The Biggest 2021 Mazda SUV Is Somehow Tight on Space

Mazdas are known for sporty driving dynamics and upscale craftsmanship. However, spaciousness isn’t one of the brand’s main selling points. And that’s evident in its family SUV – the 2021 Mazda CX-9.

This sporty three-row SUV is a special breed, and it’s the perfect option for a particular subsect of buyers. However, the CX-9 just might not cut it for drivers who want to purchase a big-bodied vehicle for its spaciousness.

The 2021 Mazda CX-9 isn’t as family-friendly as it appears to be

A silver 2021 Mazda CX-9 parked in a driveway with trees in the background
The 2021 Mazda CX-9 on display | Mazda

Test-driving this three-row midsize SUV is a breathtaking experience. It displays a stunning profile, and its interior is as upscale as some luxury models.

However, you’ll notice that not all your passengers will reap the benefits of its plush cabin. It has one of the most-cramped third-row benches in its class, with just 29.7 cubic feet of legroom. You’ll be able to seat small children in these seats, but it’s not quite a comfortable ride for anyone.

Comparatively, the 2021 Hyundai Palisade and the 2021 Kia Telluride offer more spacious back-row seating.

Thankfully, the front- and second-row seats are a different story. Both areas are roomy and comfortable. Plus, you can equip the 2021 Mazda CX-9 with second-row captain’s chairs with a center walkthrough for easier access to the back of the SUV.

You’ll have to pack light when traveling with the 2021 Mazda CX-9

A man getting ready to put a bag in the 2021 Mazda CX-9's cargo area
The 2021 Mazda CX-9’s cargo area | Mazda

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If you’ve got a big family, then you likely have big plans for your SUV. Every cubic foot of space makes a gigantic difference. 

But you might want to skip over the CX-9 for a more spacious SUV if you are going to travel frequently. Its cargo area is astonishingly tiny, offering just 14.4 cubic feet of space. Meanwhile, the Palisade and Telluride offer 18 and 21 cubic feet of space, respectively.

The CX-9’s literal shortcoming might force you to leave behind a bag or two. Notably, you can lower the second- and third-row seats for more room. However, that somewhat defeats the purpose of purchasing a seven-passenger SUV.

Those who have even more adventurous ideas may be out of luck as well. While you can add an available all-wheel-drive system to the CX-9, the SUV lacks the rugged capability of its rivals.

Mazda’s three-row SUV also falls behind the rest of its class in towing capability. The 2021 CX-9 maxes out a 3,500 pounds of maximum trailering capacity. Meanwhile, most other models in the segment, including the Palisade and Telluride, can tow at least 5,000 pounds.

Other family-sized options to consider

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The 2021 Mazda CX-9 might not meet all families’ needs due to its tight quarters and small cargo area. Thankfully, plenty of other options are available.

The aforementioned 2021 Kia Telluride and 2021 Hyundai Palisade are two of the best options on the market. Consumer Reports ranked these the Telluride and Palisade first and third, respectively, in the midsize SUV class.

Additionally, both models are priced well below the 2021 Mazda CX-9’s starting MSRP of $34,160.

Those looking to save even more money should consider stepping down a class, especially if you don’t need three rows of seating. The 2021 Honda CR-V, which starts at $25,350, has an enormous cargo hold of 39.2 cubic feet. That’s even more than the CX-9 offers with its third-row seats lowered.