2012 Mazda CX-9 Review

2012 Mazda CX-9 - Perfect solution to a minivan.


In my world, the Mazda CX-9 is the perfect solution to a minivan or
bulky SUV. It seats 7, it has a sexy design, and it has a very Zoom-Zoom

I specifically requested this vehicle while I was heading to my oldest
sister's for a family get-together. In addition to driving more than 500
miles round trip, I knew there would be 6 passengers at some point
during the test and some serious shopping that always happens when the
Ciminillo women get together.

The CX-9 did not disappoint.

The long road trip was more than comfortable for me and my middle
sister. And we both fully appreciated the front heated leather seats
that came with the Grand Touring all-wheel drive tester. Road noise was
minimal and the overall ride was smooth. I thought there was just enough
connection to the road to provide some excitement, yet I didn't end up
feeling every rut and pothole from Chicago to Indianapolis.

The CX-9 comes equipped with a very nice 3.7-liter V-6. Mated to a
6-speed automatic transmission, this spiffy engine delivers 273
horsepower, which was more than enough power to haul more than 4,300
pounds around town. Whether I was passing or accelerating from a stop,
the CX-9 always had just the right amount of oomph.

The trade off: fuel economy. While the numbers aren't abysmally low like
you'd find in a large full-size SUV, the numbers in the CX-9 aren't
particularly pretty at 16 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway for
the AWD model. During my mostly highway weeklong trek, I averaged around
21 mpg.

I love the way Mazdas look. I'm particularly fond of the swooping design
that takes a large vehicle and makes it look positively petite. The long
sweeping lines with just a bit of a hard corner around the wheels give
the CX-9 just a bit of an edge and separates it from all the other
sweeping swoopy SUVs out there.

The interior is an exercise in simplicity. Nothing terribly outrageous
or exciting, but nothing overly bland and boring either. All the buttons
and knobs are in intuitive placed on the center stack, and everything
you need is within each reach. Plus, the red-and-blue lights on the
behind the wheel gauges also provide a nice pop of color.

The up-level test vehicle came equipped with all the whistles and bells,
from optional navigation and rear backup camera to hands-free Bluetooth
calling. My favorite feature, however (aside from the heated front
seats), was the Bluetooth streaming audio. My sister, who is the master
of music mixes, was able to sync her iPhone and provided hours of
continuous music with nary a commercial or repeat. Thank goodness since
construction traffic added an extra 2 hours to our return trip.

My main quibble with these great tech features is the inability to set
them up while moving. I get the whole safety issue, believe me. But when
you have a passenger in your front seat and she can't fiddle with the
navigation or sync her phone while in motion, it kind of ticks me off. I
mean, technology has advanced such that the car can detect a front
passenger so it knows to turn the airbag on or off. Why can't this same
sensor enable navigation and sync when said passenger is detected?

Instead, I found myself more than once in highway traffic hurrying up so
I could come to a complete stop (on the highway) so my sister could
adjust functions halted by motion. Not only is this annoying, but I
imagine it's less safe than allowing the front passenger access while in

One other quibble of note: Since the CX-9 has Bluetooth streaming audio,
there is no USB port. Sure, there's an auxiliary jack for mp3 players
that aren't equipped with Bluetooth. But I have to admit, I've come to
depend on using the USB rather than the lighter port to charge my phone.
So I missed that option during then test week.

Even though I don't have children, I can clearly see the CX-9 has a lot
going for it in the family vehicle department. The step-in height is
manageable for children, and the middle seat will fit 3 children (or 2
adults) quite comfortably. the rear seat, though it can fit a couple of
average-sized adults, is better suited to children -- not only because
of leg room but also because the rearward climb  is a bit awkward.
Perfect for a child who likes to climb, not so good for a
less-than-bendy adult.

The test vehicle had the affordable power lift gate option, which I
think is a must for anyone who often approaches a vehicle with hands
full. Another must: the not-so-affordable rear entertainment system. At
more than $3k, this option includes surround sound, Bose audio and a
9-inch screen. While no price is too steep to preserve sanity on a
family road trip, I would like to see this feature at a lower price

As you would expect in a vehicle intended for family consumption, the
CX-9 is chockfull of standard safety feature. Included at every trim
level: anti-lock brakes, stability control, dual front and side airbags,
3-row side-curtain airbags and side impact door beams. My favorite
safety feature, which is standard at the Grand Touring level: blind spot
monitoring. This has quickly become one of my favorite safety features
on larger vehicles because it provides an extra set of eyes, as well as
an audible tone to make sure you're paying attention.

The Mazda CX-9 comes in 3 different trims, and you can opt for FWD or
AWD at each level.

Sport: $30,180 - $31-570 -- Even the base model is pretty well equipped
with halogen headlights, 18-inch wheels, 3-zone automatic climate
control, cloth seats and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity.

Touring: $32,100 - $33,490 -- Stepping it up one level, you'll add
auto-off headlights, heated font seats, leather seating surfaces and an
8-way power driver's seat.

Grand Touring: $34,190 - $35,580 -- At this top-of-the-line model, these
up-level luxury features become standard: Xenon HID headlights, halogen
fog lights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, 20-inch wheels, diver's
power seat memory, keyless entry and start, blind sport monitoring and
anti-theft alarm system.

I love the way the CX-9 looks, and I love the way it drives. The Grand
Touring model had pretty much everything I could possibly want on a
vehicle, including the pricey navigation and rear-seat entertainment
options. So, while the entry into this car is affordable (love it), to
get it equipped the way you might want it for a family, you're probably
going to be looking at a vehicle that's close to $40k.

Jill Ciminillo

Jill has been writing about cars for more than 15 years, representing the female point of view amongst her predominantly male colleagues. And since something like 80 percent of all car-buying decisions are either made by or influenced by women, that's nothing to sneeze at. Formerly the online automotive editor for the Chicago Sun-Times, the print auto editor for Pioneer Press Newspapers and the automotive editor for the Sinclair Broadcast Group, this 5th percentile (aka petite) female tells it like it is from the fun to the functional. Jill recently served as the first female president for the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and currently sits on its Board of Directors as President Emeritus. Jill is a syndicated automotive writer and acts as the managing editor for the Pickup Truck + SUV Talk website.