2021 Mazda CX-9

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2021 Mazda CX-9 Test Drive Review: Family Fun Epitomized

First launched back in 2016, the second-generation Mazda CX-9 hasn't received a major facelift yet. Instead, Mazda has made small but meaningful updates year on year since it arrived, meaning for 2021, the CX-9 is not only better than ever, but it's a strong contender for one of the most accomplished three-row midsize SUV all-rounders, despite the segment being packed with alternatives like the Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, and Hyundai Palisade. Powered by a 2.5-liter turbo four-cylinder producing 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque and driving either the front or all four wheels, the CX-9 isn't the most powerful in its class, but its six-speed automatic is slick and its suspension strikes an excellent balance between comfort and agility. Throw in the premium interior, massive infotainment screen now standard across the range, and high levels of safety, and it's no wonder the CX-9 is a popular entrant in an overcrowded segment - it has the goods to back it up.

CarBuzz tested a fully-loaded 2021 Mazda CX-9 Signature to discover if it still manages to be one of our favorite three-row SUVs.

Read in this review:

8.1
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2021 Mazda CX-9 SUV: 🚙What’s the difference vs the 2020 Mazda CX-9?

For 2021, Mazda includes its new 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system as standard across the range with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. More advanced i-Activsense safety features come standard on the topmost trims. A new Carbon Edition model also joins the line-up. The Touring grade adds leather-trimmed front and second-row seats, a six-way power-adjustable driver's seat, and two USB charging ports for the second row. The top-spec model gets a new titanium gray metallic finish front grille, unique 20-inch alloys, and larger dual tailpipes. The top model's interior upgrades include quilted leather seats for the front and second-row seats and patterned aluminum trim on the dash, door panels, and door handles.

Pros and Cons

  • Powerful and efficient turbocharged four-cylinder
  • Impressive handling for the size and weight
  • Near-luxury cabin
  • Standard specification is generous
  • One of the prettiest three-row SUVs
  • Trunk is small compared to rivals
  • Low towing capacity
  • Third-row is just for kids
  • Transmission could use more cogs

Best Deals on 2021 Mazda CX-9

2021 Mazda CX-9 Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Sport
2.5L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$34,160
Touring
2.5L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$35,950
Carbon Edition
2.5L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$41,280
Grand Touring
2.5L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$42,140
Signature
2.5L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
$46,805
See All 2021 Mazda CX-9 Trims and Specs

2021 CX-9 Exterior

2021 Mazda CX-9 Frontal Aspect CarBuzz
2021 Mazda CX-9 Rear Angle View CarBuzz
2021 Mazda CX-9 Front View CarBuzz
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Dimensions

  • Length 199.4 in
  • Wheelbase 115.3 in
  • Height 67.6 in
  • Max Width 77.5 in
  • Front Width 65.3 in
  • Rear Width 65.2 in
  • Curb Weight 4,236.0 lbs

Exterior Colors

  • Jet Black Mica
  • Sonic Silver Metallic
  • Snowflake White Pearl Mica
  • Machine Gray Metallic
  • Soul Red Crystal Metallic
  • Deep Crystal Blue Mica
  • Polymetal Gray

2021 CX-9 Performance

2021 Mazda CX-9 Front Angle View CarBuzz
2021 Mazda CX-9 Charging Point Mazda
2021 Mazda CX-9 Engine CarBuzz

Engine and Transmission

  • Engine
    2.5L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmission
    6-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

The Mazda CX-9 SUV has earned a reputation as one of the best-driving vehicles in its class; kind of a seven-seat Miata, if you want to drink the company's Kool-Aid. It's no sports car, but the CX-9's sporting intentions are much higher than you might expect. Mazda tuned the steering rack to feel tight and responsive, making this a vehicle that feels much smaller than its dimensions imply. Well-tuned suspension keeps the ride supple over rough pavement while also keeping the vehicle composed through the corners. With high-performance luxury models excluded, the CX-9 is the most enjoyable three-row vehicle to hussle down a back road.

Most impressively, the CX-9 manages to be this enjoyable while barely compromising on comfort. Wind noise is limited and at slower speeds, the tight steering doesn't make it too tough to maneuver in parking lots. You'll struggle to find a more athletic and luxurious package without crossing into luxury territory.

2021 CX-9 Interior

2021 Mazda CX-9 Dashboard CarBuzz
2021 Mazda CX-9 Front Seats CarBuzz
2021 Mazda CX-9 Rear Passenger Seats CarBuzz
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Seating and Interior Space

  • Seating capacity
    7-seater
  • Front Leg Room 41.0 in
  • Front Head Room 39.3 in
  • Rear Leg Room 39.4 in
  • Rear Head Room 38.5 in

2021 CX-9 Trunk and Cargo Space

2021 Mazda CX-9 Trunk Space CarBuzz
2021 Mazda CX-9 Maximum Trunk Space CarBuzz
2021 Mazda CX-9 Center Armrest Bin Mazda

2021 CX-9 Safety and Reliability

Warranty

  • Basic:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles

US NHTSA Crash Test Result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 Mazda CX-9 a good car?

The 2021 Mazda CX-9 is no longer the new kid on the block but it remains a highly desirable SUV. Despite only receiving minimal updates over the years, the CX-9 is still one of the prettiest vehicles in its segment with the plushest interior. Bundle in an efficient engine with stellar performance, and the CX-9 emerges as a winner; with a few caveats. Many competitors in this space offer better practicality, newer technology, and a lower starting price.

As an overall package, we'd have a tough time recommending the CX-9 over this segment's most outstanding vehicles, the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade. Though these two aren't quite as fun to drive, they make up for it with a lower starting price, more technology, and more usable space inside. That being said, buyers who care more about how their three-row drives and how many premium materials it packs inside might still prefer the CX-9 over its Korean rivals. Aside from the Kia and the Hyundai, we still feel the Mazda CX-9 is one of the most compelling three-row SUVs money can buy in the USA.

2021 Mazda CX-9 Comparisons

Mazda CX-5 Mazda
Honda Pilot Honda
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Mazda CX-9227 hp20/26 mpg$35,630
Mazda CX-5 187 hp24/30 mpg$26,250
Honda Pilot 280 hp20/27 mpg$38,080

2021 Mazda CX-9 vs Mazda CX-5

The CX-5 looks like a CX-9 that's been reduced by 25%. The good news is that it shares many of its big brother's positive characteristics, like decent build quality, generous standard specification, engaging handling, and the same 250 hp turbocharged four-pot. There's a slightly underpowered 187 hp version as well without a turbo, but since the turbocharged model costs less than the entry-level CX-9, we'll focus on that.

You'll need to sacrifice some space, however. The CX-5 is only available as a five-seater with 30.9 cubic feet of trunk space. The CX-9 with the third row folded flat gives you 38.2 cubes.

It's hard to ignore the price gap between the two, however. This is especially relevant if you only have a family of four or five. The CX-5 may be better suited to your needs.

See Mazda CX-5 Review

2021 Mazda CX-9 vs Honda Pilot

The base price of the Honda Pilot is around $2,000 cheaper and is a more practical proposition. It can easily accommodate seven passengers with more legroom in the third-row seats. If that's your main concern, the Honda is a better option. It can also carry much more cargo, and comes with just as many safety features. But that's where the Honda's advantages end. The Mazda beats it convincingly in every other department. It's more comfortable and luxurious. It has more standard features, and the interior quality is on another level. Finally, the Mazda is better to drive, and it will return better fuel consumption figures. Unless you need the extra space or are on a tight budget, the Mazda is the obvious choice.

See Honda Pilot Review

2021 Mazda CX-9 Popular Comparisons

The most popular competitors of 2021 Mazda CX-9:

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