Mazda‘s $70K seven-seater feels European but trails Korean rivals
Monday - 20/11/2017 09:16
The CX-9 sets the family SUV standard but the plush Azami, with petrol engine and all-wheel drive, faces strong rivals from Honda, Skoda and the Koreans
There was nothing wrong with the CX-9 at the start of the year. That didn’t stop Mazda bringing in a midyear revision for the seven-seater SUV to keep it competitive, or make it better, in a class in which the South Koreans are making lots of friends and newcomers, led by the Honda CR-V and Skoda Kodiaq, are raising the bar.
ALI: Nice colour. What’s the difference now in the CX-9?
PAUL: Not a whole lot. There’s improved sound deadening, some extra safety gear including a higher threshold for the auto safety braking and improved mechanism for the second-row seats to make access easier.
ALI: So it’s not a complete model change.
PAUL: No, just a facelift and mild tweak. But this time we have the absolute top-line model, which is just over $70,000 on the road.
ALI: How much did you say? Whoa. When did a Mazda become a 70-grand car?
PAUL: There have been a few luxury Mazda cars in the past, including the 929, but this is the flagship today. The Azami brings all the fruit, as well as all-wheel drive, but you pay a premium because the basic CX-9 lists at $43,890 and this one is $64,790 before the on-roads.
ALI: My first impression is that it looks plush and European. The seats are pretty comfortable. This one has the light-coloured leather trim, which looks good but I wonder about it for a family.
PAUL: I think cream leather looks great.
ALI: But you can see scuff marks already. And this is a test car that gets detailed every week. Imagine it with a family of five. And pets.
PAUL: It’s big and heavy but it gets along pretty well with its turbo 2.5-litre engine.
ALI: I don’t notice that it’s heavy. I think it drives well. Even with a flat tyre.
PAUL: Yes, that flat tyre. A good thing you were close to our friends’s workshop.
ALI: Yes, they got the space-saver into action.
PAUL: I was surprised that it only has a space-saver spare. Not because it saves space in the back, but because it is an expensive car and the Koreans come with a full-size alloy spare.
ALI: It’s got a handy reversing camera, the infotainment is the same as the other Mazdas so no drama there. There is good storage space and the cupholders are big and convenient.
PAUL: There are no covers on the cupholders — I don’t like that. Upmarket brands usually have a smoother line through the console with everything covered, so this looks a bit cheap.
ALI: I like the way the centre seats work now. They are much easier to slide than in the competitors, with easy access to the second and third rows as they fold down further.
PAUL: As usual, I’m not impressed with the luggage space once the seats are up. It’s good as a five-seater but compromised with seven.
ALI: And there are no air vents in the third row. That’s a big no-no in Australia. I wouldn’t buy it because of that.
PAUL: It’s plush and very quiet on a run. But it’s not great in the handling and feels a bit ponderous in corners
ALI: I like the head-up display. The instruments are clear, the layout is good. Once again it’s more like a European car for me.
PAUL: And I like the way the doors shut.
ALI: Yes, they do have a reassuring clunk.
ELI: I like cars with seats at the very, very back. That’s fun. And I could get changed in the back seat for aikido without anyone seeing me.
ALI: Privacy is important when you’re eight.
PAUL: We didn’t get a chance to run it fully loaded, so I’m still questioning the performance. I just don’t see the benefit in the all-wheel drive for a family wagon, and I know a lot of seven-seater buyers want a diesel engine and this is petrol only.
ALI: I can’t see you going away camping in it. Not with that cream leather.
TICK OR NO TICK
PAUL: I think the CX-9 sets the standard in its class but I’d never get the Azami.
ALI: You get the plushness of Europe, plus bells and whistles, for a price that’s not too bad.
PAUL: It gets The Tick because it feels so solid and plush. It’s a winner for me.
ALI: I’m torn. I like the car but I can’t get over the lack of air vents in the third row. So, no Tick.
MAZDA CX-9 AZAMI AWD
PRICE From $70,268 drive-away (big dollars)
SERVICE 3 years/unlimited km, $2070 for 3 years (not cheap)