For 2021, every vehicle in Mazda’s Canadian line-up is getting some for of refreshment and a select few are getting updated with two exclusive packages: the 100th Anniversary package and the Kuro package, which graces the 2021 CX-9 you see here.
Essentially, “Kuro” is a design-centric package, though one not to be confused with “Kodo”, which is what Mazda calls their current design language. With the CX-9 Kuro you start with a CX-9 in GT trim ($50,925), which sits one level from the top in the line-up. The Kuro design adds an extra $1,300 and gets you one of two paint choices (the Polymetal Grey seen here and Jet Black Mica), black wheels, Garnet Red interior, black mirror caps and red contrast stitching on the non-red portions of the cockpit. It’s a really cool design, I’m just not 100 per cent sold on whether the Polymetal Grey colourway works for the CX-9.
Granted, the matte-grey look is one that’s become quite popular in the car and light truck world these days, but it remains a somewhat specialized shade and I’m not sure it works on the massive body panels of a three-row SUV. Yes; it makes perfect sense and looks fantastic on, say, the Mazda3 Sport hatchback but it just seems like they’re trying a little too hard slapping it on the CX-9. Not to mention the CX-9 looks absolutely spectacular in Mazda’s Soul Red Mica tint.
I do love the Garnet Red leather interior, though. It’s just the right amount of classy and cool and since there’s a nice divide between black and red colours in the cabin, there’s no red overload.
So the cabin looks nice and even with the flowing lines and somewhat aggressive roofline that punctuates the exterior styling, it’s roomy inside the CX-9. Front passengers get 1,041 mm of legroom and 1,019 mm of headroom with the moonroof, while second-row passengers get a generous 1,001 mm of legroom and 978 mm of headroom. The door openings are such that it’s pretty easy to get in and out of the CX-9 though I did strike my knee on the centre console a few times during my test. Once in, though, I found the driver’s seating position to be right on, and the 10-way power adjustable seat to be comfortable.
I think I was even more impressed with the third row of seating, though. There’s room for two in the third row and since the second row is made up of two captain’s chairs, getting back there is not a struggle even for taller, larger folks like yours truly. Once in, meanwhile, the seating area suits adults just fine for shorter drives and it’s perfect for the kids. There are cupholders and storage bins on either side, too, as well as two of the six USB ports found inside. All this points to a third row that’s meant to be used pretty regularly. Dropping those seats to the floor, meanwhile, provides 1,082 litres of cargo space while folding all the seats allows for 2,017 L. More than enough room for a family of four going on holiday, that’s for sure.
Being the GT trim, my tester came fully equipped with heated front and second-row seats, ventilated front seats, Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay and charging as well as 12-speaker Bose audio, three-zone climate control and heated steering wheel. There is very little more that I’d ask for from my three-row SUV, though I am a little bummed that we Canadians don’t get the new 10.25 inch infotainment display that US models do. That’s because that larger display is linked directly with Mazda Connected Services that run through AT&T in the US and have yet to find a home in Canadian cars. The 9-inch display my tester has isn’t bad by any means, but to not have the 10.25-inch display option is a bit of a shame, as is the fact that the CX-9 still uses the older, slower Mazda infotainment interface as opposed to the new version offered on the Mazda3 and CX-30.
What we do get, though, that the Americans and most other markets do is Mazda’s very good turbocharged four-cylinder that puts out 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, fed to the wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.
Even though the CX-9 weighs in at just a hair under 2,000 kilos, this powerplant makes short work of highway entry ramps and passing manoeuvres as it is a great balance between engine and transmission and I didn’t miss having a larger, naturally-aspirated V6 as is so often the case with vehicles of this type.
It took Mazda little while to get on the turbo train, but obviously they weren’t twiddling their thumbs and they’ve managed to deliver a smooth powertrain with low turbo lag and a pleasingly flat torque curve; peak torque arrives at just 2,000 RPM so there’s always power on-tap and you don’t need a trick eight-plus gear count to get the most out of it.
Acceleration and highway speeds are nice and all, but the CX-9 remains a Mazda and the manufacturer’s “zoom zoom” tagline isn’t lost on it, even though it’s a sizeable three-row SUV. Turn in once you add some lock to the (surprisingly small) steering wheel is responsive and immediate, and well-tuned dampers mean body roll is minimal. It all combines to make for a large three-row SUV that drives more like its smaller CX-5 two-row sibling – I should know, having driven the latest CX-5 not long after my week with the CX-9.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be spending so much time discussing the drive characteristics of a non-performance three-row SUV but the CX-9 really does have the goods to justify that angle, It has the space and interior features that most SUV buyers need, too, so you’ve got a great mix of two worlds here.
The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.