Susan Frissell, Editor, Womenwithwheels.

The 2021 Mazda CX-9 is a smart-looking, capable SUV with decent interior room, and a sporty turbo. Our test vehicle, the Signature AWD, top-0f-the-line offering, was very handsome in Soul Red Crystal Metallic exterior. Trim levels in the CX-9 include Sport ($33,890), Touring ($43716), Grand Touring (($46,215) and Signature (47,315). There are five exterior colors available. Competition for the CX-9 includes Highlander and Blazer, Telluride and Palisade.

For a good-size SUV, the CX-9 handles well, getting plenty of guts from the four-cylinder engine. The new styling is attractive and the interior luxurious. High-tech abounds inside. Standard driver-assistance features are plenty, and the dash infotainment display offers access to maps and lots of media.
Where the CX-9 doesn’t compete, though, is in its cramped third-row seating area, which also means less cargo room.

In the Mazda lineup since 2006, the CX-9 needed a few updates. For 2020, there were several upgrades. The redone CX-9 offers i-Activesense which includes automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise, lane-departure warning, and lane-keep assist. Standard in the 2020 CX-9 were driver power-adjusted seats, heated front seats, automatic headlamps and rain-sensing windshield wipers, as well as heated exterior mirrors.com

In the Touring, Grand Touring and signature models the infotainment display is 9.0-inch with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Additional updates for last year included a key-fob design and power-adjusted second-row seats are also new. A new Touring Premium package includes second-row captain’s chairs to the Touring model, a feature now standard on the Grand Touring and Signature trim levels.

If you like the captain’s chairs for back seat passengers, you’ll find them in the Grand Touring trim level. The Signature trim has a center console between the standard second-row captain’s chairs. Two new colors were available for 2020: Nappa leather Parchment or Deep Chestnut.

As with many vehicles in this category, you’ll get a lot of car with the lesser models. For instance, you won’t get heated second-row seats with the Touring trim level, but there are plenty of standard goodies. On the Touring Premium Package (extra), you’ll enjoy two additional USB ports in the third row, parking sensors and second-row window sunshades. Great for highway road trips. We especially like the Bose audio system with SiriusXM satellite radio, fog lamps, second-row sunshades and front/rear parking sensors.

The more I drove the Mazda CX-9, the better I liked it. This is a smooth, comfortable, quiet midsize SUV that has all the goodies and lots of attributes. I recommend it highly. Although too large for what I need, I enjoyed my week in the 2021 Mazda CX-9.

Perhaps more so than other large SUV’s on the market, the Mazda CX-9 drives less like a SUV and more like a Mazda sedan. Handling is sharp, and the turbocharged four-cylinder is peppy and more than adequate. The cabin is cozy and elegant at the same time, and very quiet. With all its driver-assistance features-which are standard, by the way, passengers have rom as do lots of your stuff. The CX-9 is not a ‘sloppy’ feeling SUV. It’s smooth and has character many don’t.

The CX-9 remains that vehicle that even though large, offers solid acceleration performance and decent fuel economy. All-wheel-drive, of course, takes away a few mpg’s but not enough to make a difference.

Perhaps the CX-9 loses points for the most space offered in a SUV, the materials are upscale and the styling handsome. The cabin has been upgraded with such features as soft-touch plastic trim, brushed aluminum, and in our top-of-the-line Signature edition, genuine rosewood. You’ll get more cargo space in say, the Ford Explorer, but these are different vehicles.
We tried the fold test for second and third-row seats. It is quick and easy. The floor is flat when folded so more space is added.

Not terribly tech savy, this writer had a learning curve to hurdle when trying to operate the infotainment system. The 10.3-inch display is easily read, the software intuitive, and the graphics are bright and easy to read. The suite offered by Mazda-Mazda Connected Services-includes Bluetooth phone, steaming audio, HD radio, Apple CarPlay, Androis Auto and remote start and remote locking. Mazda added a wireless smartphone charging pad for 2021 on all but the Sport model.

As expected, the 2021 Mazda CX-9 is a Top Safety Pick, christened by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, getting a five-star rating for its safety features such as standardized automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, standard adaptive cruise and standard lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist.

SPECS

Pricing: $42,608
Engine: 2.5L engine, 310 torque, 227 hp. Intercooled turbo, regular unleaded 1-4, DOHC 16-valve
Transmission:6-speed automatic w/overdrive, AWD
Brakes: 4-wheel ABS
Seating: 6
Towing: 3,500 lbs.
Tank gallon capacity: 19.5 unleaded
Mileage: 20/23/26 mpg
Wheels: 20×8.5
Tires: P255/50VR20 M&S; spare: compact
Curb Weight: 4,388 lbs.
Wheelbase: 115.3 in.
Length: 199.4 in.
Width: 77.5 in.
Height: 67.6 in.
Warranty: 3 yrs/36,000 basic; 5 yrs/unlimited corrosion; 5-yrs/60,000 drivetrain; Roadside Assistance Limited; warranty covers 3 yrs or 36,000-miles; 5 yrs/60,000-miles powertrain. No complementary scheduled maintenance.