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Does the Mazda CX-9 really have three rows of seats? Looking at it, you would never expect this midsize crossover to fit the third row in the rear. When it comes to size, the CX-9 is one of the smallest midsize SUV models in the market, but it typically shines above the rest of the competition when it comes to quality and fun.

The Mazda CX-9 is an SUV unlike the others

A dark blue 2022 Mazda CX-9 splashing through a puddle.
2022 Mazda CX-9 | Mazda

Very few vehicles in the same class as the CX-9 offer premium or luxury qualities. This Mazda comes at you with an alluring style across smooth curves that support an athletic stance. The premium materials inside the cabin are much nicer than the class this vehicle keeps. Add the fact that you’ll have an energetic SkyActiv powertrain that provides 310 lb.-ft. of torque at only 2,000 rpm, giving you the acceleration to rocket off the line the way Car and Driver describes the drive.

This SUV certainly feels like it belongs in a higher class, but Mazda maintains its position in the mainstream market.

Midsize crossover driving excellence, but…

Rear Cargo area of a Mazda CX-9
Mazda CX-9 Rear Cargo Area | Mazda

Even though you’re going to find a glorious build and an upscale cabin in the Mazda CX-9, there are some aspects of this SUV that might turn you away and send you toward other vehicles. The roominess in the third row of this SUV is a bit of a joke, with only 29.7 inches of space for the passenger’s legs in this area. Additionally, the cargo area behind the rear seats only measures 14.4 cubic feet. On top of these tight quarters, this SUV has been around since 2016 and is due for an upgrade.

How do these interior cargo space numbers compare?

When looking at other SUVs in this same class, you’ll see the Kia Telluride offers 31.4 inches of legroom for third-row passengers, while the Ford Explorer provides 32.2 inches of space. The cargo room for these other two models is also significantly greater, with 21 cubic feet in the Telluride and 18.2 cubic feet in the Explorer.

Finding more excellence in this Mazda

There are six trims offered for the CX-9, each adding more premium qualities and driving pleasure to the last. These six trims are Sport, Touring, Touring Plus, Carbon Edition, Grand Touring, and Signature.

You’ll find a strong foundational SUV to drive when starting at the Sport trim. This SUV packages features including:

  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Keyless entry
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel
  • Heated front seats
  • Tri-zone automatic climate controls
  • 10.25-inch touchscreen

Heading to the Touring model, you will see:

  • Leather upholstery in the first two rows
  • Power front passenger seat
  • Two USB ports in the second row
  • Power tailgate

The Touring Plus version adds:

  • Powered moonroof
  • LED fog lights
  • Two USB ports for the third row
  • 12-speaker Bose audio system
  • Heated/ventilated front seats
  • 20-inch alloy wheels

Carbon Edition Models give you:

  • Second-row captain’s chairs
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Adaptive headlights
  • Hands-free tailgate

A few items included in the Grand Touring are:

  • Head-up display
  • Road sign recognition
  • Navigation system with real-time traffic updates
  • 360-degree camera system

The quality found in the Signature trim includes:

  • Nappa leather upholstery with diamond-patterned stitching
  • Santos Rosewood trim
  • Aluminum accent pieces

Should you turn your back on the Mazda CX-9?

White Mazda CX-9 next to a tree
White Mazda CX-9 | Mazda

If you’re expecting to drive the Mazda CX-9 and find the size and comfort you typically associate with a three-row SUV, think again. This SUV gives you fun driving dynamics on the road, offers sporty styling, and brings you premium features. It’s not likely the right choice for a family of six or seven and all the activities associated with them.

On the other hand, if you have a family of four or five, this SUV just might meet your needs. If it does, you’ll enjoy the benefits of impressive acceleration, a beautiful, well-crafted vehicle, and a versatile cabin where you can store items behind the seats taken up by your family members.

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This article was updated on 9/5/2022.