Why this car? It was time to upgrade with a second child coming, and after about four years I felt the urge to replace our Honda CR-V MY2012 (2011) base model.
The competition? Kia Sorento GT-Line. To me, the Sorento screams of value (about $10,000 cheaper) and the CX-9 is the last saving grace for a family man without affecting my credit rating too much.
Why not the Sorento? The Sorento’s turning indicator noise gave me a headache during a test drive. It also felt heavy when accelerating/braking. We mostly drive in inner-city conditions, which made the diesel particulate filter a concern for me.
Real-world fuel economy? Five tanks later, the average is about 11.2L/100km. Our daily drive is around the very hilly east side of Melbourne. Our three-year-old often naps between 30 minutes and an hour-and-a-half in the car (after we tried everything to exhaust him) where air-con is a must.
We occasionally drive on highways (for example, on the Eastern Freeway or to/from the airport). I found the key to better fuel economy is to learn to drive with a very sensitive accelerator – be gentle and it should make a difference.
Here are lists of what I like and don’t like about the CX-9. I will highlight the dislikes because it is an almost $70K car.
Likes: To me, it drives like an Audi and is designed better than a Lexus. It has a good list of safety features, helpful when I find a few blind spots from the driving position, and it is a big car.
Adaptive cruise control, which is very handy. Head-up display is surprisingly clear. The infotainment system is intuitive and connects to local Wi-Fi networks.
It's fun to drive with the Sports mode, although I don’t really mind having this function or off-road capacity. Bose audio – I have to turn down the bass. Quiet cabin. An old-fashioned charger on the right foot side of the front passenger (in addition to two USB chargers). Auto walkaway door lock function. Insurance is only slightly more expensive than our four-year-old CR-V MY2012 (2011) base model. It took about three months for delivery, but we got a MY2017, which is good for resale down the track.
Dislikes? At almost $70,000, expectations are an entitlement:
• Why is there no 360-degree camera when this car is huge and costs almost $70K?
• Standard three-year warranty lacks confidence. Squeezed a three-year additional warranty from the dealership that carries lots of caveats and limitations. However, I didn’t do my research to know that there is a standard extended warranty and a premium.
• Good GPS system but went to La La Land a few times now. On the first 1000km inspection, the dealership upgraded it. Reverse camera also failed once when we tried to squeeze into a tight parking space. It still started itself a number of times without warning and silenced the warnings on a couple of occasions. When the GPS is silenced, stop the engine longer than a few minutes and it should be okay. But I am not sure about auto-restart scenarios, although each time the navigation continued as if it never restarted.
• No automatic door-locking function when driving above a certain speed, which is available in the Kia Sorento GT-Line. Need to manually turn on and off the door lock on the driver side.
• Interior details are good, but the fine details fall short of a $70K car (irrespective of the two additional seats it has). I understand that it is not a Euro luxury car or a Lexus. Leather coverage stopped above dashboard and doors.
• Signature (USA) vs Azami. What Azami doesn’t have the Signature has: wood trim (vs shiny plastic trims around the high-traffic areas at the cluster and on the doors), burgundy leather seat trims (vs black/cream trims) and a cheaper price.
• The dealer spent a bit over an hour with my wife introducing the car and some of the functions at delivery. However, no warning of 'burn-off' was given. What is burn-off? When my wife drove the car into the garage, we all noticed a light-grey smoke coming from the bonnet (it was a hot day and the dealership is about 25km away). We both panicked. I called the Sales Manager (the delivery was scheduled at 5pm and did I mention we panicked?) and he had no idea other than suggesting to drive in the next day to the dealership for a check-up (although he initially suggested that he would send someone to us). When we calmed down a bit, I checked online and it was suggested that the engine was covered with wax to prevent possible damage caused by sea shipping. I called the dealership service department the next morning and was told it was a “burn-off” (whatever that means) and it is normal for the first 1000km. With a young child, I chose to believe the service department.
• Given the infotainment system connects to the local Wi-Fi network, why do updating the navigation through Mazda Toolbox on your PC or Mac, which requires an SD card reader?
• Inadequate storage around the front cluster with a nothing-special glovebox and strangely small dual-lid storage box between the front seats. A somewhat deep storage area in front of the cluster under the air-con switches that could be messy after a few corners. No small storage area on the door for coins or small rubbish.
• No Apple CarPlay when there is no CD player. I must say that to play music from my iPhone through a USB was fine by me.
• No panoramic sunroof (as in Kia Sorento), but a small 'moon-roof' (as it is called in the USA).
• Side-rear-view mirrors do not automatically fold up when switched off and they are a bit hopeless (I need Dumbo’s ears).
It is a very good car for anyone with a bigger family (only). Mazda is not a big company in the auto industry, and I commend it for its drive to succeed and for this final product. For $70K a few details are missing, although it is more refined.