2021 Toyota Highlander vs. 2021 Mazda CX-9: Which Three-Row SUV Is Right for You?

In the market for a three-row SUV? Chances are you’ve got both the 2021 Toyota Highlander and the 2021 Mazda CX-9 on your list. But how do these three-row SUVs actually compare? And which is the better fit for you? Let’s find out.

A silver 2021 Toyota Highlander parked
2021 Toyota Highlander | Toyota

2021 Toyota Highlander vs. 2021 Mazda CX-9: What’s under the hood?

At the heart and soul of the 2021 Toyota Highlander is a 3.5-liter V6 engine. Teamed with an eight-speed automatic transmission, this year’s Highlander is capable of churning out 295-hp and 263 pound-feet of torque. With its standard engine under the hood, the 2021 Toyota Highlander will have you towing up to 5,000-pounds. And if you’d prefer a fuel-efficient three-row SUV instead? Opt for a Highlander Hybrid, which delivers an EPA-estimated 36 mpg combined. 

As for the 2021 Mazda CX-9? It comes powered by a turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine with 227-hp and 310 pound-feet of torque. According to Autotrader, while V6 engines are among the most common in this segment, the 2021 Mazda CX-9’s turbocharged 4-cylinder does deliver “spry acceleration.” Unfortunately, this year’s CX-9 isn’t able to tow nearly as much as the 2021 Toyota Highlander. It’s not available as a hybrid either.

2021 Toyota Highlander vs. 2021 Mazda CX-9: Standard safety features abound

If you’re shopping for a three-row SUV, chances are you plan on using it as an everyday family hauler. If that’s the case, you’re probably concerned about what types of standard safety features both of these vehicles have to offer. Fortunately, both models provide no shortage of standard safety and driver-assist features. 

The 2021 Toyota Highlander comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense, which includes active safety features like a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert, automatic high beams, lane tracing assist, and road sign assist. 

Meanwhile, the CX-9 is standard with blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alerts, lane-keep assist, a lane departure warning system, advanced smart city brake support with pedestrian detection, smart brake support with collision warning, and radar cruise control with stop and go.

With so many standard safety features to offer, it should come as no surprise that both of these three-row SUVs aced crash tests. According to the IIHS, the 2021 Toyota Highlander was recognized as a Top Safety Pick+. The IIHS gave the 2021 Mazda CX-9 a similarly high crash test rating, recognizing it as a Top Safety Pick+.

2021 Toyota Highlander vs. 2021 Mazda CX-9: No shortage of interior amenities

Let’s talk amenities. After all, you’re going to be spending a reasonable amount of time in your next vehicle. You might as well choose one that comes outfitted with all of the interior amenities needed to keep you and your family satisfied. Fortunately, both of these three-row SUVs offer plenty of sought-after interior amenities.

Opt for the Mazda CX-9 and revel in available features like leather-trimmed seating, heated and ventilated front seats, a wireless phone charger, navigation, and more. Consider the 2021 Toyota Highlander instead, and enjoy a three-row SUV that’s available with available interior features like two-toned leather-trimmed seats, wireless device charging, a panoramic moonroof, Wi-Fi connectivity, and a digital rearview mirror.


Consumer Reports Has Recommended Every Toyota Highlander Its Ever Tested

Which three-row SUV is the right choice for you?

According to Kelley Blue Book, it’s the 2021 Mazda CX-9 that’s the driver’s choice among three-row SUVs. But does that mean you should choose the CX-9 over this year’s Highlander? Not necessarily. In fact, it all comes down to what you’re looking for in your next SUV. Overall though? You really can’t go wrong with either of these three-row SUVs.