2020 Mazda CX-9: The Family Sized Miata
Let me explain.
Introduction and Background
The CX-9 was first introduced for the 2007 model year powered by a Ford V6. In 2008, Mazda equipped the CX-9 with a 3.7 L V6. The second generation, and current generation, has been around since 2016. The first generation was never really paid attention to. It was extremely reliable, but lacked style and wasn't interesting whatsoever. The CX-9 used to be an afterthought in the SUV world of the time, the current CX-9 is different. I think it really shows what Mazda is about.
Trims and Pricing
Four trim levels are available for the 2020 CX-9, Sport, Touring, Grand Touring, and Signature. A base, front wheel drive Sport starts at $34,990 including the destination fee.
A last minute run to Costco will be quick in the CX-9 due to it's 250 horsepower SKYACTIV turbocharged 2.5 4-cylinder paired to a SKYACTIV 6-speed automatic. That's right, turbocharged. Maybe this SUV isn't so boring. This engine choice is an interesting one, V6s are the most common in SUVs such as the CX-9. 250 horsepower is excessive, but you have to have some fun, right? The CX-9 is also available with front or all wheel drive, excluding the Signature, which is exclusively all wheel drive.
Is It Truly A Large Miata?
This may come as a surprise, but statistically, it's close. The current Miata has 181 horsepower and weighs about 2,400 lbs. The CX-9 has 250 horsepower and weighs about 4,300 lbs. If you do the math, the CX-9 has about double the horsepower, and less than double the weight, so it basically evens out. The Miata will do 0-60 1.2 seconds faster than the CX-9 mainly because of the Miata's higher rev limit. Where the CX-9 isn't a Miata is in looks, suspension and drivetrain (Miata is RWD CX-9 is AWD/FWD automatic/manual, etc.) In my opinion, the CX-9 is a large Miata. You see, Mazda probably knew that people wanted a more practical Miata. Who wouldn't? The CX-9 is their answer.
The CX-9 does well in fuel economy due to it's 4-cylinder engine. Front wheel drive versions get an EPA rated 22 city / 28 highway, not bad for a relatively large SUV. All wheel drive variants will do a respectable 20 city / 26 highway. These numbers are better than rivals such as the Hyundai Palisade, however, it does not accomplish better, or even as good, MPG as the Ford Explorer.
Interior Comfort and Features
Mazda is known for their tasteful interiors, and in the CX-9 it is no different than expected. Notable standard interior features include heated front seats, a MAZDA CONNECT infotainment system, drivers seat power lumbar and a 7" inch infotainment screen. Apple CarPlay is a $200 option on the Sport trim level, kind of surprising for a $34,000 car. The $2,100 Touring Premium Package is great value, including features such as a Bose Surround Sound system, more USB ports, front and rear parking sensors, a moonroof, and more. 2nd row captains chairs are a $0 option on the Touring trim level. There must be a catch, right? Of course! If you want them, you have to get the Touring Premium Package! Ahh, I see...On Grand Touring and Signature trim levels, 2nd row captains chairs are standard.
On Trims including and higher than Touring, heated front and rear seats as well as ventilated front seats, and a heated steering wheel are standard. A 9" inch infotainment screen is standard on Grand Touring and Signature models. Cargo space is one of smallest in its class, with just 14.2 cubic feet behind the 3rd row and 71.2 cubic feet including the 2nd and 3rd row seat area. For comparison, the Ford Explorer, which is the same length, has 18.2 cubic feet behind the 3rd row and 87.8 cubic feet including the 2nd and 3rd row.
Mazda is an extremely safe brand these days, and 2020 brought a suite of standard driver assistance features to the CX-9 including blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, brake support, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, Mazda Radar Cruise Control with Stop and Go (Adaptive cruise control), and lane departure warning with lane-keep assist. As far as ratings, the CX-9 received 5 stars from the NHTSA, and earned a Top Safety Pick + award from the IIHS, a very difficult rating to earn.
I think it's safe (see what I did there) to say that the Mazda CX-9 is an extremely bloated Miata. I would dub the 2020 CX-9 as the best 3 row SUV under $35,000 due to it's amazing safety and sporty dynamics. And let's not forget about styling! I, for one, love the rear of the CX-9, as well as the interior, which could easily be in a BMW or Volvo. Overall, the 2020 Mazda CX-9 is a great, sporty, family SUV that is great in virtually all areas that anyone would care about. You might get laughed at if you go to the track with it though.