The qui­eter achiever

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Short Cut -

VALUE

The rec­om­mended re­tail price of $52,890 is a $4000 pre­mium over the front-drive ver­sion. That’s on par with what other Ja­panese brands charge but Kia gives you AWD and a diesel en­gine for just $3500 on its ex­cel­lent Sorento. Stan­dard fea­tures in­clude built-in sat­nav, leather seats and three-zone air­con with tem­per­a­ture con­trols for the sec­ond row. Mazda doesn’t charge for most of its metal­lic paints, un­like its ri­vals. War­ranty is only av­er­age at three years/un­lim­ited km and ser­vic­ing costs are on the high side at $1673 for four ser­vices at 10,000km in­ter­vals.

COM­FORT

Mazda has done a good job with noise sup­pres­sion on the CX-9. In the past, the brand has strug­gled to quell road noise but this model is quiet and re­fined. The heated front seats are big and comfy for long-dis­tance cruis­ing, with enough sup­port to keep you from slid­ing around on the leather. Sec­ond-row leg and head­room are gen­er­ous and the third-row seats have more room than most. You can also mix and match the legroom with the sec­ond and third rows. One glar­ing omis­sion is the lack of air vents for the third row — older ri­vals have them. There’s no auto tail­gate ei­ther. There are plenty of USB out­lets, in­clud­ing two in the sec­ondrow arm­rest, which also has a handy stor­age space for phones.

SAFETY

Mazda is an in­dus­try leader in stan­dard driver as­sis­tance tech­nol­ogy that is op­tional on much more ex­pen­sive ve­hi­cles. The CX-9 is no ex­cep­tion. Apart from the manda­tory re­vers­ing cam­era, it has blindspot mon­i­tor­ing, emer­gency brake as­sist and rear cross traf­fic alert for drive­ways. For slip­pery sur­faces there is hill start as­sis­tance and the car also has seat belt warn­ing lights for all po­si­tions, so you can make sure the kids are all buck­led up. It got 35.87/37 in crash tests, earn­ing it five stars.

DRIV­ING

Some ri­vals have diesel en­gines for bet­ter fuel econ­omy and tow­ing abil­ity but the Mazda sticks with petrol power to shift its nearly two tonnes. The 2.5litre turbo four-cylin­der is punchy, though, de­liv­er­ing brisk acceleration off the mark and im­pres­sive urge when asked to over­take. In the front­drive ver­sion, the power some­times over­whelms the tyres and the steer­ing wheel will tug un­der full power — AWD quells that, de­liv­er­ing more trac­tion, es­pe­cially in the wet. The CX-9 han­dles cor­ners and bumps im­pres­sively for such a big heavy wagon, sit­ting flat when chang­ing di­rec­tion and de­liv­er­ing good feed­back through the steer­ing wheel.

AL­TER­NA­TIVES

Toy­ota Kluger GXL, from $55,190 Big and com­fort­able, with a pow­er­ful V6, but be­gin­ning to show its age. A new model is due this year. Kia Sorento Plat­inum, $55,590 More ex­pen­sive but bet­ter equipped and comes with a fru­gal and punchy diesel en­gine. Was our 2015 Car of the Year.

VER­DICT

The CX-9 is a solid choice for fam­ily mo­tor­ing. It feels sportier than its ri­vals and there’s plenty of space for the kids and lug­gage. The in­te­rior is well fin­ished, if lack­ing the mod­ern feel of some in the class, while the en­gine is a rip­per.

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