2023 Mazda CX-9 Signature Review

A great three-row SUV that’s fun to drive.

By Dan Heyman Wheels.ca

Mar 7, 2023 5 min. read

Article was updated 7 months ago

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While news of the upcoming CX-90 crossover is just breaking, let’s not forget that vehicle owes much of what it’s made of to the Mazda CX-9; after all, it was the CX-9 that represented Mazda’s first foray – way back in 2007 -- into what has become one of the busiest sectors in the passenger vehicle world.

While matte exterior paint – especially grey tints -- have become quite popular in the car and light truck world these days, 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. Which is why the Soul Red Crystal Metallic tint on my tester is a unique and incredibly classy look. Mazda has been refining the tint for a while, to the point where they now lay it on even thicker than before and it looks incredibly rich and upmarket as a result. I love it, and I wouldn’t have my CX-9 – or, for that matter, my CX-50, my Mazda3, my MX-5 etc. – any other way.

2023 Mazda CX-9 Signature

The Pure White interior on my tester is just the right amount of classy and cool. There is a darker Deep Chestnut brown option, but that’s the extent of it; it seems that the Nappa leather that comes standard on the Signature trim is a pricey piece of kit, and adding too many variations of it probably wouldn’t have been great business, although not having a black or charcoal of any kind is a strange choice. If you want something a little flashier, you actually have to go downmarket to the Kuro version which comes standard with a Garnet Red interior as its only choice.

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 millimetres 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.

2023 Mazda CX-9 Signature

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 doable even for taller folk. 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.

Being the Signature trim, my tester came fully equipped with heated front and second-row seats, ventilated front seats, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as well as wireless charging – it should be noted, however, that the CX-9 now gets Mazda’s latest infotainment system but has lost wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in the transition.

Otherwise, you get a larger 10.25” display, a faster OS and a new interface. It’s still not the flashiest piece of kit you’ll find in this sector, however, as Mazda continues to lag behind when it comes to their native infotainment interface. In addition to the somewhat tame graphics, the fact that every time you want to change a radio station you have to press a number of buttons is annoying and even then, it always ends up dumping you to the top of the list, which is especially challenging when it comes satellite radio. Getting to your favourites list, however, only takes a single press of a traditional hard button so that’s a workaround I made regular use of. You do get good 12-speaker Bose audio, though, as well as three-zone climate control and a heated steering wheel. There is very little more that I’d ask for from my three-row SUV.

Power comes from 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.

2023 Mazda CX-9 Signature

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. Not the most frugal of runners, though; we saw 11.2 L/100 km in the combined cycle, which is a little more than what NRCan found during their testing. Blame an icy few days in late February, perhaps, for the discrepancy.

It took Mazda a 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.

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 spent time in every iteration of the CX-5 over the years.

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.

2023 Mazda CX-9 Signature

BODY STYLE: five-door three-row crossover

DRIVE METHOD: front-engine, all-wheel drive
ENGINE: 2.5-litre inline-4 turbo, 227 hp, 310 lb-ft of torque

TRANSMISSION: six-speed automatic


TOWING CAPACITY: 1,588 kg (3,500 lbs.)

Base MSRP: $54,050

WEBSITE:  Mazda CX-9




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