HOW many people buy large SUVs these days?
The answer is nearly 13,000 a month – and they have a huge selection to choose from, with more than 40 different models in that category. Yes, really.
There’s a similar picture for small and medium SUVs, emphasising the steady swing away from passenger cars, but today we’re looking at Mazda’s new biggie, the CX-9.
It’s one of the stand-outs in its sector with athletic lines, seating for seven adults, a great turbo-boosted drivetrain and a beautifully-appointed interior.
It looks more like a medium than a large machine, due to its nicely balanced body.
Space is obviously the most important factor, but the CX-9 manages to turn it into an artform, with classy leather touches, a hotshot MZD Connect infotainment system, and a clean, intuitively designed dash.
There are four models in the range: Sport, priced from $43,800, Touring $50,200, GT, $58,700 and Azami from $60,790. Those prices are for the front-wheel drivers. If you really need all-wheel drive, add $4000.
All get a 2.5litre four-cylinder Skyactiv turbo, generating 170kW and 420Nm driving through a smooth six-speed auto.
The torque is especially impressive, being equal to some boofy V8s, but the Mazda motor needs only about half as much fuel as one of those behemoths.
The seating is superb, power adjustable in front, with some 120mm of fore and aft travel for the second row and a third row with foldable backrests, should you want to extend the 230litre cargo to 840litres.
The second row can also be laid down to offer a mammoth 1640litres of space.
That opens up more possibilities for the CX-9: a luxurious multi-seater for the school run that can rapidly transform to a supersized van for the family business.
Or anything in between.
The third row, by the way, will easily take two Mac-fed adults or three normal blokes.
Nobody in the car need go thirsty.
On-board storage includes a centre console, two cup holders, a large bin beneath the central arm rests, a glove box, and bins at the bottom of each door.
The second-row passengers also get a pair of door pockets, as well as front seatback pockets, a folding centre armrest with two drink holders and a storage bin for smart phones or electronic games.
The two-passenger third row also has a pair of drink holders as well as storage for small electronics.
The infotainment thingo has a rotary controller for its big touchscreen display and features include Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio, Internet radio integration fpr Pandora, Stitcher and Aha, satnav and all the other electronica of the day.
Naturally the CX-9 is loaded with the alphabet of safety stuff, plus Smart City Brake Support so you won’t run over any smartphone slaves in the shopping centre car park, even while reversing.
It drives well too, pleasant and planted, with lots of zip for quick overtaking, a spot-on steering and a powerful set of brakes on those lovely 18-inch alloys.
Despite its size, it’s quite easy to park, and its reversing camera is top-class.
So it’s a seven-seater unlike most in that it projects class, quality and finesse – and is comparatively easy on fuel too. Try around 9.6litres/100km in everyday city and suburban driving.
Our steed was the top-ranking Azami in front wheel drive, but you’ll get the same drivetrain and ride with any of the less expensive models, so see if you really need all-wheel drive and/or the upmarket jukebox with a zillion speakers, a sunroof and a few extra bright bits before you make your choice.
The bottom line:
Style, space, comfort and class in one (large) well-built package.
- Good looks
- Fuel-efficient engine
- Smooth transmission
- Classy interior
- Umm, nothing annoying comes to mind