The facelifted Mazda CX-9 is evidence that you should not judge a book by its cover.
The major change for the seven-seat crossover is revised frontal styling that mimicks the Japanese maker’s new corporate styling template: otherwise known as ‘Kodo’, or ‘Soul of Motion’.
Here’s the thing: in the big picture, Kodo styling goes hand-in-hand with Mazda’s new SkyActiv technology, which represents a complete rethink of core automotive elements such as the powertrain, chassis and even basic manufacturing processes in the pursuit of maximum efficiency.
The first two SkyActiv models were the CX-5 compact-crossover and forthcoming third-generation Mazda6.
The CX-9 is not the third, despite the swish new look. In fact, it’s the same old economy-sized pseudo-people-mover, with a new face and some extra equipment. It’s something of an anomaly: possibly the only non-SkyActiv Mazda that will ever sport the new Kodo look.
CX-9 is a relative newcomer to New Zealand: it was launched last year. But this American-market-focused model has been around since 2007, hence the model upgrade.
Despie the styling sleight-of-hand, the CX-9 is still a good thing: massive at nearly 5.1 metres in length (longer than a Range Rover), but a truly spacious seven-seater with excellent equipment levels and impressive refinement.
Leading the year-2013 revisions are a package of active safety features including Forward Obstruction Warning, Lane Departure Warning and High Beam Control.
The interior features new trim elements, a touchscreen information display and integrated TomTom satellite navigation.
There’s just one model, at $65,490 – a $5000-plus increase over the previous CX-9. Mazda New Zealand has eschewed a lower-specification and/or front-drive version, saying that all of the interest in this segment is at the top-level and for four-wheel drive vehicles. Rivals include the Toyota Highlander and Ford Territory.
The 204kW/367Nm 3.7-litre engine and six-speed automatic gearbox are carried over from the previous model. Combined fuel consumption is 11.3 litres per 100km.