LISTEN to the people. Had those in government truly heard their constituents then we wouldn’t be faced with the current ridiculous stalemate.
Carmakers don’t have that luxury, and Mazda took action with issues which were holding back its large seven-seat sports utility vehicle.
The new CX-9 has arrived with a much more frugal engine, a more refined cabin and improved passenger comfort.
Entry level pricing has dropped more than $1000 to $42,490, and like others in the Mazda “CX” family it has four grades - Sport, Touring, GT and Azami – which typically get more fruit as you step up the specification tree.
It’s what you can’t hear which makes an impact. Mazda has battled with road and wind noise in the past, but dropping from a six-cylinder to a four delivered weight savings which enabled extra insulation to be added.
Where the old model only had about 7kg of sound deadening material, this new variant has 24. Add to that acoustic glass on the windscreen and front windows, along with better door seals, and it’s a cabin where there is literally no need to shout.
Interior styling takes what we’ve seen previously to another level, with a small steering wheel, swooping yet unimposing dash
Front seating offers good support laterally and at your thighs, with both the cloth and leather trim providing supple finishes.
Getting in the third row still takes some flexibility but it’s easier with the seats folding and sliding forward. You can now actually fit your feet under the second row, and while still primarily the preserve of kids, it can fit adults up to about 180cm.
There are two air vents in the centre row although none in the third.
Operationally, the controls are modern and minimalist. The shifter and controls sit high and within easy reach of the driver. It’s simpler to change between radio stations than what we’ve seen in previous Mazdas, with shortcuts to the menu sitting around the central dial.
On the road
Family schedules are full nowadays. All the after-school activities mean the tribe is often constantly on the go, with mums and dads looking for responsive machines to deliver the power when needed.
That’s why Mazda has tuned its four-cylinder turbo to achieve diesel-like performance. Hefty torque is available at low rpm, and this enables a more responsive performance under your right foot.
Unlike the old V6, you don’t need to stamp your right foot for decent results.
The tradeoff is that there isn’t much at the top end in terms of power, although this won’t phase most drivers. They’ll appreciate the sprightly take-off, and the big CX-9 feels more nimble than its size dictates.
Filling with premium 98 unleaded actually bolsters the performance, up to 186 kilowatts (from 170kW) which is only exploited high in the rev range, but it’s expected most will use standard or ethanol blend.
Offering a smooth ride the CX-9 feels refined in operation, with the six-speed auto shifting nicely, there isn’t too much lean in the bends and steering is responsive.
Both front-wheel and all-wheel drive variants are available, both feel predictable, but the latter offers greater grip.
What do you get?
Sport models get 18-inch alloy wheels, the “MZD Connect” computer system with a 17.7cm colour screen and incorporates sat nav and audio with Stitcher and Pandora apps, full Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity and three-zone climate control air con.
ANCAP awarded a five star safety rating, with reverse camera with rear parking sensors, autonomous city braking at low speeds, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and LED headlamps all standard.
Touring models start from $48,890 but also get front fog-lamps, a larger 20.3cm touch-screen display, six-way power adjusted front seats with heating function and driver lumbar support, as well as black leather trim.
Spend another $9500 to get into GT grade and you really pick up the luxury items, including 20-inch alloys, keyless entry, power tailgate, front parking sensors, head-up display projected onto the windscreen rather than a glass panel like other Mazdas and 294 watt Bose stereo with digital radio.
At just below $60,000 the Azami gets all the goodies, adding radar cruise control and other safety gizmos like lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist and adaptive headlamps, as well as black or stone leather trim.
Well regarded for a strong dealer network and access to parts, capped-price servicing is available and interval costs can be found on the Mazda website.
Expect real-world driving to deliver an average of below 10 litres/100km in the front-wheeler and just shy of 11 in the all-wheel drive variants.
Storage is well served via a nook in front of the shifter which is perfect for phones and other devices, while there are bottle holders in each door, and a pair of cup holders in the console and fold-down arm-rest in the middle row.
Access to dual USB slots is in the console bin and the rear arm-rest, while there is also a 12-volt plug on the front passenger side.
Boot space isn’t as cavernous as you might expect, although there is still an impressive 810 litres of area with the third row stowed, and 230 litres with them in place. Drop both rows and there is more than 1640 litres of space.
Designers have maintained familiar philosophies, which is a good thing given the success of the CX-3 and CX-5 in Australia.
It looks like a larger version of the stablemates, with a trademark grille and tapered roofline.
Seven colours are available, new “machine grey”, red metallic, white, silver, black, blue and titanium.
This was Mazda’s only chink in the armoury. While the old model was too thirsty and outclassed in cabin dexterity, this CX-9 takes the fight up to all key players.
While a diesel would no doubt be a useful powertrain option, this turbo four-cylinder does an impressively smooth and strong job.
Model: Mazda CX-9.
Details: Seven-seat front-wheel and all-wheel drive large sports utility vehicle.
Engines: 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 170kW @ 5000rpm and peak torque of 420Nm @ 2000rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Consumption: FWD 8.4 litres/100km (combined average); AWD 8.8.
Bottom line plus on-roads: Sport FWD $42,490, Sport AWD $46,490, Touring FWD $48,890, Touring AWD $52,890, GT FWD $57,390, GT AWD $61,390, Azami FWD $59,390, Azami AWD $63,390.