Here is a quick video review of the midsize crossover SUV offering from Mazda. The CX-9 is well-balanced and very nice overall. Among other SUVs in its class, I find that it ranks above average in most every category, though perhaps standing out in no particular category. There’s simply aren’t any major things most people will find objectionable about it, though I did manage to come up with my usual list of minor annoyances, if only for the sake of completeness. It’s among the larger midsize models, similar to the Honda Pilot and Buick Enclave we have reviewed. It handles pretty well for such a large vehicle, while at the same time having decent road noise and ride comfort qualities. That’s a trade-off some manufacturers never seem to balance well. The styling, both interior and exterior, are quite nice as well.

In terms of child passenger seating, the second row is just wide enough to fit three-across with careful selection of carseats.  The middle seat isn’t quite as functional as the one in the Honda Pilot, but certainly more useful than the handy removable seat in the Toyota Highlander.  The second row moves back far enough to allow for installation of a rear-facing seat and still leave some legroom in the front seats.  The only issue I had in the second row was that the seatbelt buckle stalk for the passenger side seemed to get lost easily, making it hard for my son to find in order to buckle himself in a booster.  The LATCH anchors are somewhat recessed and angled downward a bit, but shouldn’t be a problem for most carseats.  That did make installation of the rigid LATCH Clek Oobr take a few extra seconds to install!  Here’s an overview video; apologies for the windy Chicago weather on the audio!

The third row is cramped.  It’s not going to give enough legroom for adults on a longer trip like a minivan would.  Plus, there are no LATCH or top tethers present.  The shoulder belts are mounted forward slightly, making the fit a little less than ideal for younger kids in a backless booster.  Combined, that makes the third row most useful for kids in high back boosters, older kids & teens using seatbelts and perhaps small adults for shorter trips.  You can install a smaller rear-facing seat there if necessary, but only if you move the second row seats all the way forward, limiting the legroom there.  Access to the third row is fair; easy for kids with help moving the seat forward, but not so easy for adults.

Top 10 Likes:

  1. Blind spot system is one of the best I’ve seen
  2. Sharp exterior styling, especially with 20″ wheels
  3. Relatively quiet on the road
  4. Fairly smooth ride, even with the large wheels
  5. Good handling and braking for its class
  6. Good power all around, from a stop or passing
  7. Interior design and quality very good
  8. Cargo space behind third row is decent for the class.
  9. Second row middle seat just wide enough for some 3-across
  10. Entertainment system and surround sound worked very well

 

Top 10 Dislikes:

  1. No NHTSA crash test result yets, marginal IIHS roof crush and head restraint ratings.
  2. Lack of LATCH or top tethers in the third row
  3. Forward mounted shoulder belts in third row
  4. Third row not big enough for most adults
  5. Fuel economy is mediocre
  6. Bose sound system is just OK for music
  7. No collision or lane departure warning system
  8. LATCH anchors can be difficult to access
  9. Narrow seatbelt stalk placement in the second row passenger seat can make it tricky for a child to buckle in some boosters
  10. Quirks: Clock and temperature displays could be more prominent, funky amber/blue displays, wife and I both hit our heads a few times getting into the front seats.

 

Overall, I think the 2012 Mazda CX-9 offers a lot to families and I had a lot of fun driving it.  It even powered through one of the few snowfalls we had in Chicago this winter without any problem.  It’s definitely a step up in size and interior room from the Mazda5, though it is also more expensive and gets worse fuel economy.  Sure, it doesn’t have the safety ratings of a Buick Enclave, the ride comfort or quietness of a Toyota Highlander, the handling of a Kia Sorento or the child seating flexibility of the Honda Pilot.  On the other hand, it does everything pretty well and doesn’t really fall too far short in any particular area.  That makes it a great all-around choice in the segment.