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2023 Mazda CX-9 Review: A Sporty Three-Row SUV

2023 Mazda CX-9 Review: A Dynamic Three-Row Sport Utility Vehicle

Presenting the 2023 Mazda CX-9, a dynamic three-row SUV intended for individuals who value enjoyment over interior room and efficiency. Competing with the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot, among numerous other three-row crossover SUVs, the CX-9 offers three rows of seating. It is a crossover SUV focused on the driver, which may or may not align with the needs of your family. Despite below-average cargo and third-row space, the 2023 CX-9 is attractively priced, exquisitely appointed inside, and refined in terms of driving experience.

The 2023 Mazda CX-9 stands out from typical family-oriented crossover SUVs, making it an excellent option if you want to create a presence in the carpool lineup. Featuring sporty lines and a stunning interior, this stylish vehicle exudes elegance. With subtle curves and a prominent shield-like grille at the front, the 2023 CX-9 is subtly alluring. While the CX-9 adopts soft curves and hints of unpainted plastic for a touch of ruggedness, its low stance differentiates it from the Jeep lineup. The vehicle looks particularly stunning in the optional Soul Red color.

The 2023 Mazda CX-9 delivers an enjoyable driving experience, although it may not win in a drag race. Mazda prides itself on producing sporty cars, and the CX-9 certainly fulfills that promise compared to other three-row SUVs. Its refined handling compensates for its average acceleration. Additionally, all-wheel drive comes as a standard feature. However, it’s not advisable to take the CX-9 off-road due to its extended overhangs, indicating that it isn’t designed for serious off-roading.

Equipped with a 2.5-liter turbo-4 engine, the 2023 Mazda CX-9 generates 227 hp using regular unleaded fuel. Opting for pricier premium fuel increases the power output by an additional 23 hp. The turbo-4 delivers acceptable acceleration but not exceptionally rapid. At idle, the turbo-4 produces a soft hum and emits a sporty, raspy sound under heavy throttle. While the smooth 6-speed automatic transmission operates seamlessly, it features fewer gears compared to competitors with eight or ten speeds, resulting in lower fuel efficiency and occasional sluggishness.

Despite its moderate pace, the CX-9 delivers outstanding steering feel and balanced handling. The substantial steering wheel provides limited feedback but offers consistent resistance and commendable precision. Even with the standard 18-inch wheels, the vehicle delivers excellent grip. These smaller wheels, except for the base version, provide the best ride quality, although every CX-9 offers controlled and comfortable driving experience. Exhibiting composure more akin to a mid-size sedan rather than a large SUV, the CX-9 confidently takes on twisty roads and maintains its trajectory well at high speeds on windy roads.

The 6-speed automatic transmission hampers the 2023 Mazda CX-9’s fuel efficiency. It’s not particularly economical in this aspect, with EPA estimates at 20 mpg city, 26 highway, and 23 combined. While it accepts regular fuel, opting for the more expensive premium unleaded unlocks an extra 23 hp. For most daily driving tasks, the marginal increase in power may not be noticeable.

Exceptional crash-test ratings make the 2023 Mazda CX-9 a highly secure option, with top scores from the IIHS and the NHTSA, along with a comprehensive suite of standard safety features. Every version comes with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and active lane control. In unavoidable crash scenarios, the IIHS asserts that the CX-9 holds up well enough to garner a Top Safety Pick+ score, and the NHTSA rates it at an overall five stars.

Internally, the CX-9 exudes simplicity and sophistication, particularly in the range-topping Signature trim. The purposeful dashboard is minimalistic, devoid of an abundance of knobs and buttons, albeit at the expense of a user-friendly infotainment interface. The robust, three-spoke steering wheel and crystal-clear gauges convey all essential information, emphasizing the CX-9’s driver-centric focus. The CX-9’s interior trim is where it truly excels, with standard leather upholstery that can be upgraded to plush nappa hides with genuine wood accents, a rare offering in mass-market brands.

The 2023 Mazda CX-9 is essentially a two-row SUV with an occasional-use third row. If you frequently require three rows of seating, there are superior alternatives available. The CX-9 is a comfortable, well-equipped SUV with ample space for four occupants and their belongings, albeit not much more. Cargo space is relatively modest for a three-row SUV but still substantial, providing 14.4 cubic feet of space behind the third row, expanding to 38.2 cubic feet behind the second row, and reaching a maximum capacity of 71.2 cubic feet.

The front seats feature standard power adjustment for the driver and heating for both occupants, delivering firm yet supportive comfort. Most versions come with captain’s chairs in the second row, accessible via generously-sized doors. Accessing the third row is challenging, and the available space once seated is limited, resembling the space found in a Spirit Airlines cabin—adequate but with an increased likelihood of reaching your destination promptly.

The 2023 Mazda CX-9 offers commendable features and value despite space being a premium. The CX-9 Sport is priced at $40,025 this year, which is relatively high for a base three-row SUV yet still offers substantial value with its standard features. It includes advanced safety and driver-assistance technologies, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, heated and power-adjustable leather seats for the front occupants, a wireless charging pad, a power-operated tailgate, a sunroof, and 18-inch alloy wheels, in addition to standard all-wheel drive.

The Touring Plus, priced at $42,775, is a sensible step up, adding 20-inch alloy wheels, ventilated front seats, a second-row console, and additional USB ports. The CX-9 lineup tops out at $49,735 for the Signature, which comes equipped with a surround-view camera system, Bose audio, a heated steering wheel, nappa leather upholstery, and genuine wood trim. It’s lavishly equipped compared to some competitors that cost significantly more. However, Mazda’s 3-year/36,000-mile warranty is somewhat unremarkable.

For those seeking a three-row crossover that excels in on-road dynamics and doesn’t constantly require all seven seats, the 2023 Mazda CX-9 is an excellent choice. We recommend considering the Touring Plus, as it offers nearly all the amenities of the Signature without the exorbitant price tag. Regardless of the trim level, you’ll still receive a fantastic driving SUV prioritizing family safety, coupled with Mazda’s proven reliability, all within an incredibly stylish SUV.

Image Source: Yauhen_D / Shutterstock

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