NEWS

Mazda CX-9: Which Should You Buy, 2020 or 2021?

a 2021 Mazda CX-9 driving through a forest 2021 Mazda CX-9 | Manufacturer image

Most significant changes: New mid-level Carbon Edition trim; 10.25-inch infotainment screen standard on all models; higher trims get additional safety tech

Price change: $70 increase for CX-9 Sport; $40 increase for CX-9 Touring; $390 increase for CX-9 Grand Touring and Signature

On sale: Late August

Which should you buy, 2020 or 2021? It depends. The 2021 CX-9 offers additional model diversity and safety features for a modest price increase, but it wasn’t immediately clear if the multimedia system lost the outgoing CX-9’s touchscreen functionality.

Mazda is updating its CX-9 flagship three-row SUV for the 2021 model year, adding a standard 10.25-inch dashboard display to all models, additional safety tech to higher trims and creating a new Carbon Edition that lets buyers purchase what Mazda considers a more visually exciting CX-9.

Related: Mazda CX-5, CX-9 and Mazda6 Get Carbon Editions for 2021

Shop the 2020 Mazda CX-9 near you

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2020 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring
40,973 mi.
$29,000
Great Deal | $1,125 under
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Used
2020 Mazda CX-9 Touring
34,357 mi.
$26,990
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It wasn’t immediately clear if the 10.25-inch display still works as a touchscreen, a functionality eschewed in favor of Mazda’s arm-level controller on cars like the CX-30 and Mazda3. The outgoing CX-9 offered 7- or 9-inch displays with touchscreen functionality when the car was stopped. Asked to clarify the 2021 CX-9’s interface, a Mazda spokesperson did not immediately respond.

The new Carbon Edition comes with gray exterior paint and red leather upholstery, along with a gloss-black grille and mirrors, and trim-specific 20-inch wheels. It doesn’t, however, change the CX-9’s performance, as it remains powered by the same 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 250 horsepower and 320 pounds-feet of torque — but only on premium gas. Use regular and those numbers drop to 227 hp and 310 pounds-feet.

Carbon Edition models and above also add low-speed rear automatic emergency braking and a driver attention alert system to the standard i-Activsense suite of safety features, and the Grand Touring and Signature models also add a 360-degree camera system.

Price

The base front-wheel-drive Sport now starts at $35,060, up $70 for 2021. Upgrading to a 2021 FWD CX-9 Touring will cost $36,850, an additional $40 over a comparable 2020 model, and a Touring-specific Premium Package adds an extra $2,060. The new Carbon Edition sits in the middle of the range at $42,180 for a FWD example. A FWD CX-9 Grand Touring costs $43,040 for 2021, while the top-of-the-line CX-9 Signature with standard all-wheel drive costs $47,705 — both $390 increases over 2020 models. (All prices include an unchanged destination fee of $1,100.) Adding AWD to every 2021 CX-9 but the Signature adds $1,900 to the price, as it did for the 2020 model year.

Lower trim levels of the 2021 CX-9 might cost a slight premium versus competitors like the Honda Pilot, Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride, but both the Palisade and Pilot can surpass higher trim levels of the CX-9, and the 2021 Pilot can even surpass $50,000. The touchscreen remains a question mark, but with modest price increases in exchange for a better interior and safety tech, the 2021 Mazda CX-9 is an otherwise solid choice over a comparable 2020 CX-9.

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Road Test Editor Brian Normile joined the automotive industry and Cars.com in 2013 and became part of the Editorial staff in 2014. Brian spent his childhood devouring every car magazine he got his hands on — not literally, eventually — and now reviews and tests vehicles to help consumers make informed choices. Someday, Brian hopes to learn what to do with his hands when he’s reviewing a car on camera, and to turn his 2021 Hyundai Veloster N into a tribute to the great Renault mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive hatchbacks. He would daily-drive an Alfa Romeo 4C if he could. Email Brian Normile

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