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.
Blind spot system is one of the best I’ve seen
Sharp exterior styling, especially with 20″ wheels
Relatively quiet on the road
Fairly smooth ride, even with the large wheels
Good power all around, from a stop or passing
Interior design and quality very good
Cargo space behind third row is decent for the class.
Second row middle seat just wide enough for some 3-across
- Entertainment system and surround sound worked very well
Top 10 Dislikes:
- No NHTSA crash test result yets, marginal IIHS roof crush and head restraint ratings.
- Lack of LATCH or top tethers in the third row
- Forward mounted shoulder belts in third row
- Third row not big enough for most adults
- Fuel economy is mediocre
- Bose sound system is just OK for music
- No collision or lane departure warning system
- LATCH anchors can be difficult to access
- Narrow seatbelt stalk placement in the second row passenger seat can make it tricky for a child to buckle in some boosters
- 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.
Thanks! This video was extremely informative and helpful. I will be installing a rear facing Chicco Keyfit infant car seat, and this review (& especially the video) were helpful placement tips with installation. Thanks again for the very informative video!
Thank you for the reply. This blog and videos where a huge help in our consideration of a vehicle for our growing family (2 kids one on the way).
We did decide to go with the CX-9; mainly because it was cheaper than buying a minivan (Honda was our first choice). While not as practical as a minivan, and not as popular as the Traverse, the CX-9 leaves you feeling pleased and it is easy to find in the parking lot.
For now, we have our oldest sitting in the 40 split, and the ff 2year old in the 60 split. We did install an infant in the middle of the second row seat and could not fold down the 40 split (our infant carrier is a larger one) However, placing it in the 40 split did allow the seat to move fwd as my oldest (7) was able to climb in the back – yes she loves getting into her third row seat via the hatch too!
Again… thanks for the reply, and videos!
Hi William- With two carseats installed in the 2nd row, it could be a challenge to access the third row from the door. One possibility is that the older child could use a forward facing Safety 1st Go Hybrid seat in the 40 split section. This carseat has a flexible back and will allow for the vehicle seat to move and fold a bit more than other models. We have a review of it here at CarseatBlog. Another option would be to have an older child load through the rear hatch, with one of the two rear seats folded to allow them to get into the other third row seat. A final option might be to consider an SUV that has an aisle in the second row, such as the 7-passenger Chevrolet Traverse (or Acadia/Enclave) or the Toyota Highlander that has a removable center seat for aisle access.
I understand this review is a year old… but I have a question. How difficult is it for a child to crawl into the back third row seat with a fwd facing car seat in the second row (also includes an infant seat/rear facing) without bunching them together on the 60 split section?
Two sets of LATCH is pretty typical for midsize SUVs, unfortunately. Most companies seem to only put in the bare minimum required by federal standard, even knowing that it is a vehicle often used by families with more than a couple kids. The Toyota Highlander and Kia Sorento come to mind offhand as having many of the same issues in the third row, including no LATCH, no top tether and forward mounted shoulder belts. Even the Buick Enclave lacks any additional LATCH positions, but because the 7-passenger version does not have a second row center seat, so you at least get the required 3rd top tether anchor in the third row.
Great review, Darren! And thank you Crunchy for the excellent follow-up comments. Do I understand correctly that this 7-passenger vehicle only has 2 full sets of LATCH anchors and presumably a tether anchor for the center seating position in the middle row? If so, that’s pretty lame.
I think you nailed it with this review. I hit my head a couple times in the first month and my son loses the seatbelt buckle, too. They’re prone to disappearing entirely in the third row.
Here are my complaints after driving one for about a year and a half.:
-the trim pieces seem cheap. We have lots of squeaks and rattles, and several loose pieces (weather stripping around the door in particular).
-The rear doors are loooong. It makes it difficult to open them wide enough to buckle younger kids and I’m perpetually worried about my children hitting other vehicles when opening them- to the point that I wish I’d just gone with a van for the sliding doors.
-The third row is difficult to access, even with the second row sliding forward. I think I’d prefer captain’s chairs like you find in similar GM vehicles.
-I’m still getting used to the low gas mileage.
Overall, I wish I’d bought a van with the stages my kids are in. I long for easier access and better fuel economy.