The CX-9 has two airbags in front, front-seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags that cover all three rows. A blind spot warning system and backup camera with rear parking sensors are standard on Touring and Grand Touring models but are not offered on the Sport. The Traverse and Pilot offer a standard backup camera across the lineup; one is standard on uplevel versions of the Explorer. To see all the CX-9's safety features, click here.
One big disappointment in the family-friendly department is the lack of a tether anchor in the third row, which means installing a forward-facing child-safety seat back there is not safe. Some vehicles equipped with third rows, like the Traverse and Explorer, conveniently offer one tether anchor for the row. The Honda Pilot bests them all with three tether anchors in the third row. Click here for our full Car Seat Check.
Features & Price
Price is one big factor that makes this class so competitive. The cost separating many of the vehicles in this segment is small. The 2013 Mazda CX-9 starts at $30,580 (all prices cited include destination charges). The Honda Pilot ($30,350) and V-6 versions of the Ford Explorer ($29,995) start a touch lower, with the Chevrolet Traverse ($31,370) starting a bit higher. Equipped with a few key comfort and convenience features, the CX-9 can get pretty pricey. Navigation is only available bundled in an expensive Technology Package on Touring ($3,000) and Grand Touring ($2,435) models. It's much more affordable in the Traverse and Explorer, where it's a $795 option on most models (but not available on base versions). On the Honda Pilot, it's a $2,000 option on midlevel EX-L models and standard on top-of-the-line Touring versions.
Heated seats are a $690 option on base CX-9s and standard on the Touring and Grand Touring. The Traverse doesn't offer them on base models, but they're a $250 option on midlevel versions and standard on top trims. On the Pilot, they're unavailable on the bottom two trim levels and standard on the top two versions. The Explorer lists them as standard equipment on uplevel versions, available in a $2,250 package on the midlevel XLT and unavailable on base models.
In the Market
Eye-catching good looks and sporty driving dynamics make the 2013 CX-9 stand out, but a minor exterior face-lift won't be enough to turn this underdog into a major player. The Explorer, Pilot and Traverse consistently outsell it by large margins — but that doesn't mean it should be ignored.
Mazda positions the CX-9 as a sporty alternative in a class of bland people-movers. And I admit, I've sipped the "zoom-zoom" Kool-Aid and see the brand's point. It's not the roomiest crossover in the class, but it's the most fun to drive. Families looking to add a little pep to the carpool lane should check it out.