Few changes in 2019 Mazda CX-9

The 2019 Mazda CX-9 offers 20 mpg city and 26 highway.

The 2019 Mazda CX-9 offers 20 mpg city and 26 highway.

Mazda USA/ Contributed photo

Mazda proved last year that automakers don’t have to make radical changes to their flagship models to sustain sales. In 2018, Mazda sold 28,257 examples of the midsize CX-9 crossover, a 9.4 percent increase over the previous year. The CX-9 is little changed from 2016, the debut year for this model’s current incarnation.

The sales data also vindicate our overall impressions, over the years, of Mazda’s forays into the crossover/SUV field. Our favorite Mazda, the compact CX-5 crossover, outsold the CX-9 by more than 5-1. The CX-9, meanwhile, was a stronger seller than the smallest and least expensive of Mazda’s three crossover models.

Despite the good news from the sales front, the CX-9 may be showing its age, at least in comparison with some of the leading newcomers. The Volkswagen Atlas, a model we have test-driven in recent months, boasts more leg room for tall drivers and much more cargo space, with or without the rear seats lowered. Both exhibit European-style handling and refinement. The CX-9 has the edge in fuel economy in all-wheel-drive versions — 20 mpg city, 26 highway, compared with the VW’s 17/23. All-wheel-drive versions of the Atlas have VW’s 3.6-liter, 276-horsepower V-6 engine, while Mazda’s turbocharged, 227-horsepower Four is common to all CX-9s.

Our test CX-9 was a top-of-the-line Signature model with Machine Gray Metallic paint. It was priced at $47,385. The base CX-9 Sport starts at 32,280. The CX-9 is available with front-wheel or all-wheel drive.

In Signature trim, the CX-9 blasts past near-luxury to full-blown luxury status. Its standard features include Nappa leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, heated second-row seats, adaptive cruise control, three-zone automatic climate control, satellite radio, power liftgate and power glass moonroof. While visibility from the driver’s seat is fairly unobstructed, Mazda takes no chances, equipping all CX-9 models with blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, lane keep assist and Smart City Brake Support, which helps drivers avoid rear-end collisions in slow traffic.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD

Price: $47,385

Engine: 2.5-liter inline turbocharged Four, 227 horsepower, 310 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: all-wheel

Ground clearance: 8.8 in.

Weight: 4,383 lb.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 20x8.5-in. aluminum alloy

Tires: P255/50R20 all-season

Seating capacity: 7

Luggage capacity: 14.4 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 71.2 cu. ft.

Towing capacity: 3,500 lb.

Fuel capacity: 19.5 gal.

Fuel economy: 20 mpg city, 26 mpg highway

Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline

The CX-9 received an overall vehicle score of five stars in government crash tests,and has been rated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Three first impressions:

 Our six-foot driver felt the need for more legroom than the CX-9 could deliver. He also was thwarted in an attempt to lower the seat.

 The CX-9’s horsepower rating may be modest, but the engine has loads of torque — 310 pound-feet. The car responded enthusiastically to the throttle, and the transmission seemed to know just how to deliver maximum power to the wheels.

 Since the CX-9 is built in Hiroshima, Japan, we expected it to be meticulously put together. Sure enough, we noticed as soon as we reached highway speeds on Interstate 84 in western Connecticut that there was no wind noise. None. All we could hear was road noise — and even that likely would have been absent if the CX-9 had been wearing 18-inch tires rather than 20-inch.

Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel.