Move mass in style
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.