Ministry matters

Ministry of Interior: 201.5 Signature Mazda CX-9

The CX-9’s cabin excels for the price, provided third-row space isn’t your top priority

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If getting a reasonably priced luxury interior is on your new vehicle wishlist, you might want to check out what Mazda has been up to recently.

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Over the past few years, the Japanese automaker has embarked on a ‘premium journey’, a slow process that has seen both materials and workmanship improve in leaps and bounds, so far without any increases. significant price.

The Mazda CX-9 three-row SUV was one of the brand’s first vehicles to benefit from this shift. Since its launch for the 2016 model year, premium finishes have been incorporated into higher finishes at prices that remain accessible. This is especially true for the Signature grade we’re looking at here at the Home Office, which for the 201.5 model year is priced at $ 54,550, including a destination fee of $ 1,950.

Why the unusual designation 201.5? Several new Mazda SUVs will arrive sometime in 2022, both of which will supplant the CX-9 in the automaker’s lineup: the CX-90 is expected to be larger to some extent than the current CX-9, while the CX- 70 which will follow, it is intended for drivers who have purchased a CX-9 solely with the intention of using it as a two-row.

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In the meantime, as the CX-9 draws to a close, it continues to offer a compelling value proposition, especially for this latter group that might only want a third row for occasional use. High-end touches of this Signature quality include real wood inserts, quilted leather and quality contact points such as real chrome dials. The leather on the unit we tested is finished in such a deep brown that it appears black in some light. This creates a subtle but visually interesting effect, although it does help to make the interior look darker than what is generally considered fashionable these days.

In the upcoming CX-90 and CX-70 SUVs, we hope Mazda took the opportunity to go over some of the even finer details, such as the construction of the center console from solid pieces of material and the choice of premium upholstery on the headliner. Several of the brand’s main competitors have started offering these higher-end items in their larger SUVs at a similar price point.

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Mazda promotes itself as a driver-centric brand, an aesthetic that dominates the CX-9’s cabin. The center console is high, creating a front row separation that isolates the driver. The technology is plentiful but subtle: a traditional-looking instrument cluster includes a digitized central speedometer; a head-up display is included; and a 10.25-inch high-resolution screen is integrated into the center console and houses the Mazda Connect infotainment system.

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This system generates strong opinions. Some people criticize it for the fact that the screen is not touch-sensitive and can only be interacted with through the dial controller in the middle of the center console, which hides some key features like tuning the radio station by a few. layers deep. menus. While it’s true that these are frustrations, I appreciate that the screen is placed near eye level, that the navigation shows off-highway amenities at a glance, and that to make adjustments. doesn’t tend to be as distracting as trying to find number buttons on a touchscreen. Setting a series of favorite radio stations or using standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto features by default alleviates many of these initial usability issues.

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Front-row passengers get the lion’s share of the amenities with heated and ventilated seats, heated steering wheel, wireless smartphone charger, two cup holders in the center console, as well as a bottle holder and a small pocket in each. door panel. There are two USB-A ports in the central storage bin, a space that is otherwise smaller than average. The load block and some of the HVAC controls are difficult to reach as they are placed behind the traditional shifter, which is both pleasantly substantial but large enough that it tends to get in the way.

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Second-row passengers get their share of Signature Class attention with an integrated center console that includes controls for the heated seats (although ventilated seats are not available), two cup holders, an outboard drawer. ‘front and another clamshell. opening the storage bin with two more USB-A ports. Headroom and legroom are excellent, and manual sun shades are a plus, although with only a single-panel sunroof included for the front row, that space feels darker than average. Each second row door panel pocket includes a bottle holder, and the pockets in the back of the front seats are arranged in two layers, which can be useful for separating thinner items like books or magazines.

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As previously mentioned, the CX-9 is a very large two-row vehicle, but buyers who want to use the third row frequently should expect to compromise. Access to the rear requires moving the second row seats forward using the lever located in the upper corner of the backrest. This positioning is practical in that it is accessible from both inside and outside the vehicle, but these seats are heavy and cumbersome to move back and forth. Once the passengers get back there, they will find that the legroom needs to be negotiated with the second row passengers, the headroom is missing from an official measurement of 899 millimeters, and the seat cushion is on the harder side and placed relatively close to the floor. . Each of the two seating positions can accommodate a car seat equipped with the LATCH system, bringing the total number of car seat positions to four and passengers to six. However, this space is heavy on inferior black plastic finishes. It is also only really suitable for small passengers such as children, and the smaller rear window means that smaller people may not be able to see outside the vehicle and therefore may find this cramped and unpleasant space. That said, Mazda did provide two USB-A charging ports, one on each side, as well as a single cup holder and a small storage bin in each armrest, so there is a possibility that the occupants in the third row would be enough. distracted by their devices not to do so. note.

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2021 Mazda CX-9

The CX-9 has a high lift to access the cargo floor. Plus, with the third row seats up, space is limited to 407 liters, and the seat backs are so close to the cargo hatch that they almost make contact. With the rear seats folded down a much more accommodating 1,082 liters become available, and when the second row seats are placed in their flat position, 2,017 liters open. These numbers are far from the best in the segment, but Mazda buyers know these elements tend not to be the brand’s top priority. On the plus side, the third row seats are relatively light and easy to maneuver thanks to their manual adjustment, and a fairly deep underpass sits under the upper cargo floor to protect fragile items. Underneath, a donut spare tire is on board, and this space also includes a 12-volt outlet, a pair of grocery bag hooks on the sides, and four tie-down hooks.

The 201.5 Mazda CX-9 Signature excels in what it’s designed to do: a near-premium two-row mid-size SUV with driver-centric features and quality finishes at a reasonable price. Those who view it as a three-row SUV for everyday driving may find it requires too much compromise. But if you only want to have the third row on board for occasional use – and if excellent driving dynamics matter a lot more to you than outright interior space – you’ll find that Mazda’s bigger vehicle still has a lot to offer. offer as seen.

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