2013 Mazda CX-9 Road Test and Review: Introduction

2013 Mazda CX-9 Road Test and Review: Introduction

Mazda is at a crossroads. On the one hand, it has spent years building a reputation as a zoom-zoom performance brand, one supplying fun-to-drive character in everything it builds. On the other hand, the automaker’s divorce from Ford coupled with demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles has forced Mazda to develop its new SkyActiv engine technology to maximize fuel economy and meet future efficiency regulations. As a result, its current lineup is split between vehicles developed with the goal of achieving the former, and of achieving the latter.

The 2013 Mazda CX-9 is a 3-row, 7-passenger crossover suv meant to be fun to drive. It is updated this year, equipped with new styling, new features, and other minor upgrades. However, it would appear that Mazda has not addressed two of the family SUV’s more significant flaws with this 2013 re-boot, which makes it a tough sell to its primary audience: parents looking for value in a crossover.

2013 Mazda CX-9 Road Test and Review: Models and Prices

Mazda sells the 2013 CX-9 in three different levels of specification: Sport ($30,580), Touring ($33,025), and Grand Touring ($35,580). Choose all-wheel drive, and the price rises by $1,590.

In addition to standard equipment for the CX-9 Sport, this model can be upgraded with an 8-way power driver’s seat, heated cloth front seats, and heated side mirrors. Otherwise, it is necessary to select the CX-9 Touring for upgrades.

The Touring model adds leather seats, an 8-way power driver’s seat, a 4-way power front passenger’s seat, heated front seats, heated side mirrors, and auto-off headlights. Safety-related upgrades include rear parking assist sensors, a reversing camera, and a blind-spot information system. An optional Touring Technology Package adds a power sunroof, a power tailgate, keyless passive entry with push-button staring, a Bose audio system, satellite radio, a navigation system, and fog lights.

Grand Touring models add 20-inch aluminum wheels, automatic bi-Xenon HID headlights, LED running lights, fog lights, and turn signal indicators embedded into the side mirror housings. Speaking of mirrors, the CX-9 is equipped with a “tilt-in-reverse” function for the side mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and memory for the mirror and driver’s seat settings. Additional upgrades with Grand Touring trim include a power tailgate, Mazda Advanced Keyless Entry & Start, a universal garage door opener, rain-sensing wipers, a center storage console for the rear center armrest, a alarm system, a cargo cover, Bordeaux interior trim, and chrome door handles.

A Grand Touring Technology package (power sunroof, Bose audio, navigation, satellite radio) is optional for the CX-9 GT. This model can also be upgraded with a rear-seat entertainment system, which includes the Bose sound system, satellite radio, navigation, and a DVD player with a rear 9-inch viewing screen and a 115-volt power plug complemented by gaming jacks. A Towing Prep Package is also optional for Grand Touring models with front-wheel drive.

For my zip code in Southern California, Mazda’s website adds an unexplained $425 surcharge for the 6-speed automatic transmission to every front-wheel-drive variant. Extra-charge Crystal White Paint is also optional for all models, along with cargo storage solutions, all-weather floor mats, cargo rack roof rails, remote engine starting, and more.

My Meteor Gray Mica CX-9 Grand Touring AWD had the GT Technology Package, and a sticker price of $39,605. As this review is written, Mazda is offering 0% financing for 60 months on the CX-9.

2013 Mazda CX-9 Road Test and Review: Design

What’s New:

Redesigned front end
Updated rear styling
Grand Touring adds bi-Xenon headlights and LED running lights
Grand Touring adds Satin Chrome 20-inch aluminum wheels
Grand Touring adds Bordeaux interior trim
Zeal Red and Meteor Gray paint colors
Sand leather interior color
Black leather gains suede trim and red contrast stitching

For 2013, the Mazda CX-9 is restyled from the windshield forward, now equipped with automaker’s “Kodo” design theme. As is typical of such a re-fresh, the new look works better on vehicles like the CX-5 and Mazda 6, which were designed from the ground up to reflect the tenets of this styling approach. Here, on the CX-9, it looks like the nose job that it is. Nevertheless, it represents an improvement over the previous model. We just wish the 20-inch aluminum wheels that come standard on the Grand Touring model were offered for the Touring variant.

Inside, the CX-9 looks much the same as it has since it debuted for the 2007 model year. Sand-colored leather is a new option for 2013, and when wrapped in Black leather, the seats have suede trim and red contrast stitching. Grand Touring models also feature vertical trim elements in a Bordeaux color that isn’t as off-putting as it might sound. A new 5.8-inch color touchscreen is also included for the 2013 CX-9, which looks smaller in size than what Mazda installed in previous examples of its family crossover.

I’ve got no quibble with the Mazda CX-9’s interior materials. The company provides soft padding where occupants are most likely to come into contact with the interior, and uses hard plastic in the spots that are rarely touched. The new suede material looks good on the door panels, but I’d rather it wasn’t on the seats, even if it does add visual contrast. I’m also glad to see that the CX-9 is equipped with a fabric mesh headliner. Overall, the Mazda CX-9 GT’s cabin looks convincingly upscale.

2013 Mazda CX-9 Road Test and Review: Comfort and Cargo

What’s New:

Grand Touring adds standard power liftgate

When getting into the Mazda CX-9’s front seats, you’re going to want to watch your head. The SUV’s rakish windshield pillars and leading roofline pose a threat when entering and exiting the vehicle, especially if you like to sit tall behind the wheel, as I do.

Once settled in, occupants are likely to find the front seats comfortable, though the 4-way power front passenger’s seat in the Grand Touring model could use additional adjustment options. The driving position is excellent, and outward visibility is great. Mazda designed the 7-passenger CX-9 with large rear quarter windows that really help to open up the cabin and keep the third-row seat from serving as a total penalty box, and the third-row headrests collapse to improve visibility when the seat is raised by nobody is riding in it.

The CX-9’s second-row seats are mounted low, and are relatively flat, lacking thigh support for taller passengers. The seat slides forward and the seatback tilts forward to aid access to third-row seat, returning to a position that leaves just enough legroom in both rows, as long as adults don’t mind being severely cramped. Graceful entry and exit to and from the third-row seat is impossible. Also, note that the tracks in which the second-row seat slides are susceptible to the detritus that accompanies transfer of children, trapping food, small toys, writing utensils, etc.

The CX-9’s third-row seat is like most of its ilk: low, thin, flat, with no foot room, very little legroom, and head restraints that are flush with the rear window. However, due to the sloped rear glass, the CX-9 offers 17.2 cu.-ft. of cargo space behind the third-row seat than other crossovers, more than a midsize sedan if you stack to the glass and fill the bin under the cargo floor.

To maximize cargo room, fold the third-row seat, but note that this task cannot be accomplished without first sliding the second-row seats up a bit so that the large third-row headrests can clear them. So configured, the CX-9 swallows 48.3 cu.-ft. of your stuff. Fold the second-row seats in half, and this crossover SUV supplies a generous 100.7 cu.-ft. of maximum cargo volume.

2013 Mazda CX-9 Road Test and Review: Features and Controls

What’s New:

Standard 5.8-inch multi-information display
Standard HD Radio and USB port
Standard Bluetooth with music streaming capability
Standard SMS text messaging capability
Grand Touring adds mirror and driver’s seat memory

In terms of the CX-9’s control layout, Mazda provides a symmetrical array of buttons and knobs that are clearly marked, logically grouped, and easy to use, and this crossover SUV’s gauges are a model of clarity. Surprisingly deep front cupholders are designed to secure beverages even when taking corners at an enthusiastic speed,

By Christian Wardlaw