MAZDA likes to cover all bases with its various models and it’s no different in its CX-9 people-mover.
The big seven-seater can be had in front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive form, in Sport, Touring, GT or Azami trim, with prices starting at $42,490 and climbing more than $20K to $63,000-plus for the top-ranking model.
All have the same gutsy 170kW/420Nm turbo-charged 2.5-litre motor, paired with an excellent six-speed automatic transmission.
Our test car was an all-wheel drive GT, second from the top in the pecking order and priced at $61,390.
Very much a bigger version of the CX-5, which is the nation’s favourite SUV, the second generation CX-9 is wider and taller than its predecessor, a fraction shorter from nose to tail, but it has a longer wheelbase for extra comfort and interior space.
It’s a good-looking vehicle, its smooth lines making it look smaller than it really is; and it really is big.
Inside, you get a double-deck instrument panel with sporty analogue instrumentation, head-up display, a 7-inch central touchscreen, a leather-trimmed, adjustable steering wheel, super seating – two in front, three in the middle, two in the back – an electric sunroof, leather trim, dual-zone aircon, a Bose audio system, front and rear parking sensors, and a wide-angle rear view camera.
Other niceties include auto-on headlights and wipers, an electric tailgate, pull-up shades for the middle row and a set of eye-catching alloy wheels.
There are air vents for the second row but not for the third.
The interior also has lots of cup holders and storage nooks, two USB ports, an aux point and 12V power outlets.
So you get A1 accommodation, easy-to-figure out Bluetooth connectivity, and a pleasant, spacious, comfy and quiet ride.
Despite its bulk, the CX-9 handles much like a car and it’s only when you try to squeeze it into a parking bay at the supermarket that you realise its size.
Those tight bays were marked out years ago, before the advent of SUVs and big, dual-cab utes.
The 2.5-litre turbo is a smooth, responsive engine that can take the vehicle to 100km/h in about 8.5seconds via the smooth-shifting six-speed auto, yet it has an average fuel consumption of only 8.8litres/100km.
Cargo-wise, there’s 230 litres available with all seats in place, expanding to 810 with the back row folded down and a massive 1641 with all the rear seats laid flat.
Tie-down hooks are standard too.
The CX-9 has all the safety stuff of the day, including auto emergency braking, blindspot monitoring and a towing capacity of 2000kg braked.
The only fault I found was in the vehicle’s press kit, which on several occasions used ‘principal’ instead of ‘principle’. But that’s hardly the vehicle’s fault.
Verdict: A fine mix of luxury, safety, performance, economy and more than a bit of usable space.