Road tripping the 2013 Mazda CX-9: Motoramic Family Drive
Full disclosure: We own a 2003 Mazda MPV, a minivan in which the company no longer sells in America. While there is a new version of this people hauler called the Mazda8 sold in Japan, in the US, the CX-9 is deemed more viable as a replacement due to the popularity of crossover sport utes. Additionally, full-size minivans like the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna are favored because they have more room, in contrast to the smaller-statured MPV. For our family, we actually prefer Mazda’s nimble size and handling performance, plus its flexibility to meet our family's utility needs. But as our much-loved family shuttle is nearing its retirement, we need to start looking for our next car. Over a long holiday weekend, we decided to give the CX-9 a try. After stocking the CX-9 full of snacks, water, camera, jackets, books, two razors and helmets, we piled into the SUV on a city-park-hopping day-trip across Southern California.
With no need to bring our two dogs Wallace and Gromit on this road trip, the CX-9 has plenty of room to store everything we needed, especially with the 3rd-row seat folded flat—a feature my wife Elise and I debate about all that time if that is something we still need on our next car. On the way to our first destination, a dinosaur-themed park in Laguna Hills, Calif., it is apparent that our 10 and 8-year old kids miss the optional rear seat DVD entertainment package. Luckily, the stacks of books, the quiet ride plus a competent satellite radio and Bose 10-speaker sound system kept us entertained during our drive.
Sitting in back, our 8-year old son likes the all-black interior. The perforated leather seats give the car a comfortable, classy look and feel. However, he did complain that after the car is parked under the sun for awhile, the back seats can use dedicated air vents behind the center console to cool the leather quicker. And while there is plenty of storage in the back, including the fold-flat trunk space and the fold-down center armrest, our youngest also wishes the side door pockets would be deeper, to not only hold water bottles, but also other items like books so they can be easily accessible while on the move.
After spending sometime at the Dinosaur Park, we key in our next destination, the Blue Bird Park in Laguna Beach, Calif., into the onboard TomTom-powered in-dash navigation system. Being somewhat of a techno-geek, I take pride that I could learn fairly quickly and adapt to most car infotainment systems. The one in the CX-9, however, stumped me. The touchscreen interface is slow to react. After trying to input and search for the park by hand, I give the voice-recognition a try. Time and time again the navigation system keeps directing us to the nearest airport—John Wayne. Even our 10-year old son, who usually blames me for incompetence, agrees that the small touchscreen is not easy to manipulate, and the voice guidance does not work well. He diplomatically writes in his notes that he is “really concerned about the technology.”