Luxury Details and Intuitive Tech in a Zen-Like Crossover
There’s something to be said for simplicity. It’s elegant, it’s easy, it lets you enjoy your time in the car without it being overwhelming. And that is what being in the Mazda CX-9 crossover is like: Simple and enjoyable.
The CX-9’s critical options are smartly and intuitively designed, and there’s no unnecessary fluff, which makes it a great family SUV for drivers who want a little zen. Without a confusing panel of switches and dials and touch sensors, you’re drawn intuitively to what you need: need to increase the heat? There’s a simple toggle for that. Need to shut off the radio? The button to push is right where you think it should be. Need to adjust your seat? Buttons are on the side of the seat where you expect them.
But the best thing about simplicity is it’s a showcase for great ideas. Like suede trim.
Suede? Oh, Yeaaahhhh.
The suede details in the Mazda CX-9 are sublime; soft, begging to be touched, as easy on the eyes as it is to the touch; you notice the sueded door panels and seat accents as you get in and out of the car, as well as when sitting in it. It reminds you that you’re surrounded by the luxury of comfortable leather heated seats, a leather wrapped steering wheel, and leather center arm rests. When get in the CX-9, close the door and relax in your seat, you just feel good.
Part of this good feeling comes from the streamlined cabin, which feels spacious yet intimate; you can see and hear everyone in the car easily, but no one is cramped. A mid-sized SUV crossover, the CX-9 seats seven but doesn’t feel huge. It feels—and handles—nice.
Third Row For Comfort Or Convenience—Your Choice
This spaciousness—and simple brilliance—partially comes from the way the third row is configured. The second row slides forward (with really smart, easy to grab handles that fold the seats forward and push them back into place) to give third row passengers plenty of leg room; when the third row isn’t needed, it slides back to allow second row passengers more leg room. And of course, both rows fold down; with the tug of a strap you can both fold third row seats down to create a flat cargo space or pull them back into position. Most seven passenger cars either have a “convenience” row or a “comfort” row for a third row; the CX-9 lets you choose.
Color Matters, And Anyone Who Thinks This is Silly Is Missing the Point
Another good feeling in the CX-9 comes from the beautiful, sparkly paint color. The model we drove was painted Blue Reflex Mica—which I would call Sapphire or Deep Blue Ocean—and it’s a cool, sublime shade that you could stare at all day and fall in love with. But the CX-9 comes in some other beautiful colors too, including White Pearl. Another serious consideration should be the sand leather interior, which will make the car feel even more spacious and luxurious, sort of like a summer vacation all year long (though, an investment in a local carwash program is probably a good idea, too).
Mazda: The Darling Of Car Critics in 2013
Then, there’s the driving performance that Mazda is famous for. The New York Times named the Mazda 3 to the top of not one but two of its best of 2013 lists, and Popular Mechanics chose the Mazda 6 as its car of the year. Mazda is known among car fanatics as a great car to drive. The CX-9 delivered a solid performance, easily merging onto highways and into traffic with the confidence you’d expect from a strong SUV.
But more importantly, the CX-9 features a number of intuitive functions that add even more oomph to the zen: Driver feedback information is displayed on a panel at the top of the dashboard so it’s in line with the driver’s line of sight; rear view mirrors automatically adjust downward when you put the car in reverse; rain-sensing wipers come on with the first drops of rain, adaptable headlights dim when another car comes into view, a rear view camera and sensors detect any objects in your path (and beep to let you know it!), keyless entry senses you’re there and unlocks the door, the anti-theft engine immobilizer—ok, we’re not sure what that does, but it sure sounds good!—a push-button power lift gate that both open and closes, hands free Bluetooth connects your phone, and if after all that you really need it, there’s a USB port to import your iPod or other audio into the sound system.
The Best Zen of All? Happy Teens in the Back Seat
The week we spent in the Mazda CX-9 we put it to a few tests driving to and from school, filling it with groceries and finally, taking it on a girls day of shopping in New York City. City driving can be a real challenge, and the CX-9 handled it all just fine, easily managing city pot holes and stop and go traffic. We had three teens in the back seat—no one wanted to sit in the third row by herself—and everyone was able to chat without being uncomfortably close; the adjustable second row made the girls even more comfortable, and the third row came in handy for holding coats, purses and shopping bags so they didn’t roll around. In the front seat the adults were able to tune in and out of the teens conversation or carry on our own. It might have been the suede that facilitated the zen feeling, or it might have been the sweet blue paint color, or it just might have been that three teens traveling happily is zen all by itself.
What We Loved
Suede interior details
Simple, streamlined dash and interior
Gorgeous blue color
TomTom navigation system
Sliding second row
Third row option
Room for groceries, strollers or small luggage behind the third row
Keyless smart entry
Rear view camera
Blind spot detectors
Hands free Bluetooth phone/audio
The price–under $40K nicely outfitted
What You Need to Know
DVD system is an option
Only one USB port (in the center console) and no back seat charge ports
16 MPG city/22MPG highway
36 month/36,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty
60 month/60,000 mile power train warranty
36 month/36,000 mile roadside assistance
Price of the model we drove: $40,005
Disclosure: Mazda provided the CX-9 for our review; opinions expressed are all our own.