Trucks & SUVs

2020 Mazda CX-9 vs. Nissan Pathfinder: The Better SUV Is Obvious

The CX-9 SUV is both stylish and powerful, as you would expect from a Mazda. One of the Mazda CX-9’s competitors, the Nissan Pathfinder, is quite popular despite its average rating from Consumer Reports. The two SUVs are nearly identical in price, so it’s hard for some shoppers to decide which one is better.

However, based on opinions from both critics and consumers, we can conclude that the Mazda CX-9 is the clear winner. The Nissan Pathfinder isn’t a bad SUV, but it’s definitely not great as many rivals, not just the CX-9. Let’s go over each SUV and see what each has to offer.

The Mazda CX-9

There’s plenty to love about the Mazda CX-9, especially for the 2020 model year. A safety suite that includes many desirable driver’s aids, like blind-spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking, is now standard. It also comes standard with a few USB ports and Bluetooth, but syncing your smartphone costs extra.

The Mazda CX-9 comes with one engine, a 2.5-liter turbo-four capable of 250 hp. It’s paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. AWD models get great gas mileage, up to 20 mpg on city roads and 26 mpg on highway lanes. 

Consumer Reports was also pleased to find that the CX-9 drives as nimbly as a car several times smaller than itself. It has minimal body lean, handles corners gracefully, and the cabin is free from exterior noise.

The Mazda CX-9 still isn’t perfect, particularly when it comes to cargo capacity. With all the seats upright, only 14 cubic feet of luggage space is available to use. Consumer Reports also said that the third-row seat is more cramped than expected, even for a midsize SUV.

It also can’t tow as much as many SUVs in its class, only 3,500 pounds. Consumer Reports also found some hiccups in the CX-9’s infotainment system, including slow response times and redundant menus.

The Nissan Pathfinder

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Unlike the Mazda CX-9, the Nissan Pathfinder comes with an upgraded V6 engine under its hood. It’s rated for 284 hp and 259 lb-ft of torque, paired with a CVT. It feels energetic while driving around town and drivers won’t have any problems passing other cars on the interstate.

The Nissan Pathfinder can also tow up to 6,000 pounds and has a slightly bigger cargo hold than the Mazda CX-9. Consumer Reports likens it more to a minivan than an SUV, thanks to its sliding second-row seat. Disappointingly, both of the back rows are only suited for children or smaller adults.

While it’s more powerful than its Mazda rival, the Nissan Pathfinder didn’t do nearly as well on its road test. It doesn’t handle corners well, plus the steering feels slow and lacks any feedback. Consumer Reports also wasn’t very impressed with its fuel economy numbers.

Riding inside the Nissan Pathfinder also isn’t the most enjoyable experience. The seats are firm and the suspension is prone to jittering unless you’re riding on a completely smooth surface. Drivers may also have a difficult time seeing out of the rear window because of the sloping roofline.

It all comes down to value

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The Mazda CX-9 simply comes with a better engine and more tech features for the price. The Nissan Pathfinder doesn’t even offer any form of smartphone integration and the interior looks outdated.

The Nissan Pathfinder is also far less reliable than the Mazda CX-9, so you might not own it for very long. The Mazda CX-9 has a perfect predicted reliability rating, as well as great reviews from its current owners.