I purchased this car to support our growing family, having had 5 years of good service from our Ford Territory TS Diesel. The ability to 50:50 split the third row seats, over the Ford, seems a small feature, but a necessity for our family of 4 children.
When looking for a replacement SUV we had the Mazda, Ford Everest (RWD), Kia Sorento and Mitsubishi Pajero Sports on our list. For me the Everest was my preferred option, but hey it's the wife's car, happy wife happy... yeah you get it. But don't get me wrong I really like this car in many ways.
In making our decision (Did I say our!) it came down to the ability to make you feel special when driving, plus that third row split seating. In this respect, and many other, the Mazda CX-9 is an excellent vehicle. Having just finished our first 1,000km in the vehicle you can feel the quality and it definitely has a more higher priced European feel about it. Whilst we were looking at the Touring AWD and GT FWD options the GT got the nod for a few reason;
1. GT has Head up display and thus a digital speedo, whilst lower spec models don't have any digital speed reading.
2. Electric tail gate was a nice feature to help with getting in the back, especially for the wife and the loss of the split rear boot door that is sorely missed from the territory.
3. The wife had never owned a car with a sunroof and thought this was cool.
4. Larger wheels and exterior chrome really picks up the exterior another level.
5. Built in window blinds for rear doors is great for the kids on long trips.
6 Did I mention you get a Bose sound system!! (Not as good as my 2009 Passat VW system though!!)
Having spent the extra money on the GT, we didn't opt for the AWD purely on price and I also treat the vehicle as a real soft-roader so could see us doing any travelling that would require the AWD.
Now in terms of owning the vehicle, as the score indicates we are pretty happy with the vehicle. Whilst the FWD certainly has noticeable torque steer (Unsure if AWD is any better given it is AWD on demand) it is still very nice to drive, if not as good as the Territory from an overall handling perspective. Perhaps that's the RWD.
The engine has good performance, if not the absolute low down torque of the Territory Diesel (Don't care what the brochure says) and although early days, it is sitting around 13.8L/100 versus 11.5 for our Territory, with the same driving patterns (collecting and shuffling kids around). This is certainly a weakness for this vehicle despite the technology in the engine, it doesn't delivery great economy just yet.
Day to day things I don't like, there are a few, perhaps all minor, but that's for the reader to decide;
1. The drivers seat doesn't tilt to provide extra support of your leg whilst driving. For me I sit on the seat (bum) and then my legs rise above the seat, so miss that extra support
2. I hate the fact drivers side seat memory doesn't include memory for the mirrors as well, so you have to still adjust the side mirrors. (Someone not thinking it was in the old model I've been told!)
3. This stop / start thing might just get annoying. Given my fuel consumption is lousy anyway it seems an obtrusion more than anything in it's a bit gruff when it kicks back in to start the engine and on hot days can only really stop the engine for 4-5 seconds as I'm guessing it needs to get the air conditioner back online (Constant stop/start does seem to have an impact on A/C efficiency on hot days. To early to tell the A/C just might not be as efficient as expected).
4. Don't expect any low fuel warning until around 30L left in the tank. Even then its just a visual warning you need to look at.
5. There is a very small light in the mid section of the roof near the sunroof controls that is always on and quite annoying when driving.
Reliability has been good, with only a few occasions when the infotainment system locks up. On both occasions it was during a phone call so not sure if this is the cause, but something I'm watching.
The improvements are really a summary of my feedback above. The fuel economy for me is the area that might need focus, but perhaps it just needs more running it (The average started at 16L /100 and did improve)
Something they never told me on pick-up is they coat the engine cylinders with a specific oil that prevents corrosion on the way to Australia by boat. You will get a quite noticeable burning rubber smell in the car for the first 100km until this clears, so relax....