By Duncan Wachira
Ever since Mazda decided to replace the CX-9 in 2016 with an all-new model, the three row SUV has continued to gunner popularity and success all over the world. The CX-9 is proof that Mazda’s fun-to-drive zoom-zoom formula used for small cars like the Mazda 3 compact saloon can also work well on a three-row SUV. This matched with a blend of head turning looks, spacious interior, lively performance and an attractive price.
The Mazda KODO design has been on an upward trend from 2011 when it premiered in the CX-5 compact crossover. On the CX-9 the KODO design gives the premium SUV a stunning look.
The grill design mirrors other models in Mazda line up with its V like shape. Although the large central grille has trickled down to other models such as the Mazda 3, it looks best on the flagship CX-9.
Flanking the grille is a set of sharp headlights that give the Hiroshima manufactured SUV a sharp and sporty look. To give its SUV broader shoulders, Mazda employed a design line that starts in the hood and carries through to the rear fenders.
Break up the rear boot’s design is a single piece of chrome trim that unites both rear LED lights. Visually speaking, the rear lights appear relatively small, considering the CX-9’s size. However, that has largely to do with the fact that they wrap around the rear fender.
The rear bumper is also quite sizable, with the plastic cladding stretching to the end of the powered boot lid. The seven-seater SUV measures slightly over five metres in length and the width is nearly two meters. The CX-9 appears significantly smaller than its footprint might suggest, thanks to its design.
Behind the large grill is the famous SKYACTIV-G 2.5T power plant, which powers other models in the line up from the compact Mazda 3 saloon to the CX-5 and its 7-seater sibling the CX-8. With a displacement of 2500cc and four cylinders the direct-injection turbocharged engine delivers 250 hp and 450 Nm of torque. It can accelerate from 0 to 100 in under 7.5 seconds. You would be forgiven for thinking that a 2.5-litre engine is small for such a large 1865kg SUV.
Thankfully, the engine works incredibly well, even with a fully loaded car. Everything from standing-start acceleration through to overtaking is done with ease thanks to the wide torque band on offer, a characteristic of most SKYACTIV engines. The gearbox is smooth and pairs well with the engine.
The six-speed automatic uses a convectional torque converter that delivers smooth driving. Selecting the Sports button on the centre console holds the gear shifts in order to boost acceleration. The engine works well with Shell’s V-power as compared to fuelling it with the unleaded petrol. Mazda quotes the fuel consumption rate at under 8.8 litres per 100 kilometres.
There is plenty to love inside the Mazda CX-9. Regardless of where you look, the CX-9 screams luxury. On top of the dash, you’ll find a soft leather-like material that covers the top portions. As you work your way down to the chrome-lined air vents, you’ll notice additional subtle plastic touches. It is worth noting that although these trim pieces are plastic, they feature a pleasant texture that serves to refine their look.
Behind the leather wrapped steering wheel, you’ll find Mazda’s semi-digital instrument cluster. Instead of just being a flat-screen, the instrument cluster features chromed arches that resemble analogue gauges. Aside from being tastefully finished, the CX-9’s screen is selective with the information it shows you. While there are various safety systems on board, you only get visual notifications when they are updated instead of a constant feed of sensor and camera warnings.
Turn your attention to the centre of the dash, and you’ll find a new 10.25-inch infotainment display, which runs the Japanese brand’s latest ‘Mazda Connect’ operating system featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring. The system comes pre-installed with local navigation maps as standard. The new system boots up quicker compared to the old MZD based infotainment system.
Mazda’s rotary dial controller allows you to quickly and accurately manoeuvre the system. The CX-9’s 12-speaker Bose sound system features a 294-Watt amplifier and speakers scattered throughout the cabin. Sitting directly ahead of the driver is a head-up display that shows the current speed, any navigation commands, cruise control information and detected speed sign information.
The seats themselves are infinitely comfortable. Both the driver’s 10-way adjustable seat and the front passenger seat are heated and cooled. Second-row passengers get access to a fold-down centre armrest with USB charging ports, along with their own climate control zone and heating for the two outer seats.
Access to the third row is through a clever one-touch button that drops the seat and slides it forward. It allows easy access to the third row, even for adults. There’s also a clever recess in the lower portion of the C-pillar for kids to grab when climbing in. While it’s primarily built for kids and small people, the third row can be used by adults with the second row slid forward slightly.
Storage spaced is pegged at 230 litres with the third-row seats upright and expands to 810 litres by folding the third row into the floor.
The ride is fantastic. The CX-9 does an excellent job of handling the bumps and undulations on both tarmac and corrugated roads. The all-wheel drive system only activates when the car detects a slip from the front wheels.The additional rear differential lock makes it easier for one to free the CX-9 from sticky situations. A full suite of active safety technologies, including forward and reverse autonomous emergency braking with an integrated pedestrian detection system, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, lane-keep assist, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and driver attention monitoring, make the drive easier and more pleasurable especially on long trips.
The CX-9 is an attractive offering from Mazda. There is plenty on offer from its head turning looks, powerful and thrifty power plant together, the posh and spacious interior plus a long list of standard equipment make it the premium SUV to have. Visit CMC, the franchise holders for Mazda, Nairobi Showroom located along Lusaka Road. The CX-9 is priced at Kshs 7.8 million.