Is The 2021 Mazda CX-9 Worth the Upgrade Over 2020?

In a class full of gentle cruisers, the Mazda CX-9 is the midsize SUV  to get if you want something sporty and spacious. There are some pretty enticing deals for the 2020 model as this year comes to a close. But is it worth it to go for the 2021 Mazda CX-9 instead?

About the 2020 Mazda CX-9

a gray 2020 Mazda CX-9 SUV driving on a gravel road in the countryside
2020 Mazda CX-9 | Mazda

Mazda’s CX-9 has always had the reputation of being fun and agile. It’s among the most reliable SUVs too. But it seems this year this Mazda is finally getting the recognition it deserves. As Car and Driver put it, the CX-9 is a happy compromise for those who want Miata driving dynamics but have “grown-up” responsibilities. 

Every CX-9 trim features the same turbocharged 227-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder linked to a refined six-speed automatic transmission. The CX-9’s turbo-four packs more of a punch than its figures suggest. Plus, it’s fuel-efficient too. Models standard with front-wheel drive have an EPA rating of 24 mpg overall. Opting for all-wheel drive only decreases fuel economy by a point.

Front seats of the 2020 Mazda CX-9
2020 Mazda CX-9 interior | Mazda

On the inside, the CX-9 exceeds expectations for a mainstream vehicle. It has a peaceful, well-insulated cabin with high-class trimmings. The CX-9 has three-rows and can seat up to seven. However, its interior space is on the narrow side compared to rivals like the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade, which have more room for people and cargo. 

The CX-9 becomes ultra-luxurious as you climb trim levels. All trims come with various active safety features, including blind-spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking. Its standard infotainment features aren’t that impressive, though. Some reviewers have said that the CX-9’s controls are challenging to operate while driving. You also have to upgrade from the base trim to get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. 

What’s new for the 2021 Mazda CX-9?

Dashboard area of the 2021 CX-9.
Dashboard area of the 2021 CX-9 | Mazda

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There aren’t any massive changes for the 2021 CX-9 performance-wise. It returns with the same turbo-four. However, there are a few notable differences. As with the CX-5, Mazda decided to revamp the CX-9’s infotainment system with the same interface the carmaker first introduced on the Mazda3.

The CX-9 now comes with a 10.3-inch touchscreen display, which replaces the 7-inch one on the outgoing model. This interface is easier to use, and the graphics are sharper. We’re also happy that Mazda made Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard too. 

The 2021 Mazda Carbon Edition lineup – CX-5, CX-9, and Mazda6
The 2021 Mazda Carbon Edition lineup | Mazda

In arguably bigger news, the CX-9 now has a Carbon Edition trim. Carbon Edition models have Polymetal Gray Metallic paint, a blacked-out grille, and rea leather seats. As Car and Driver noted, there are some slight changes to the upper-level trims. Grand Touring and Signature models get new paddle shifters and an updated exterior camera. The top-tier signature trim also gets a longer list of safety features and new quilted leather. 

Making the final call 

An assembly line of new Mazda CX-9 cars at Mazda Sollers Manufacturing Rus, a Russian-Japanese joint car assembly plant
The Mazda CX-9 | Yuri SmityukTASS via Getty Images

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You’ll want to shop for local deals before you decide between CX-9s. The 2020 CX-9 has an MSRP of $33,890. We’ve seen dealers take almost $5K off the sticker price. You may also be able to score a deal on a lightly used model. Although, the MSRP of the 2021 CX-9 is only $70 more than the 2020 version. It’s worth upgrading, particularly if you value modern tech.