Mazda crossover battle: 2022 CX-9 vs 2022 CX-5
Two Mazda crossovers - and two of the best on the market - compared head-to-head
Words and photos by Mitchell Weitzman
Looking for a new crossover SUV? Mazda makes two of the best with their CX-5 and CX-9 models. Sharing eerily similar styling, you might not be able to tell the two apart even (hint, the blue is the CX-5, and the white is the larger CX-9). The reason for choosing one over the other are differences in size and price. While you're not going wrong with either, as I hold each separately among the top of their own classes, this short guide can maybe help choose which is right for you and your needs.
With both examples tested in their 'Signature AWD' guises and with the same punchy turbo engines, this makes for a direct apples to apples comparison: The bigger CX-9 retails for $48,830 as equipped while the CX-5 stickers for $40,000. What do you get for your extra $8,830? The most obvious advantage is the size, with the CX-9 being a roomier car throughout and having a third row of seats. I also do find the CX-9 to have an interior built with a slight bit more quality and luxury, though both represent the best in their respective classes when it comes to interior builds. Mazdas are known to border on bona fide luxury that nearly rivals more expensive German alternatives. Seriously, sit in this CX-5 and then a comparable RAV4 Limited and the Toyota materials and details are that of a cheap rental car.
As mentioned, the CX-9 is the bigger vehicle with its third-row seating, but how much bigger is bigger? It's quite substantial on paper, with the CX-9 hogging 199" of pavement next to the modest 180" taken by the CX-5. The CX-9 is five inches wider at 78 compared to 73 for the CX-5, and it's also two inches taller at 68. The styling reflects this, as the CX-9 does appear stretched, but in a rather elegant manner; The CX-5 is a little stubby for contrast. I love the sensual curves and creases of each, with an understated class when other rivals can be just too fussy when it comes to design. However, it must be said that the CX-9 is not the largest vehicle in its class when it comes to shear volume due to its pretty, yet compromising roofline that gently slopes down. It's a three-row vehicle, sure, but it's far from the biggest inside. If ultimate practicality is what you're after, it's tough to beat Kia's Telluride.
On the Road
With less weight and size to manage, the CX-5 is the more sporting of the two to drive, with a keen turn-in and natural handling motions. Really, the CX-5, even as a crossover, drives better than most sedans. It's too soft to be an out and out sports car, of course, but it really does make the competition feel so wayward and boring when you throw a barrage of corners at it. Plus, it has the optional and gutsy 2.5L turbocharged inline-four that sends it from 0-60 MPH in 6.2 seconds, worlds faster than any Hyundai Tucson, Honda CR-V, or Toyota RAV4 (excluding the fast and expensive RAV4 Prime model). With this eager and powerful engine option, though, gas mileage isn't the greatest, with an average MPG of 24. If you're looking for the most driving fun, the CX-5 wins over the CX-9.
However, many of the traits of the CX-5 remain in the CX-9, with it also being the engaging choice in a crowded field of three-row SUVs. Steering is feelsome and has actual weight to it. Handling is deft for a vehicle this large and one that rides so comfortably with control over bumps; you can carve corners faster than you'll ever need to in a long SUV, minus if you're in a crew of international thieves or spies. Yes, it will use more fuel than the CX-5, with the CX-9 averaging 21 MPG, as there is more mass to motivate. It's also slightly slower for that same reason, needing seven seconds to hit 60 MPH. Both cars have available AWD for optimal traction, too, as tested here.
Why choose a Mazda to begin with?
Every Mazda currently on sale is at the top, or runner-up in their competitive classes. If you want one of the best driving and most luxurious, quality affordable cars on sale today, Mazdas, especially when equipped in their 'Signature' trim, do not dissappoint. There's simply a connection between the driver and the car/road that other manufacturers fail to identify. Add to that the outstanding, luxury quality that's available that feels more akin to a German offering, and you can see why I'm so fond of Mazdas. There's nothing fussy about them; Just good engineering and good quality.
Which is right for you?
Neither is the wrong choice, but the choice should be up to your needs and budget. The extra space of the CX-9 could come in handy one day or for some with larger families, but if you know you won't ever need the volume advantage, then perhaps the CX-5 is the better choice. It's more fun and performs better while using less gasoline to boot, but it's not entirely big. Stepping up to the CX-9 does require a not small amount of coin, but if you want the tiny bit of additional luxury and that third row, the CX-9 should be a top choice for its combination of values.
2022 Mazda CX-5 Turbo Signature AWD
Price as-tested: $40,000
180″ L x 73″ W x 66″ H
2.5L turbocharged inline-four with 227 horsepower
2022 Mazda CX-9 Turbo Signature AWD
Price as-tested: $48,830
199″ L x 78″ W x 68″ H
2.5L turbocharged inline-four with 227 horsepower
CX-9 photo gallery
CX-5 photo gallery