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Mazda CX-9 v Toyota Kluger comparison review

By David Bonnici, 11 Nov 2018 Car Comparisons

Mazda CX-9 v Toyota Kluger comparison review

Which of these large seven-seat SUVs offers the best value at the top end of their respective ranges?

Since it was first introduced in 2014, the third-generation Toyota Kluger has led the large soft-roader SUV market, and has so far managed to see off fresher competition, including the multi-award winning Mazda CX-9.

Both are very well equipped, particularly their respective range-toppers, the Kluger Grande and the CX-9 Azami LE, which offer near-premium levels of comfort and features. We brought the two together to see which offers the best bang for your almost-70,000 bucks in terms of features, performance and comfort.

VALUE

The Mazda CX-9 is available in five grades, Sport, Touring, GT, Azami, and Azami LE, all of which are powered by a gutsy 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, with all variants except for the Azami LE available in front- and all-wheel-drive.

Read next: VFACTS: Holden and Mazda defy October car sales slump

The 2019 Mazda CX-9 range is priced as follows:

  • CX-9 Sport FWD - $44,990
  • CX-9 Sport AWD - $48,990
  • CX-9 Touring FWD - $51,390
  • CX-9 Touring AWD - $55,390
  • CX-9 GT FWD - $59,390
  • CX-9 GT AWD - $63,390
  • CX-9 Azami FWD - $60,990
  • CX-9 Azami AWD - $64,990
  • CX-9 Azami LE AWD - $66,490

Spending the extra $1500 over the Azami LE adds the plusher Nappa leather and woodwork  to the Azami AWD’s extensive features list, while still keeping its retail price below rival seven-seat SUV range toppers including the Toyota Kluger Grande AWD ($69,617) and Holden Acadia LTZ-V AWD($67,490).

The price includes everything and the only available options are two special paint colours. That said, Soul Red Crystal and Machine Grey cost just $300 more than the other five colours.

The CX-9’s turbo petrol engine is reasonably efficient considering the Azami LE’s 2.0-tonne mass, with an official combined consumption of 8.8L/100kmm, though that might still seem a little high for anyone getting out of a diesel SUV.

The Mazda CX-9 is covered by Mazda’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

Detailed information about the entire CX-9 range can be found in the Mazda CX-9 Range Review

Read next: Mazda’s Apple CarPlay retrofit coming soon

The Kluger comes in three model grades, GX, GXL and Grande that are each available with front- or all-wheel-drive, with the latter attracting a $4000 premium. 2018 Toyota Kluger pricing is as follows:

  • Kluger GX FWD - $44,500
  • Kluger GX AWD - $48,500
  • Kluger GXL FWD - $52,990
  • Kluger GXL AWD - $54,990
  • Kluger Grande FWD - $65,646
  • Kluger Grande AWD - $69,617

The Grande AWD ‘s $69,617 price tag makes it the most expensive non-4X4 Toyota available in Australia, and is higher than better-equipped rivals sitting atop their respective ranges, such as the Mazda CX-9 Azami LE ($66,490) and Holden Acadia LTZ-V AWD ($67,490).

Read next: 2018 Toyota Kluger: Which Spec is best

The Grande does come with the full enchilada though, including active safety features that are optional in the GX and GXL grades meaning, apart from accessories such as floor mats and roof racks, the only extra you’ll pay is about $480 for premium paint should the standard Eclipse Black hue not be your thing.

In all-wheel-drive guise the Kluger’s 3.5-litre V6 engine consumes regular unleaded petrol at an official combined rate of 9.5L/100km.

The Kluger requires servicing every 10,000km or six months, which is a higher frequency than most, though Toyota’s capped priced servicing means you’ll pay just $180 for the first six services during the first three years or 60,000km.

The Kluger is still covered by Toyota’s three year/100,000km warranty, which seems a little stingy considering most of its rivals have at least five years/unlimited kilometre coverage.

Detailed information, about the entire Kluger range can be found in out 2018 Toyota Kluger Range Review.

STANDARD FEATURES

The Azami LE comes with an extensive equipment list including:

  • Six-speed automatic transmission
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • 8.0-inch infotainment screen with rotary controller
  • Android Auto /Apple CarPlay
  • Digital radio (DAB+)
  • Satellite navigation
  • Three-zone climate control
  • 360-degree reversing camera
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Auto-folding powered door mirrors
  • 20-inch alloy wheels
  • Autonomous emergency braking
  • Driver attention alert
  • Lane-keeping assistance
  • Head-up display
  • Traffic sign recognition
  • Dusk-sensing headlights
  • LED daytime running lights
  • Rain-sensing windscreen wipers
  • Windscreen de-icer
  • Keyless entry/start
  • Power-operated tailgate
  • Sunroof
  • Nappa leather upholstery
  • Heated and ventilated front seats
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Bose stereo system.

The Kluger Grande AWD brings additional safety and luxury features over and above the standard features list and brings for its $67,490 retail price tag:

  • Part leather upholstery
  • Three-zone air-conditioning
  • Keyless entry
  • Power-operated tailgate
  • Heated and ventilated front seats
  • Power adjusted front seats, with driver’s seat memory
  • Sunroof
  • 8.0-inch touchscreen
  • Digital radio

Read next: 2017 Toyota Kluger Quick Review

  • Satellite navigation
  • Autonomous emergency braking
  • Lane keeping assist
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Rain-sensing windscreen wipers
  • Reverse parking sensors

  • Rear-cross traffic alert
  • Blind-spot monitor
  • Rear-cross traffic alert
  • Auto-dipping dusk-sensing headlights
  • Daytime running lights
  • 19-inch alloy wheels

SIZE

The Mazda CX-9 takes its ‘large SUV’ tag seriously, with its 5.1m length, 1.97m width and 2.93m wheelbase that makes it a little harder to park than, say, the Toyota Kluger which measures 4.89m long by 1.93m wide.

But it’s cavernous inside, with excellent head and knee room, including in the third row that comfortably accommodates two adults.

Boot space with three rows in use is a handy 230 litres, with the third-row seats offering a 50:50 split to add extra cargo. Folding the entire third row down brings a considerable 810 litres behind the 60:40 split second row seats. With all rear seats down, the CX-9 will hold up to 1641 litres behind the front seats.

Read next: 2019 Mazda CX-5 2.5 turbo locked in for Australia

The US-built Kluger is 4.89 metres long and 1.93m wide with the main cabin sitting above its 2.8m wheelbase. One reason for its popularity is that while it comfortably accommodates a family of seven, its size isn’t a hindrance when it comes to parking or negotiating city streets.

Head and legroom is excellent in the first two rows, but get a little tight in row three that’s best suited for kids.

As with most SUVs, boot space is tight (195 litres) if you’re using all seven seats, but even with the third row down you’ll only fit 529 litres, which is less than some medium SUVs. Fold down the middle row and you’ll fit 1872 litres worth of gear behind the front seats.

Toyota Kluger boot space

SAFETY

The CX-9’s size and strong body structure with side-impact door beams combine with six airbags to protect occupants well in the event of an accident, though you have a decent chance of avoiding that with autonomous emergency braking that operates at speeds up to 160km/h.

Other active safety features include lane-keeping assist, driver attention alert, rear-cross traffic alert, and blind-spot monitoring that can spot a car about to overtake you swiftly from up to 50 metres behind.

The CX-9 is also equipped with roll stability control, that mitigates the chance of a rollover, and trailer stability assistance which acts to minimise trailer sway when towing, while parking is made safer with a 360-degree camera view and front- and rear-parking sensors.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Mazda CX-9 its maximum five stars for safety, in July 2016.

The Kluger Grande comes with the full suite of available active safety features, including radar-based autonomous emergency braking that works at city and highway speeds – part of what Toyota calls its Pre-Collision Safety system. This is backed up by lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning and rear-cross traffic alert.

The Kluger is also equipped with seven airbags, including driver knee bag and side curtain protection for all three rows, and it has three child-seat anchor points for the middle row of seats but none for the back row.

The Kluger scored the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating in April 2017.

Read next: Toyota to expand its hybrid fleet by 2022

 

COMFORT

The Azami LE takes the CX-9’s acclaimed comfort levels a step further with the premium Nappa leather upholstery that makes it feel like a more expensive European SUV.

The spacious cabin feels welcoming with plenty of leg and elbow room in the first two rows, and the front seats gain additional creature comforts including powered settings and seat heating and ventilation.

Second-row passengers benefit from raised seating that affords excellent forward and side vision, separate climate control panel and vents, and a fold-down centre arm rest comprising two cupholders and two USB sockets.

The third-row seats are roomier than most of the CX-9’s rivals, and will accommodate two average-sized adults comfortably over moderate distances. Legroom can be altered sliding the second row forward and there’s a sufficient gap under the seat in which to slide your feet. The wide rear door opening means you don’t need to be a contortionist to climb in or out of the third row.

The coupe-like roofline sacrifices the ability to install separate air vents in the third-row, however the second-row vents do a good job of heating or cooling all the way to the back.

Read next: Android Auto vs Apple CarPlay

The interior is well put together with quality materials including soft-touch plastics, chrome brightwork and woodgrain trim, while the presentation of the instruments and controls is both classy and intuitive.

Ride comfort is also excellent, with supple but well-controlled suspension that glides over bumps, tyre, wind and engine noise is blocked out so effectively you’d be forgiven for thinking the CX-9 has double glazing.

The Kluger Grande’s stylish cabin looks well put together and you can choose between dark black and tan trim with neither costing extra. That said it doesn’t feel like a $70,000 car.

Cabin storage abounds, starting with huge centre console bin, and broad storage tray above the glovebox that is good for holding phones. Big door pockets and a deep centre console provide ample space for bottles, handbags and the like. 

First and second-row seats are plush and supportive, for good long distance comfort. The third row seats are reasonably comfortable, but pretty tight for bigger people for anything more than short trips, though legroom is helped by being able to fit your feet under the second row seats.

Ventilation controls are big and easy to operate, and there is a separate control unit for rear passengers mounted on the ceiling that blows airs through vents located in the third and second rows. There are also retractable blinds in which slide up and down to cover the rear-door windows and protect children from the direct sun.

On a country road or freeway, the Kluger is impressively quiet inside and rides comfortably. The cabin filters out road noise, but the wind can be loud around the big door mirrors.

ON THE ROAD

The CX-9’s size and AWD traction helps it feel incredibly well planted on the road.

It’s surprisingly nimble too, with slick steering and multi-link rear suspension that provides an excellent compromise between comfort and handling, even on the bigger the 20-inch wheels.

The 2.5-litre petrol turbo engine responds well at all speeds and even has a sporty note when at the upper reaches. It’s a lively engine that teams well with the six-speed automatic to give the CX-9 a surprising turn of speed and overtaking ability.

Its size and 2.0-tonne heft is more evident when braking, with the pedal feeling a little spongy when coming to a stop from highway speeds. 

Read next: Mazda expands SUV range with ‘driver-focussed’ CX-8

The AWD system is excellent on gravel, muddy or snowy roads, but the low ground clearance and sporty wheels aren’t conducive to very rough tracks.

For owners with a trailer or caravan, the Mazda CX-9 Azami LE has a 2000kg braked towing capacity.

The Kluger is pleasant to drive with a comfortable seating position and good forward vision. It feels planted to the road and the 218kW/350Nm 3.5-litre V6 engine runs smoothly and quickly responds to your right foot via the eight-speed automatic transmission.

The ride is smooth, even on the bigger 19-inch wheels. It recovers well when riding over big bumps, but does tend to vibrate when passing over smaller road imperfections.

Read next: Holden’s sales slump continues while Toyota dominates September sales data

At 2100kg, it’s not exactly designed for hard cornering, but it does feel stable through bends. The steering has a little play in it, though you do get more response from the 19-inch wheels than with the 18s under the GL and GLX.

While not a true off-roader like its Landcruiser Prado stablemate, the Kluger’s all-wheel-drive system instils confidence during off-bitumen driving on gravel, dirt or snow-covered roads, and farm tracks. A snow button near the gear selector reduces the chance of wheelspin on slippery surfaces.

OUR OPINION

The CX-9 Azami LE feels like it belongs in a price bracket above the Kluger Grande – it doesn’t just feel premium, it IS premium.

It drives well, feels stately and ticks all the boxes for anyone seeking a sophisticated family SUV, while being priced well under entry-level seven-seaters from the luxury brands - vehicles that can’t match the Mazda’s levels of safety, equipment or comfort.

And while the Kluger set the standard for road-based large SUVs, and while the range-topping Grande is a comfortable and capable family wagon when judged in isolation, it feels dated next to the CX-9 and doesn’t feel quite as luxurious as its $70,000 price tag would suggest.