2020 Mazda CX-9 Review
  • Car Review

2020 Mazda CX-9 Review

By Autolist Editorial | November 12, 2020

Quick Facts:


  • Somehow, a very sporty 7-seater.
  • Good standard safety tech.
  • Luxury feeling interior punches above its class.


  • Children only third row seat, and limited cargo space.
  • Clunky user interface.
  • Only a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Would we buy one? Definitely.

Vehicle Type: Four-door, seven-seat midsize crossover.

Price Range: Pricing for the Mazda CX-9 Sport trim level begins at an MSRP of $34,990, mid-tier Touring and Grand Touring start at $36,810 and $42,650 respectively, while top of the line Signature trim starts at $47,315. All prices include destination, but no optional equipment.

Powertrain: The Mazda CX-9 offers only one motor, a turbocharged 2.5 liter 4-cylinder engine with 227 horsepower or up to 250 horsepower, depending on whether the tank is full of 87 octane or premium 93 octane fuel.

Premium fuel also nets an extra 10 pound-foot of torque.

A 6-speed automatic transmission handles shifting in both standard front-wheel drive, and optional all-wheel drive. AWD is standard on the Mazda CX-9 Signature trim.

Competitors: Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Subaru Ascent, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, and Chevrolet Traverse.

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Overall Score: 7.6/10

Safety Features: 9/10


The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awards the Mazda CX-9 a Top Safety Pick Plus for standard features like blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. Optional lane departure warning, and lane-keep assist are also available. The Mazda CX--9 is also one of few vehicles to receive a Good rating for LED headlights with automatic high-beams across all trim levels.

In the event of an accident, NHTSA crash testing also resulted in 5-star marks for the Mazda CX-9.

Value: 7/10


The Mazda CX-9 offers good value in several areas. In premium trims, the interior is much nicer than most other similarly priced offerings. Standard safety features, even on the base Sport trim, would be optional equipment on other vehicles.

It's hard to compare the Mazda on interior luxury or driving pleasure to anything in its class, though the more recently designed competitors from Hyundai and Kia are catching up.

The Mazda CX-9 includes a 3 year/36,000 mile limited warranty, and 5 year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty. It does not include a scheduled maintenance plan.

Tech Features: 6/10


The CX-9 Sport comes with a 7-inch touchscreen, while Touring, Grand Touring , and Signature Trims get a 9-inch touchscreen to run the infotainment system and climate control systems. All CX-9s come standard with Bluetooth and hands-free capability. Bose Audio, Navigation system, SiriusXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto are standard in the two higher trim levels. Mazda's interface is dated and a little slow when compared to other offerings across the competition.

With common feature like keyless entry, a power liftgate ,and two USB ports, the Mazda CX-9 packs in enough tech to avoid being obsolete, but it trails the competition.

Practicality: 6/10


Although technically a seven seater, don't count on the third row seats for full-size humans. With about 14 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats up and 71 cubic feet with the rear seats folded away, the Mazda offers less interior volume than nearly every competitor. When loaded down with passengers, packing light is a necessity.

The Mazda CX-9 also maxes out at a towing capacity of 3500 pounds, which again puts it behind the competition.

Mazda's intelligent AWD with off-road traction assist does make the Mazda CX-9 a decent dirt road or winter rig, particularly if you only need to transport four people and gear.

Styling & Design: 9/10


The Mazda CX-9 has an attractive and distinctive exterior look, if a little understated compared to more recently designed models in the segment.

In top of the line Signature Trim, the interior of the Mazda could compete with most luxury marks, and second-row captain's chairs make sure the front four passengers are riding in comfort. Nappa leather seats and wood trim put the CX-9 at the front of its class. The Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring Trim is nearly as nice, including leather seats, a power moonroof, power rear seat sun shades, and both a heated steering wheel and second row seating.

Even the Mazda CX-9 Sport and Touring trims come with leather covered steering wheel, alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers, and heated front seats. The Touring trim can also be optioned with a Premium Package, which gets you many of the goodies from the two higher trim levels like the LED fog lights, Bose stereo, and rear parking sensors.

Driving Experience: 9/10


The Mazda CX-9 leads the pack in the fun to drive category. Although it is a large crossover, with seating for seven, it still has the fun-to-drive character smaller Mazdas are famous for. The turbocharged engine provides enough power, and the handling is surprisingly smooth and communicative. With an AWD system that moves power to the tires with the most grip, the driver's seat of a Mazda CX-9 is not a dull place to be.

The Mazda CX-9 is the crossover for people who are willing to sacrifice some practicality and fancy tech to prove they have not given up on the joy of driving.

The one knock on the CX-9 is the 6-speed automatic transmission, which can sometimes be imprecise, and doesn't stack up against modern units with more gears.

Fuel Efficiency: 7/10


The FWD Mazda CX-9 receives EPA estimated fuel economy of 28 mpg highway, 22 mpg city, and 24 mpg combined when equipped with front-wheel drive. Opting for the AWD drivetrain does hurt mileage slightly, with the EPA rating 26 hwy mpg, 20 city, and 23 combined.

Numbers for both all-wheel drive and front-wheel drive versions of the Mazda CX-9 are above average in the 7-seat crossover segment, and reviewers reported consistent numbers compared to EPA estimates.

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