Mazda CX-9 GSX 2016 new car review

Space is part of what buyers are looking for when they purchase a large SUV: for the kids, for gran and for the dog.

Richard Edwards
Richard Edwards
Expert Reviewer | Auto Media Group

Space is part of what buyers are looking for when they purchase a large SUV: for the kids, for gran and for the dog.

Exterior , 4.5 out of 5 Drive , 4.5 out of 5 Safety , 5 out of 5 Value , 4 out of 5

Overall score , 4.5 out of 5

The good
  • Fuel-efficient turbocharged drivetrain
  • Space, space and more space
  • Drive-focused cabin
The not-so-good
  • Struggles to get all its power down

If for nothing else, space makes the CX-9 a bit of a winner in the market. We drove the front-wheel-drive GSX model for a week recently during a house move, stacking more items into the car than I swear you could fit into a small van.

Inside and out

Mazda claims 230 litres of space behind the third row of seats, 810 with that row folded flat into the floor. While Mazda claims it is ahead of the Toyota Highlander in some measurements, a quick check indicates the pair are on pair.

It's still a welcome achievement for a vehicle that feels slightly smaller, sportier and less truck-like than the segment leader.

Even in ‘base’ GSX form, the CX-9 is a luxurious beast, with standard leather, 8-inch colour touch screen, climate control air conditioning and heated front seats. An extra climate control zone for the rear is a nice touch at the price point.

The dash layout is a sporty affair, looking very much like the setup out of the Mazda6. It is driver-focused and has a refined, detailed look to it as well.

There is plenty of safety equipment, including intelligent items such as blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and autonomous emergency braking.

Arguably disappointing, the GSX misses out on niceties the Limited adds such as radar cruise control which operates down to stop, smart brake support, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, driver attention alert, and forward obstruction warning.

It will tow a class-standard 2000kg braked trailer.

On the road

Where the CX-9 really distances itself from others in the segment is its choice of drivetrain. Do diesel or big V6 - which the outgoing model used - instead there is one choice, a 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol ‘Skyactive-G’ engine producing 170kW of power and 420Nm of torque. It is teamed to a six-speed automatic transmission with front and all-wheel-drive options.

The CX-9 uses 8.8-litres per 100km on a ‘real world’ combined cycle, compared to 7.7-litres per 100km for what is likely to be its key competitor, the Hyundai Santa Fe, and tough to achieve 11-litres per 100km on the outgoing CX-9.

We believe the numbers too. A weekend away in Napier with some spirited highway driving, stop-start traffic and three people on board gave us a result of 9.5-litres per 100km.

Likely helping fuel economy is weight, the CX-9 being nearly 200kg less than Toyota’s offering.

It makes it a reasonably nice drive for what is a large vehicle.

The CX-9 shares the same SkyActiv platform as the Mazda6 and CX-5, so it has McPherson strut front suspension coupled to an independent multilink set up at the rear. It rides well, with the GSX rolling on 18-inch wheels, that probably looks a little undersized on the car compared to the Limited model’s 20-inch rims.

If there was a negative to the driving experience, and this is probably the only major negative of the whole car, it is that it struggles to get power to the ground in a smooth way.

Even at speed, too much throttle will equate to a squirm in the steering as the chassis decides to do with all the torque. We tried the all-wheel-drive model as well and felt the same feeling. It's nothing major, and something Mazda’s G-Vectoring system will hopefully correct in a future update.


There is a lot of choice in the SUV market at the moment and something for everyone. If you want diesel, the Korean brands have plenty to offer. Toyota with the Highlander has size, presence, and a V6 engine, the same with Nissan’s Pathfinder.

The Mazda CX-9 offers a little bit of everything. Economy, power and space. If there is something that puts its nose ahead of the pack, it is a touch more style, and refinement. It's a great all-rounder.

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