Receive $80 Grab vouchers valid for use on all Grab services except GrabHitch and GrabShuttle when you subscribe to BT All-Digital at only $0.99*/month.
Find out more at btsub.sg/promo
IF YOU were to own just one car, a sport utility vehicle (SUV) with seven seats is definitely a leading choice. SUVs are all the rage now as they are much less stodgy-looking than a minivan/multi-purpose vehicle (MPV), with the flexibility of having plenty of room and seven seats.
Until now, seven-seat SUVs were divided into two distinct types: Less expensive, mainstream models such as the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe on one hand, and luxury European offerings including the Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Volvo XC90 on the other. At S$188,800 with Certificate of Entitlement, the Mazda CX-9 is the sole mid-runner of the pack, and it aims to harry the Europeans, all of which cost at least S$90,000 more. That may sound far-fetched, but the fact that the CX-9 is almost in a class of its own makes the task a lot easier.
To begin with, it's a charismatic-looking vehicle. Mazda isn't just good at making easy-on-the-eye sports cars - such as the MX-5 - as the CX-9 also has the enviable trait of appearing much sleeker than its dimensions suggest. It is in fact the biggest car Mazda makes, and is larger than an Audi Q7 in nearly all dimensions.
At more than five-metres long, the SUV has plenty of room for all occupants. Third-row seats usually make occupants feel like Harry Potter relegated to a sub-staircase cupboard, but the CX-9's has enough room for normal, non-giant adults, the only fly in the ointment being a lack of air-conditioning vents.
With a full load of seven people, the car can carry 230 litres of stuff, and with five passengers, it manages 840 litres of cargo. With all seats stowed away (a job that isn't like the reverse-seat origami in some seven-seaters) the SUV hauls a massive 1,848 litres. It's almost the car equivalent of an ocean liner. To that end, with their sheer mass and high centre of gravity, big, seven-seat SUVs can make you feel like a ship's captain in bad weather. The CX-9 is more fair-natured though, and while it isn't the most agile Mazda, it is relatively light on its feet.
It's stiffly sprung, to cope with the duty of hauling seven souls, but not uncomfortable. When the road smoothens out, it's actually very refined, and handles accurately and faithfully, if not without any particular verve. Our only complaint is that with the thick A-pillars and last-row seats in use, visibility can be tricky at times.
The engine is a bit of a landmark for Mazda: It's the brand's first modern turbocharged engine - the previous CX-9 required a 3.7-litre V6 engine to haul its mass around but this one has a much more tax-friendly 2.5 litres of displacement.
It delivers plentiful pull, and as befitting a family-mobile, it's unoffensive, smooth and manages decent efficiency scores if driven gently. With reams of soft leather and solid construction, the interior does lend credence to Mazda's elevated positioning for the CX-9, but what really solidifies that are the safety features.
Active safety systems, such as autonomous braking and lane-keep assist, are included and they're still a relative rarity outside of luxury European models. The CX-9 is a solid mid-range choice that blends a good-looking Mazda-style SUV package with premium touches and solid practicality. For buyers who want more than what less expensive brands offer, but without venturing into "proper" luxury pricing, the CX-9 should do just fine.