Cockburn Gazette - - DRIVE WAY - Bill Buys

MAZDA likes to cover all bases with its var­i­ous mod­els and it's no dif­fer­ent in its CX-9 peo­ple-mover.

The big seven-seater can be had in fron­twheel drive or all-wheel drive form, in Sport, Tour­ing, GT or Azami trim, with prices start­ing at $42,490 and climb­ing more than $20K to $63,000-plus for the toprank­ing model.

All have the same gutsy 170kW/420Nm turbo-charged 2.5-litre mo­tor, paired with an ex­cel­lent six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

Our test car was an all-wheel drive GT, sec­ond from the top in the peck­ing or­der and priced at $61,390.

Very much a big­ger ver­sion of the CX-5, which is the na­tion's favourite SUV, the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion CX-9 is wider and taller than its pre­de­ces­sor, a frac­tion shorter from nose to tail, but it has a longer wheel­base for ex­tra com­fort and in­te­rior space.

It’s a good-look­ing ve­hi­cle, its smooth lines mak­ing it look smaller than it re­ally is; and it re­ally is big.

In­side, you get a dou­ble-deck in­stru­ment panel with sporty ana­logue in­stru­men­ta­tion, head-up dis­play, a 7-inch cen­tral touch­screen, a leather-trimmed, ad­justable steer­ing wheel, su­per seat­ing – two in front, three in the mid­dle, two in the back – an elec­tric sun­roof, leather trim, dual-zone air­con, a Bose au­dio sys­tem, front and rear park­ing sen­sors, and a widean­gle rear view cam­era.

Other niceties in­clude auto-on head­lights and wipers, an elec­tric tail­gate, pullup shades for the mid­dle row and a set of eye-catch­ing al­loy wheels.

There are air vents for the sec­ond row but not for the third.

The in­te­rior also has lots of cup hold­ers and stor­age nooks, two USB ports, an aux point and 12V power out­lets.

So you get A1 ac­com­mo­da­tion, easy-to-fig­ure out Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity, and a pleas­ant, spa­cious, comfy and quiet ride.

De­spite its bulk, the CX-9 han­dles much like a car and it's only when you try to squeeze it into a park­ing bay at the su­per­mar­ket that you re­alise its size.

Those tight bays were marked out years ago, be­fore the ad­vent of SUVs and big, dual-cab utes.

The 2.5-litre turbo is a smooth, re­spon­sive en­gine that can take the ve­hi­cle to 100km/h in about 8.5sec­onds via the smooth-shift­ing six-speed auto, yet it has an av­er­age fuel con­sump­tion of only 8.8litres/100km.

Cargo-wise, there’s 230 litres avail­able with all seats in place, ex­pand­ing to 810 with the back row folded down and a mas­sive 1641 with all the rear seats laid flat. Tie-down hooks are stan­dard too.

The CX-9 has all the safety stuff of the day, in­clud­ing auto emer­gency brak­ing, blindspot mon­i­tor­ing and a tow­ing ca­pac­ity of 2000kg braked.

The only fault I found was in the ve­hi­cle's press kit, which on sev­eral oc­ca­sions used ‘prin­ci­pal’ in­stead of ‘prin­ci­ple’. But that's hardly the ve­hi­cle's fault.

Ver­dict: A fine mix of lux­ury, safety, per­for­mance, econ­omy and more than a bit of us­able space.

Mazda's CX-9 is a re­fined ex­am­ple of space on wheels.

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