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2010 Mazda CX-9 Review – An SUV with plenty of room and a little zoom

Monday June 7th, 2010 at 3:66 PM
Posted by: gmchan_66

2010 Mazda CX-9
By Gary Chan

Pros

  • Driving position
  • Cavernous with all seats folded
  • Lots of features for price

Cons

  • Weak gas mileage
  • Choppy ride
  • Limited leg room for 2nd and 3rd row seats

When the Mazda CX-9 debuted a few years ago, I thought it was aggressively styled unlike any other SUV’s at the time. Now a few years later, the freshened version has arrived for 2010, and I was eager to finally test drive Mazda’s full-size crossover. How would it drive? Would it be sporty and fun to drive like the Mazda 3 or RX-8? Would it be practical?

If you keep up with the print mags, it would be easy to think that every journalist, blogger, and PR flack loves Mazda’s CX-9. Car & Driver thinks its one of the 5 Best Trucks of 2008, Automobile Magazine made a spot for it on their All-Stars list, Motor Trend named it Sport Utility of the Year, and USA TODAY even went as far as calling it “about perfect.” We put 300 miles on the 7-seater in our best attempt to debunk the CX-9′s mythical grandeur of SUV perfection and walked away with all of our questions answered.

2010 Mazda CX-9

Driving Impressions

This front wheel drive (FWD) CX-9 was the Touring model with a 4.3-inch LCD Multi-Information Display (MID) with back-up camera, and 6-disc CD changer included as optional equipment. In addition, it had the power moonroof & Bose Audio package ($2,255) that upgraded the equipment and speakers (10 of them) as well as adding satellite radio. Additionally, the Power Liftgate package ($617), plus keyless entry and start system, made the CX-9 easier to use.

The first thing I noticed was that the steering is responsive and light. That light touch feels a bit artificial and over boosted in around-town driving. The interior is fairly quiet, but not as insulated as some SUV’s – though I’ve experienced this noisy trait in other Mazdas I’ve driven. In normal mixed driving, the gas mileage is a bit disappointing with a 17.4 mpg average for 270 miles of driving (I hit the half-tank mark at only 160-miles).

Cruising on the freeways was a pleasure with a commanding view of the road. I picked up my brother and his two kids in the Mazda; my brother and nephew sat in the second row, and my niece maneuvered her way to the 3rd row after folding the sliding the 2nd row forward. In real world use, the 3rd row would really only work for small children as there is very limited leg room when the 2nd row is moved back to its normal position.

Backing up and parking the CX-9 was easy during the day because the area behind the vehicle was well illuminated and visible on the small LCD screen. At night, however, the backup lighting is dim, and one must watch image closely to see what is behind the vehicle – definitely a challenge.

2010 Mazda CX-9

Build

The Mazda is well manufactured, but the “feel” of the construction is less. For example, closing the large doors doesn’t result in a solid “thunk” like other cars; rather they feel too light.

The interior plastic buttons and switches have positive tactile feel, and most are clearly and cleanly labeled. One annoying rattle emanated from the center console under the arm rests – probably all ill-fitting plastic piece. With my arm resting on the console, the noise went away.

The seat leather is smooth and stiff with even stitching throughout. Second row seats slide easily forward with the pull of a lever allowing easy ingress/egress for the third row.

Covered mostly in plastic, the engine compartment nonetheless provides its owner with easy service access to all fluids.

2010 Mazda CX-9 interior

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics

The ergonomics of the Mazda’s largest SUV are well designed with controls placed in intuitive and ergonomic positions such as the steering wheel controls and HVAC knobs. On the dash, a column of gear position lights are flanked by a large tach and speedometer on the left and right, respectively. The center dash (above the HVAC controls) is a bit busy with lots of buttons (some aren’t labeled).

Mazda CX-9 leather wrapped steering wheel, center consoleMazda CX-9 leather-trimmed seatsMazda CX-9 Electroluminescent gauges

The small information screen required you to focus on the information displayed a bit longer than if it there was a larger screen; I just couldn’t quickly read the words in a glance. At the very top of the center stack was a small, sliver of a display which showed temperature, fan speeds, and basic trip/mileage information. Again, the small icons and lettering in addition to the orange-ish LCD coloring made it hard to decipher/see in bright sunlight.

Finding the perfect driving position is easy with the heated, front seats that are 8-way adjustable with power lumbar controls in combination with the tilting/telescoping steering wheel. The steering wheel controls include both cruise and audio/phone; I appreciated the toggling switches that controlled vehicle speed and audio volume: push up or down for faster speed/higher volume, or down for lower speed/volume, respectively.

Mazda CX-9 60/40 split folding rear seats100.7 cubic feet of cargo space with all rear seats folded48.4 cubic feet of cargo space

Bluetooth sync was simple with my Sanyo phone, and reports from the other end of my calls said my voice was clear and loud but a bit artificial. The three-zone HVAC system allowed my niece and nephew to control their climate in the 2nd row.

It is a large vehicle, and I was able to easily fit four full-sized and two slightly-larger-than-full-sized adult males (with three guys in the 2nd row!) for a short trip around town.

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