Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
The new Mazda CX-9 seats seven while providing a fuss-free approach that helps to make it one of the best value-for-money SUV crossovers. Courtesy of Mazda
The new Mazda CX-9 seats seven while providing a fuss-free approach that helps to make it one of the best value-for-money SUV crossovers. Courtesy of Mazda
The new Mazda CX-9 seats seven while providing a fuss-free approach that helps to make it one of the best value-for-money SUV crossovers. Courtesy of Mazda
The new Mazda CX-9 seats seven while providing a fuss-free approach that helps to make it one of the best value-for-money SUV crossovers. Courtesy of Mazda

Road Test: 2013 Mazda CX-9

The refreshed SUV deserves to be a much greater success, writes Kevin Hackett.

Unlike many manufacturers, Mazda doesn’t really shout about itself from the rooftops. It just quietly goes about its business, making (truth be told) excellent and interesting cars that almost make it the Saab of the Japanese motoring industry. Far from being downtrodden underdogs, however, Mazda owners must feel a sense of satisfaction knowing that they’re not following the herds, just enjoying being individuals with a keen eye for value for money.

A case in point is the CX-9 crossover SUV – a physically enormous vehicle that, by rights, should be a sales success in the Middle East. But when was the last time you saw one? Probably when I used it on the commute between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, although onlookers might not have known what it was. But that’s no indicator of worth, is it? And the CX-9, although it’s been around in basically the same guise since 2007 and has recently been treated to its second facelift, has a great deal to offer the discerning family motorist.

The refresh is basically limited to a revamped rear, plus a new nose design that, while looking ever so slightly awkward, is a big improvement on its messy predecessor and brings it into line with the rest of Mazda’s range. The drivetrain remains the same, being a Ford-sourced V6 that displaces 3.7L, mated to either the front or all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.

Mazda’s interiors are functional rather than flashy, but they’re pleasantly designed (the hard dashboard plastics are unwelcome, though) and the inside of the CX-9 is cavernous. Three rows of seats make it ideal for larger families, although the rears can be a bit of a squeeze for anything other than children, and when the seats are folded down there’s enough space to hold a conference. There’s even a hidden compartment in the floor that’s big enough to house your laptop and a few other bits and pieces – intuitive, intelligent design abounds and it’s quite welcome.

On the move, the biggest of all Mazdas is really well-behaved and handles well (for such a large vehicle at least), seeming to be much smaller when you’re behind the wheel. Performance isn’t exactly breathtaking, even with such a large engine, and it does like to drink, consuming around 15 litres for every 100km (official figures claim 12.3 litres, which still isn’t brilliant). But it does eat the roads as well as drink the fuel, making a great long-distance cruiser that’s quiet and refined at speed. The ride is supple, just on the verge of being firm, which helps negate its sheer size and weight when negotiating roads that aren’t arrow straight.

One thing that really does seem odd about the CX-9 when it’s at speed, though, is the steering feel. When crawling around city streets, it feels heavier than when you’re flat out on an empty highway, which is surely the wrong way around. The upshot is a tendency to drift about at high speeds and a need to constantly correct the wheel but, like many things, it’s something that you get used to over the course of a few days.

Despite its four-wheel-drive pretensions, this is never going to make a decent off-roader, and Mazda doesn’t pretend otherwise. Instead, it’s a load-lugging, family swallowing, flat cornering car that, as mentioned, feels smaller than it actually is – quite a feat to carry off. When you find yourself nitpicking over things to find fault, it’s usually the mark of a decent car and, apart from the odd steering feel and the car’s thirst, the only other thing that I can complain about is the touch-screen infotainment system. Made by TomTom, it’s a satnav that doubles up as a sound system control pad, and it’s a bit fiddly to use. But the worst aspect of it is that it looks like a total afterthought that’s just been fitted at a car accessory shop during your lunch break. Having said that, there are 10 Bose speakers in the CX-9, and the sounds that they make are uniformly excellent.

Would you consider buying one? Obviously it’s a vehicle for a specific kind of customer and it isn’t as “in your face” as its competitors from the US, which might put some people off, but despite its plain and fuss-free approach to design, it’s probably the best of its type. If you’re in the market for a vehicle that seats seven human beings in comfort and safety, ignore the CX-9 at your peril, because it offers a great deal for not much outlay.

khackett@thenational.ae

Follow us @LifeNationalUAE

Follow us on Facebook for discussions, entertainment, reviews, wellness and news.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Thoughtful tailoring at Asudari

The womenswear label Asudari showcased a collection that featured sharp masculine tailoring, but with feminine silhouettes.

Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games.

Designer Lamia Asudari says she was influenced by Delftware ceramics from the 16th century, as well as the imagery of weaponry and artillery. Indeed, pistols, grenades and guns were emblazoned over jackets and dresses.

 Several of Jo Baaklini's pieces featured fruit prints. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: At Starch, watermelon shirts, anyone?

“We need to cultivate our own fashion heroes — our own regional brands,” stressed Fashion Forward’s honcho Bong Guerrero in a press con two weeks ago.

Aptly, the slot for this season’s opening runway show was given to two newbies: Jo Baaklini and Timi Hayek, whose talents were scouted by Starch, a group dedicated to launching emerging Lebanese designers.

Between the two, Mr Baaklini had a stronger showing.

 Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece. Stuart C. Wilson / Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Jean Louis Sabaji’s debatable debut

Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece, the floral crop top, and the radiant yellow pleated skirt.

But most of the time he went too far. There were bell-bottoms, separates that looked like costumes from The Jetsons, and a yellow dress reminiscent of Bjork’s infamous Oscars swan dress — several disparate elements in one multicoloured, multilayered show.

 Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all.” Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Kage pleases all palates

Did the designers of Kage aim to showcase every type of basic clothing on their latest show?

Because there were skirts, shorts, trousers, off-shoulder tops, short dresses, cocktail dresses, long flowy dresses, spaghetti straps, jackets, hoods — and even pyjamas, which with the incoming summer heat, looked especially appealing.

Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all”, they said in their statement.

 The standout was a grey hooded cape that created a tension between edge and elegance. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Polish, craft (and fur!) at The Emperor 1688

The best show of Day 1 at Fashion Forward was delivered by the three Golkar brothers behind The Emperor 1688.

The coats and capes were the clear winners: they came in all sorts of interesting colours and sizes — and featured exceptionally tailored proportions. There was a lot of volume, but also stiffness.

And whimsy: two favourites were a green double-breasted suit and a blue overcoat with a red clover pattern and gold buttons.

 Midway through Ezra's show, snow started falling from the ceiling. Ian Gavan / Getty Images for Fashion Forward

Fashion Forward: Ezra stuns in snow-covered show

Turns out the Filipino designer Ezra, known for his dreamy couture, still had a few surprises up his sleeve.

Midway through his show, snow started falling from the ceiling.

It created a starkly beautiful atmosphere for his intricately constructed gowns that seemed to be designed for an Ice Queen transported back to the 1950s.

He showed a collection that had a lot of technical firepower behind it: glittering iridescent fabrics paired with head and neckpieces that were moulded and stiffened to stand out in odd angles.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National