- Doors and Seats
- Engine Power
- Ancap Safety
Seating for six in maximum luxury – that’s Mazda’s play with the CX-9 Azami LE. Though it may be older than some competitors, it does not disappoint, as Vani Naidoo discovers.
- Spacious cabin
- New infotainment system
- Premium touches
- Darkish interior
- Shorter service intervals
- No touchscreen
Mazda’s second-generation CX-9 has been charming Australian families since it arrived on these shores some five years ago. Its unfussy drive, comfortable surrounds and decent technology have left a more than favourable impression, and the Japanese manufacturer has used annual updates to keep the Mazda CX-9 spruced up and part of the conversation.
This current nip and tuck goes a touch further – not in a Botched sort of way thankfully – with the introduction of the range-topping 2021 Mazda Azami LE, which recently spent a week with my family. At first glance, there is not much to set it apart from the rest of the CX-9 range.
The Azami LE boasts new 20-inch wheels and larger rear tailpipes, of course, but that’s hardly heart-racing stuff. A quick peek at the interior, though, is enough to reveal this CX-9’s superpower – a pair of luxurious-looking captain’s chairs for passengers in the second row.
That little surprise also dishes up a conundrum or two. Firstly, if you offer a seven-seater as a six-seater to a family that only needs five seats, but likes the idea of seven, do they still think they are getting a good deal?
And secondly, I don’t know how I feel about my ratbag munchkins relaxing in beautifully quilted, well-shaped reclining seats that can be heated or cooled at the touch of a button. They already have their hands on my expensive lip gloss, have commandeered the best couch blanket, and have happily munched their way through the muffin I saved for my mid-morning indulgence.
The best seat in the car should be the preserve of the driver – is nothing sacred anymore?
The aforementioned captain’s chairs may take pride of place in the second row, but they are not without complementary apparel. They are separated by a fancy console that mimics the one in the front row with a deep storage bin, built-in USB ports and two cupholders.
My kiddos loved the retractable window blinds, the under-seat storage bin, as well as the digital climate controls. Actually, my mother-in-law, who insisted on trying out the new chairs instead of the boring old passenger seat when I dropped her off at her etching class, reports that you can operate the climate control with a stretched foot while reclining your seat.
Well, no-one is going to die wondering, I suppose.
Entry to the third row is courtesy of one-touch buttons. It is really quite practical in theory, but prepare yourself, the mechanics are a touch on the slow side. It can make for a few pointed stares on the principal’s part and a few sheepish glances on yours for holding up proceedings in the school drop-off zone, especially when standard procedure is slow to 20km/h and get the kids to drop and roll…
Lodgings back there are better than most third-row seats, thanks much in part to the Mazda CX-9’s five-metre length. Occupants get cupholders and USB points but no air vents – not a bad spot some would argue to relegate the kid that is annoying you most that day.
Up front, too, the CX-9 continues to impress with plenty of room and a fair bit of style. It can feel a bit busy at first with a host of buttons and dials to catch your fancy, but the cabin itself is positioned for the driver with everything you need close at hand.
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Our test car featured walnut brown leather with real wood accents. It felt a bit dark to be honest, but you can’t fault the fit and finish.
Boot space is a cavernous 810L with the third row folded. For us this meant being able to fit in a 12-bag grocery shop with the medium-sized esky we had forgotten to remove after a barbeque at a friend’s. The CX-9 was also an able soldier in transporting a long-awaited desk chair from Officeworks, saving my back and the constant flow of money to the physio – and for that act alone it will always be my hero!
For those of you carrying kiddlies that still need car seats, you will find two ISOFIX points and two top tethers in the second row with two top tethers in the third row as well. One of the cool things with the seven-seater CX-9 is that you can not only fit in five car seats, but you can also access the third row with three car seats already in place in the second row. So that is something to keep in mind.
|2021 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE|
|Boot volume||230L to third row / 810L to second row|
Infotainment and Connectivity
The updated CX-9 range benefits from an upgraded 10.25-inch infotainment screen perched on top of the dash. It is powered by the new Mazda Connect system that is noticeably quicker to boot up and in responding to inputs. The infotainment system boasts great graphic quality and intuitive
navigation through a rotary dial in the centre console.
The good thing about not having a touchscreen is the lack of fingerprints all across the screen. The bad thing is that we are so programmed by our smartphone use to expect it, that it is not uncommon to find yourself jabbing at the screen to make your selections.
There is a wireless phone charger at the bottom of the infotainment system that is easy enough to use, and wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The CX-9 Azami LE has a five-star ANCAP rating (from 2016), and comes jam-packed with a useful range of safety features demonstrating on-trend technology.
In addition to blind-spot monitoring, front and rear autonomous braking (car and pedestrian but no cyclist) and rear cross-traffic alert, you also have help from, among others, all-round parking sensors, an excellent 360-degree camera and lane-keep assist. While the latter can be a touch over-enthusiastic at times, the traffic sign recognition, which we tested in a number of roadworks stretches, was quick and accurate.
Despite the multitude of synchronised beeps and camera angles, my favourite safety features here are the curtain airbags that stretch across all three rows unlike some competitors.
The Mazda CX-9 is a big car with heft, and the all-wheel-drive moniker usually means it’s a tad thirstier than its front-wheel-drive stablemates. Our week in the Azami LE included a few longer highway drives, a number of 40–50km round trips to activities and sporting games, and countless short trips in urban confines. We averaged 10.1L/100km in our time in the driver’s seat – close enough to the official claimed combined cycle of 9.0L/100km to keep me interested.
At $73,875 plus on-roads, the CX-9 Azami LE has wandered into luxury car tax territory, but does manage to pack a fair bang for buck. It comes with Mazda’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and roadside assist for that same period.
Servicing costs average out to just over $460 per visit for the first five services. Intervals are at 12 months or 10,000km, thanks much in part to the 2.5-litre turbo.
|At a glance||2021 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE|
|Warranty||Five-year / unlimited km|
|Service intervals||12-month / 10,000km|
|Servicing costs||$1331 (3-year) / $2309 (5-year)|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||9.0L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||10.1L/100km|
|Fuel type||91RON regular unleaded|
|Fuel tank size||74L|
When most of your day is a crazy merry-go-round, it is nice to step into a car that is both spacious and comfortable, and behaves on the road in the manner it proclaims on the tin. The Mazda CX-9 has always been a confident, capable drive, enhanced in this case by the premium feel of the Azami LE.
It feels nicely balanced into and out of corners, waits patiently for instructions, and shows good composure when you need to merge quickly or outgun a maddening truck kicking up litres of rain spray onto your windscreen.
It is really easy to manoeuvre for a large SUV, the 360-degree camera a keen assistant when entering or leaving tight parking spaces. We liked that there was minimum sway, that it rides well over cranky surfaces even in 20-inch alloys, and the steering is well-weighted.
The CX-9 is powered by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol that returns 170kW of power and 420Nm of torque with a six-speed automatic transmission. It may not seem much, but the torque arrives low down in the range (2000rpm) much like a diesel, which means you can make light work of steeper hills as we found out – even with all three rows in use.
|Key details||2021 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE|
|Engine||2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol|
|Power||170kW @ 5000rpm|
|Torque||420Nm @ 2000rpm|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Power to weight ratio||84.6kW/t|
|Tow rating||2000kg braked, 750kg unbraked|
There is no denying there is a lot to like about the Mazda CX-9 Azami LE, and particularly if you fancy premium touches. It is a more than useful family car, especially if you have tweens or teens with ever-growing legs or you transport the grandparents fairly regularly.