The Mazda CX-9 starts at $44,405 in Canada before freight and delivery charges.
Fun to drive, attractive design and interior finish, fuel-efficient powertrain.
Low on passenger space, under-average towing capacity, small cargo area.
The 2023 Mazda CX-9 represents the eighth model year on the market for the current-generation midsize crossover. It received very little changes during that time, yet manages to hide its age pretty well.
On the other hand, improving competition and technological progress obviously means creating new products is inevitable, and the Japanese automaker will soon reveal its all-new Mazda CX-90. We’re expecting a vehicle that’s more luxurious, more refined, more powerful and—of course—pricier than the CX-9. And unlike the latter, the CX-90 will offer a plug-in hybrid powertrain. While we wait for this model to arrive, the Mazda CX-9 is still a more than decent vehicle.
The 2023 Mazda CX-9 is equipped with a turbocharged 2.5L four-cylinder engine that develops 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. That’s when the tank is filled with regular fuel. By choosing premium with an octane rating of 93 or more, output climbs to 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet. All that is sent to the i-Activ all-wheel drivetrain via a six-speed automatic transmission.
Now, 93 octane fuel isn’t available in all service stations, and costs much more than regular 87 octane fuel. Ultimately, the 23 extra horsepower aren’t essential to the overall enjoyment of this crossover, and even if engine burns slightly leaner with the costlier juice, we don’t see the point of spending more for fill-ups. It must be said that Mazda is one of the few manufacturers that announce two output levels for its turbo engines, while others simply indicate max power without mentioning which type of fuel is required to achieve those numbers.
The 2023 Mazda CX-9’s city/highway/combined ratings are pegged at 20/26/23 mpg in the U.S., and at 11.6/9.1/10.5 L/100 km in Canada, ranking the crossover among the most fuel-efficient in the three-row midsize utility vehicle category. Its efficiency is nose-to-nose with the Nissan Pathfinder’s, and is barely surpassed by that of the non-hybrid Toyota Highlander, the GMC Acadia (with its turbo 2.0L engine) and the Ford Explorer Hybrid. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid AWD is by far the thriftiest of the segment with a combined rating of 35 mpg or 6.7 L/100 km.
During our winter drive of the 2023 Mazda CX-9, which included a family round trip from Montreal to New Hampshire, we managed a very respectable average of 24 mpg or 9.8 L/100 km.
In the United States, the CX-9 is offered in Touring, Touring Plus, Carbon Edition, Grand Touring and Signature trim levels, and pricing starts at $40,025, including freight and delivery charges. In Canada, the lineup includes GS, GS-L, GT, Kuro Edition and Signature variants, and pricing starts at $44,405. A seven-passenger layout is standard in base trims, while a six-seat configuration with second-row captain’s chairs is available, but standard in uplevel trims. The third-row seats can accommodate young adults, but they might start complaining after a half-hour on the road. Fortunately the Bose surround sound system that’s available in upper trim levels drowns out that aural nuisance very nicely.
Three-row midsize utility vehicle competition includes the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, the Dodge Durango, the Ford Explorer, the GMC Acadia, the Honda Pilot, the Hyundai Palisade, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Kia Telluride, the Nissan Pathfinder, the Subaru Ascent, the Toyota Highlander and the Volkswagen Atlas.
Why You Should Buy a 2023 Mazda CX-9
- The CX-9 is fun to drive. It was clearly designed with the brand’s DNA in mind, and is arguably the best-handling three-row crossover in its segment. It’s dynamic and sure-footed, but without the compromise of a harsh ride. There are softer and more comfortable crossovers for road trips, but the CX-9 can handle that task pretty well. It’s one of the rare big vehicles that make us drive faster than we should.
- The Mazda’s turbo 2.5L engine isn’t equipped with any kind of hybrid technology, but still manages to be fairly efficient. As mentioned above, the CX-9 is one of the most efficient of its segment. When it arrived for the 2016 model year, it stood out for being equipped with a four-cylinder turbo while almost everyone other rival boasted a six-cylinder engine. Eight years later, almost every entry in the segment is now available with a four-pot engine.
- The 2023 Mazda CX-9’s exterior design still looks as good as it was eight years ago. Well, in our opinion, anyway.
- Inside, the CX-9 does a very good impression of a luxury-brand vehicle with tasteful design and with great fit and finish. It’s easy to see that Mazda is slowly seeking to be recognized as a premium brand.
Why You Shouldn’t Buy a 2023 Mazda CX-9
- If interior space is our main purchase criterion, or even the second or third, the CX-9 may not be the best choice. Its low roofline and lack of body fat may be great for driving dynamics, they result in a cabin that’s among the least spacious in its class. Headroom, shoulder room and hip room are especially precious, and we have to make sure we don’t bang our head with climbing aboard. Once we’re settled in up front, it’s fine, but as the centre console widens when reaching the dashboard, the driver is left rubbing his or her knee against said console.
- Cargo space is also limited. The area is rated at 14.4 cubic feet or 407 litres behind the third row, 38.2 cubic feet or 1,082 litres behind the second row as well as 71.2 cubic feet or 2,017 litres behind the front seats. Simply put, it’s the smallest cargo hold in the three-row midsize utility vehicle segment, where the average size is about 82 cubic feet or 2,300 to 2,400 litres. The Enclave, the Traverse and the Pilot are way more spacious, although not all manufacturers rate interior space the same way. On paper, the CX-9 is the smallest, and in the real world, it’s one of the smallest. At least we can store the retractable cargo cover under the load floor when we don’t need it.
- Since we’re complaining about capacities, the 2023 Mazda CX-9’s maximum tow rating is 3,500 pounds or 1,588 kilograms, while segment rivals can usually tow up to 5,000 pounds or 2,268 kg.
- The Mazda Connect infotainment system is easy to use, and becomes more and more intuitive over time as we get used to how it works. We like the fact that the console-mounted multifunction knob, main menu access buttons and volume knob are all located within reach. On the other hand, those who prefer using Apple CarPlay and Android Auto won’t appreciate the system as much, as these operating systems were designed especially for touchscreens.
Visually appealing, boasting great interior fit and finish, fuel-efficient and fairly reliable so far, the 2023 Mazda CX-9 has a lot going for it, and its price remains competitive, especially the higher-end variants that can be almost considered luxury-brand products. In a nutshell, the CX-9 has aged well.
On the other hand, and this has been the case since it first appeared eight years ago, the Mazda isn’t the most spacious in its category, nor the most utilitarian with a small cargo area and limited towing capacity. It’ll be interesting to see what the upcoming Mazda CX-90 will offer compared to the CX-9, and the latter could very well be replaced by the newcomer within the next year or two. As Mazda is heading up the premium-brand ladder and we’re expecting the CX-90 to be a more expensive vehicle, the CX-9 still represents a good deal.