2013 Mazda CX-9

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Date Posted: January 12, 2013
By Zack Spencer

Mazda's flagship 7-passenger crossover gets an update for 2013, including new styling and interior tweaks.

Canadians are in love with the idea of sitting higher in a vehicle, to look over traffic, having four doors for easy access and a hatch design for removing and placing items with ease. The modern crossover vehicle fills this spot in the market, replacing the minivan appeal that raged in the 1980 and 90s. Compact cars are still the best sellers in the country but the compact crossover is catching up. You will notice that “compact” is a common theme; our tastes and budgets are not as large as they are south of the border, where bigger crossovers rule the road. That being said there is always going to be a need for a 5 or 7 passenger crossover, for those families with more than three children or the need to tow a trailer. The majority of intermediate crossovers come from the Detroit automakers, including the Ford Explorer, Ford Flex, Dodge Durango and the GM trio of Chevy Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave. The imports include the new Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot to name a few. As you can see from the choices this new 2013 Mazda CX-9 has some tough competition.

The Skin

Until a few years ago Ford and Mazda shared many components, engines and platforms to build their vehicles. The relationship has changed but this CX-9 is a carryover from that interconnected time. This CX-9 is built from the same platform used in the Ford Flex, Edge and Explorer. Ford developed their products to suit their buyers and Mazda took the basic platform and turned it into this CX-9. They are similar but with a unique attitude. With the introduction of the smaller CX-5 last year, there was a shift to a new design language, called KODO or “Soul in Motion”. It is supposed to look like an animal in motion. A bit of marketing mumbo-jumbo, the reality is they have a new “face” and this CX-9 has been given the upgrade for 2013. The 5-point grille and chrome accents centre the eagle eye influenced headlights. At the back features duel exhaust pipes, new taillights and new bumper. The base GS trim comes with 18-inch alloy wheels and the top GT model gets the 20-inch wheels seen here.

The Cockpit

With a starting price of $33,995, this CX-9 is more expensive than the roughly $30,000 Ford Explorer and new 2013 Nissan Pathfinder. The interior of the Mazda is as attractive as the competition and has some new additions for this model year. The biggest change is the inclusion of a 5.8-inch information screen in the centre console for information and entertainment readouts. Bluetooth is standard along with the ability to play music through the stereo from your smartphone without plugging it in. The Bluetooth was easy to set-up and it recognized my phone each time, even remembering the last song played. This is not the case with many new vehicles. The back seat is roomy and comfortable and can slide forward with just one lever being released. The third row isn’t huge but does offer a usable option for families who require this ability. What is different about the Mazda CX-9 is the fit and finish is above average in this class, the materials look and feel well made and provides an almost premium feel.

The Ride

The ride of the CX-9 is the one area that separates this crossover from the Ford products based on the same platform. What Mazda has always placed in high regard is the handling of their vehicles. All that “Zoom-Zoom” marketing actually has some substance. The way the suspension is tuned is different, and the result is a more engaging ride. The front and rear suspension are independent, for the best agility and the spring and shock rates are unique to the CX-9. The steering is very light at slower speeds but on the highway it firms right up. The CX-9 can be thrown into a corner with ease. Yes, there is body role but the handling never fades away. The only complaint I have when it comes to handling is the rather vague steering feel when driving straight. It has little feedback to the driver, almost disconnected. Powering the CX-9 is a large 3.7L V6, something that is an option on many of the Ford products but comes standard here. It is good for 273hp and sends the power to the front wheels or all wheels when the GT trim is chosen. AWD is available on the less expensive rim for $2505.

The Good, The Bad

Good:

Nice interior and styling

Bad:

There are lots of products available for this price. Steering feel is vague.

Zack’s verdict

Even though the market for intermediate crossovers isn’t large in Canada, there are plenty of choices. This is one segment that the American automakers dominate and lead. The good news for Mazda CX-9 buyers is that they benefit from the leadership position that Ford has but it is wrapped in Mazda’s way of thinking. The interior is clean and uncluttered compared to the overly complex for MyFord Touch entertainment system, plus the standard engine is more powerful than much of the competition. Unfortunately Mazda does not lead in the value department but they know how to put together a very well thought-out crossover.

The Lowdown

Power: 3.7L V6 with 273hp

Fill-up: 12.7L/8.4L/100km (city/highway) 

Backup: 3-year/36,000km

Sticker price: $33,995-$44,750

 

Unfortunately Mazda does not lead in the value department
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