubishi Outlander 7-seater and Holden Colorado 7.

Getting the third row of seats ready requires that you first slide the second row of seats forwards, then pull the rear seats up using the attached straps, and then fold the headrests up. It’s a simple process; not quite as simple as the Mitsubishi Outlander, though. There’s a comparable amount of room as the Outlander in the third row.

Unlike the Outlander the CX-9 comes with separate rear air conditioning which was very welcome in Northland on a sunny Auckland Anniversary weekend.
The 3.7-litre V6 petrol engine drives 204kW and 367Nm through a six-speed gearbox to all four wheels. There’s plenty of oomph for overtaking, but under full power it can squirm a bit, despite the four-wheel drive and 245/50R20 tyres. As would be expected for a tall vehicle with a 2063kg kerb weight, there is some body roll.

Towing capacity is 2000kg, so it’s losing out 1000kg over the Holden Colorado 7.

The CX-9 comes with Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Electronic brake force distribution (EBD), Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), antilock brakes (ABS), high beam control system (HBC), Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Forward Obstruction Warning (FOW).

FOW aims to warn you if something ahead of you brakes suddenly. The system monitors up to 70m in front of the car. LDW monitors road markings using a camera on the windscreen and lets you know if you’re straying from your lane. HBC didn’t work well at all. It’s a system that’s supposed to adjust your high beam lights when it detects oncoming traffic, or if you’re following another car. What it did was prevent me from using high beam on narrow gravel roads until I turned it off, so I left it turned off.

The dimensions of the CX-9 are substantial. The boot space is 928 litres rear seats down, or 267 with them up. There’s even a hidden compartment under the boot floor.

The overall length is 5096mm, but it’s the width that’s huge – 1936mm, which is bigger than the enormous Toyota Land Cruiser we had a week prior. It only just fitted in my apartment car park. What this does mean, though, is that there is a lot of room on the inside. All the passengers (and at times there were six of us in total) complimented the comfort levels and ride quality.

The driving position is excellent. The front seat is 8-way adjustable. Visibility is good in all directions except out the rear. A reversing camera and parking sensors solve this issue, though. A blindspot monitoring system warns if there are vehicles to the left or right of you in your blind spot. This was useful, but trigger happy, occasionally picking up objects that were on the roadside.

A 10-speaker 277W BOSE sound system washes the cabin in audio. We tried a variety of music from eighties electro-funk to classical and it performed well throughout the cabin streaming via Bluetooth from my phone. Controlling the stereo is partly through dials and buttons on the dash and partly using the multifunction 5.8-inch touchscreen. This serves double duty with various setup options and the sat nav.

Mazda quotes the fuel economy as 11.3l/100km combined. We managed 13.9l/100km from Auckland to Kerikeri and back with some side trips and some sitting in holiday traffic. If fuel efficiency is a major concern for you, both the Mitsubishi Outlander and Holden Colorado 7 diesels trounce it, but that’s diesel for you.

This CX-9 is a good life cycle upgrade. The new nose freshens the design. The cabin is spacious and generally has a quality feel – it feels better than the average Mazda cabin. Even though there are a few hard plastics, most of the touch points, like on the doors, are nice and soft. There’s the right amount of power for a vehicle this size and it feels solidly screwed together. There’s a better steering wheel feel than the Outlander, although it’s still a bit numb (which is what the target market will want). The new entertainment and navigation system has an excellent sound and feature set, even though some of the operations require a lot of button pushing.

Add into the mix Mazda’s 3-year, unlimited kilometre Mazdacare warranty plus on-call roadside assistance and free servicing for the first three years at no extra cost, and you can start justifying the extra premium you’ll pay for having all those horses under the bonnet.

Price: $65,490

Pros:

  • Luxurious and spacious
  • Rides well
  • Plenty of power
  • Excellent entertainment system
  • Passengers were happy

Cons:

  • Minor teething troubles – High Beam Control didn’t work for me, no cargo blind, trigger happy blindspot monitoring.
  • With all that power comes thirst
  • New interior is very well designed, but still has some harder plastics and budget-looking elements, e.g. the red LED in the centre dash

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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