Move mass in style

Herald Sun - Motoring - - SHORT CUT -

VALUE

It is hard to fault Mazda’s sev­enseat soft-roader for the stan­dard fea­tures. Beyond the qual­ity of the fin­ish and the full com­ple­ment of ac­tive driv­ing aids is an eight-inch in­fo­tain­ment screen with sat­nav, 12-speaker Bose stereo, LED head­lamps, head-up dis­play, leather up­hol­stery and tri-zone air­con. The only thing miss­ing is An­droid/Ap­ple smart­phone mir­ror­ing. Ser­vic­ing in­ter­vals are 12 months/ 10,000km. Over three years that will cost $1512 for four vis­its if you drive close to the na­tional av­er­age of 14,000km a year or $1113 if you visit only on an an­nual ba­sis.

COM­FORT

The CX-9 is as close as you can come to a pre­mium SUV with­out pay­ing for a Euro­pean badge. The in­fo­tain­ment con­trol dial mir­rors the func­tions found in the Ger­man mar­ques and the cabin lay­out is er­gonom­i­cally sound and aes­thet­i­cally smart. Stor­age is ex­cel­lent through­out the cabin and there’s 230L of cargo space with all seven seats in use. The only blem­ish on the in­te­rior pre­sen­ta­tion is the ab­sence of sep­a­rate air vents for the pair of rear seats.

SAFETY

About the only sen­sor, cam­era and al­go­rithm-based trick the Azami doesn’t do is drive it­self around curves. Ac­tive lane­keep­ing as­sist means the CX-9 will try to cen­tre it­self be­tween the lines if the cam­era de­tects the car is drift­ing to­wards ei­ther edge. It works rea­son­ably un­ob­tru­sively and is a good ad­junct to the adap­tive cruise con­trol with stop and go func­tions. Au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing op­er­ates from 5km/h to well beyond the speed limit. The cur­tain airbags ex­tend to all three rows of seats.

DRIV­ING

The 2.5-litre turbo does a more than ad­e­quate job of keeping the big SUV on a roll. The key is 420Nm from just 2000rpm, which grad­u­ally ta­pers to 375Nm (still more than any petrol-pow­ered ri­val) at 4500rpm. In con­cert with a slick six-speed auto, it en­sures the Mazda can be mo­ti­vated with very lit­tle ef­fort. Mazda claims a com­bined fuel use of 8.8L/100km, or 11.4L around town. We logged 12.8L in pri­mar­ily city run­ning, which is im­pres­sive given the Azami weighs just un­der two tonnes. The sus­pen­sion suc­cess­fully strad­dles the di­vide be­tween com­pli­ance and cor­ner­ing, though the big 20-inch rims will thump into large pot­holes.

ALTERNATIVES Toy­ota Kluger Grande $78,595 drive-away

The AWD Kluger is loaded — stand­outs are au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing plus a nineinch screen to keep the rear seat oc­cu­pants en­ter­tained.

Nis­san Pathfinder Ti $73,752 drive-away

Driv­ing aids and a smooth V6 make the seven-seat Nis­san a prac­ti­cal choice for car­ry­ing the fam­ily but it lacks the ride and han­dling pol­ish to chal­lenge the class lead­ers.

Kia Sorento GT-Line $65,118 drive-away

Kia doesn’t do an all-wheel drive petrol Sorento but this re­fined diesel is a great op­tion. Oo­dles of space, solid han­dling and a well-fin­ished in­te­rior make it se­ri­ous al­ter­na­tive to the CX-9.

VER­DICT

An im­mensely stylish ap­proach to mass tran­sit and bet­ter value than the Kluger. One of the bet­ter seven-seat SUVs to punt along a back road.

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