For intelligent beings known to squeeze the biggest scientific breakthroughs into the smallest of packages, humans are still often drawn to the primal presumption of bigger being better. On that basis, the seven-seat Mazda CX-9 is a born winner with its RM264k entry price undercutting those of European five-seat crossovers that are all the rage today despite being one size smaller.
The untrained eye will inevitably struggle to identify the CX-9 as the cheaper car if it were parked beside a BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC and Volvo XC60. It’s not just the Japanese SUV’s girth, but also the presence imbued by its oversized grille and imposing 20-inch alloys in accordance with Hiroshima’s fluid Kodo design philosophy. They make for quite a sight on the road. Nevertheless, aesthetics only tell half the tale.
Drive the CX-9 and it becomes obvious it doesn’t exactly have the premium continentals in its crosshairs. The 2.5-litre turbocharged SkyActiv-G engine is quite the athlete, but you’d have to crack the whip if you want the CX-9 to quickly reach highway cruising speeds from a standstill. There’s plenty of torque (420Nm) to aid the acceleration, and the 6-speed transmission is slick. But expect a bit more reverberations from the engine compartment than you’re accustomed to in German makes.
Power isn’t the CX-9’s strongest suit either. Its 228bhp limit is decent, but factor in the big Mazda’s 1,854-kg kerb weight and you’re left with a power-to-weight ratio of 123bhp per tonne – 2bhp per tonne less than the unassuming Mazda3. You’re not exactly starved of grunt, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself trailing B-segment sedans. The pricier 4WD version is 77kg heavier with no output gains, so we’d recommend sticking to the 2WD if you’re not looking to get any mud in your treads.
There are no discrepancies in the spec sheet anyway. 4WD or not, the CX-9 boasts an impressive repertoire befitting a Mazda flagship. Leather lines all seven seats and even the dashboard, which houses an eight-inch touchscreen head unit hooked up to a 12-speaker Bose audio system as part of the MZD Connect infotainment system. The i-ActiveSense suite is also part of the deal, fortifying the CX-9 with Lane Keep Assist System (LAS), Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) and Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) alongside a host of other potential lifesaving features.
This wealth of tech and upmarket features makes up for the CX-9’s slight lack of driving finesse, combining with its attention-grabbing exterior to make it a genuinely tempting alternative for buyers who can easily afford a BMW X5. After all, everyone loves a good deal. And few cars shout “you’ve made it” as loud as the CX-9 for under RM300k. The practicality it offers as a large, seven-seat SUV is the icing on a cake shipped directly from Japan. Yes, it’s a CBU. Surely that counts for something too.
Practical, tech-laden and visually assertive, the CX-9 can threaten SUVs twice its price. A bit more power would have sweetened the deal.
|Engine||2,488cc, 4-cylinder turbo, 228bhp, 420Nm, FWD|