The 2022 Mazda CX-9 marks the sixth year of existence for this three-row crossover that has been with us since 2017, making it an elder statesman in this fast-moving segment.
Nonetheless, it continues to deliver a sharp, almost-fun-to-drive experience that rivals can’t match, along with a high-quality cabin that punches well above its price point. However, third-row passengers won’t be so thrilled with the cramped quarters, as the CX-9’s relatively tidy dimensions compromise passenger and cargo space.
Mazda knows how to make pretty vehicles, and while the CX-9 is getting long in the tooth, the SUV’s simple, sleek elegance still holds up. The top-shelf Signature, at a little over $55,000 before tax, gets dressed up with 20-inch alloy wheels, a grille featuring titanium grey inserts, and special lighting. Around back, the Signature gets unique dual chrome exhaust outlets.
All Mazda CX-9 models come standard with a safety suite that consists of adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assistance, automatic high-beam headlights, and rain-sensing wipers. To this, the Signature model adds a comprehensive head-up display, 360-degree camera views, and road sign recognition.
Most folks go the three-row crossover route for one main reason: they want the ability to haul plenty of people and/or stuff – and they probably don’t want a minivan. This is where the CX-9 trails its more boxy rivals, as its flowing lines and narrower bodywork hamper ultimate interior capacity. The twin third-row seats are tight even for children, and behind it is a relatively paltry 407 L of hatch space. For the sake of comparison, the brooding Kia Telluride has 595 L behind the third row.
With its second-row captain’s chairs, the CX-9 Signature is a six-seater, and with a full complement of passengers there’s really no room for luggage. Instead, it’s best to think of the third row as for occasional use only (although there are four cupholders back there). When properly equipped, the CX-9 will tow 1,587 kg (3,500 lb).
User Friendliness: 7/10
It’s easy to get familiar with the 2022 Mazda CX-9 thanks to its clear, simple gauge cluster and generally sensible ergonomics. The HVAC system is managed by a control panel on the centre stack that features a pair of rotary controllers for temperature, plus an array of hard buttons for mode, fan speed, seat heat and ventilation, defrost, and the list goes on.
Just aft of the mechanical P-R-N-D gear selector sits the rotary controller and accompanying array of buttons for accessing the infotainment system. The system is streamlined and intuitive, but it could really use a rethink for stereo access. Granted, the single twist/push/nudge rotary knob allows for an elegant and uncluttered dash, but even the simplest request (selecting a preset or changing sources, for example) requires too much menu searching, button pressing, knob twirling, and screen glancing to be considered less distracting than a simple touchscreen.
This being the top-shelf model, the Signature gets a considerable smorgasbord of kit. Included are 20-inch alloy wheels, lovely Nappa leather with quilted stitching and piping, heated and ventilated front seats, a fine 12-speaker stereo, head-up display, 10.25-inch infotainment display, navigation, a heated steering wheel, heated second-row captain’s chairs, LED headlights, rear door sunshades, a sunroof, and a power tailgate.
The finely honed interior shows obsessive attention to detail and material choice. The brown leather, aluminum accents, and open-pore rosewood on the door panels and centre console are a delight to the senses. There’s not a cheap bit of trim to be found.
Also included is a two-year subscription to Mazda’s connected services that allows for remote access to services like engine start and the locks, as well as navigation services, vehicle status, and roadside assistance.
The CX-9 runs with a 2.5L turbocharged four-cylinder that makes up to 250 hp and a robust 310 lb-ft of torque if you’re running on 93 octane. Said torque arrives at 2,500 rpm, giving the CX-9 reasonably effortless urge right from the get-go. Thanks to clever management of the exhaust stream, the turbo spools up fast and early. For a big four cylinder, it’s refined and smooth, and since the power tapers off above 5,000 rpm there’s no need to thrash it. It is paired to an equally well-behaved six-speed automatic transmission that shifts smoothly and avoids undue hunting.
The CX-9 Signature’s front seats show a Germanic firmness that’s good for the long haul, and this is echoed in the similarly trimmed second-row captain’s chairs. As noted earlier, third-row passengers don’t fare so well as space is tight and access awkward; it’s suitable for two smallish children, but you wouldn’t want to put any adults back there (that you like) for an extended run. The fly in the ointment here is a firm ride that gets jarring over bad surfaces – the price to be paid for the CX-9’s relatively athletic demeanour. No doubt, the less stylish 18-inch wheels found on the GS trim would smooth things out a bit. However, the CX-9 Signature makes for a fine highway companion, dispensing with long distances in quiet confidence.
Driving Feel: 8.5/10
For those who might want a bit of driving fun after dropping the progeny off at school, the CX-9 is happy to deliver. The natural-feeling steering directs this lengthy SUV with accuracy, and while it’s no sports car, it dives into corners and carves an accurate path like no other three-row crossover.
Mazda touts its so-called G-Vectoring Control system as a key to the CX-9’s handling. When entering a corner, engine torque is reduced, resulting in slight deceleration which shifts weight to the front tires, enhancing turn-in responses. It basically mimics what a good driver would do, but with more precision.
Fuel Economy: 8.5/10
After an extended road trip, the on-board computer showed a heart-warming consumption rate of 9.2 L/100 km, and the full week concluded at a respectable 10.6 L/100 km. It can run on regular-grade with almost no performance penalty; it makes 227 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque on 87-octane. The official figures for Mazda’s three-row are 11.6 L/100 km in the city, 9.0 on the highway, and 10.4 combined.
With an all-in price of $55,150 including freight, the 2022 Mazda CX-9 Signature feels worth every penny, such is the upscale experience it delivers. And compared with top trim models of major competitors (Honda Pilot Black Edition; Hyundai Palisade Ultimate Calligraphy; Ford Explorer Platinum) it represents good value.
The 2022 Mazda CX-9 Signature comes off as a quality piece. The doors close with a bank-vault thud and the exterior is an exercise in subtle elegance that thankfully bypasses the current trend where no grille, crease, or bulge seems too garish. And the cabin – its design, top-shelf materials, and obsessive attention to detail elevate the experience to something that punches well above the big Mazda’s sticker.
The CX-9 is not for everyone, as most shopping in this segment are looking for maximum space. But if this fiercely independent automaker’s inspired ethos is what floats your boat, the CX-9 Signature is a wonderful vehicle.
|Engine Cylinders||Turbo I4|
|Peak Horsepower||250 hp @ 5,000 rpm (227 hp with 87-octane fuel)|
|Peak Torque||320 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm (310 lb-ft with 87-octane fuel)|
|Fuel Economy||11.6 / 9.0 / 10.4 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||407 / 1,082 / 2,017 L behind 3rd/2nd/1st row|
|Model Tested||2022 Mazda CX-9 Signature|
|Price as Tested||$55,550|
$300 – Machine Grey Metallic, $300