Mazda New Zealand invited us down to Christchurch to the launch of their new CX9 seven seater luxury SUV. Of course we jumped at the chance, to be among the first group of journalists to test it in New Zealand. From where we sat no one was disappointed with what Mazda where delivering.

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The day began at the Sudima Hotel Christchurch Airport, for a full product presentation. The key points to the development of the CX9, was the focus on real world living. Not the chase for brochure specs or unusable high-end figures. It’s a bit of a risk, a smart risk, but a risk none the less, as on paper they will not stand well beside some of the competition. But if you think about it, most of us do not drive SUV’s like we are on a drag strip. I did say most of us… The real figure that always matters is torque – how much rotational force you have to move the vehicle. And Mazda have made sure you have more than enough at the low end, where you use it the most. What will this mean, if you find yourself mashing the pedal to get your current vehicle up to speed, you are probably doing this due to the lack of low end torque. So to get access to the high end power you need to get the revs of the engine high, which in turn uses more fuel. So if you can get access to this power band, when the engine revs are low, you are not mashing the pedal until you get what you need, and you are using less fuel to do it. This also makes the vehicle quieter, and add in some more sound deadening, and you should have a more enjoyable driving experience

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After the presentation, it was time for a drive. The hands-on first look, and to verify what Mazda had claimed. The CX9 is a big unit. It has a very tough, strong presence with a large flat grill and square front shape. I like it. The body has really clean and elegant lines, resulting in a pretty pleasant looking vehicle from any point of view. This may not be the best comment, but it has a very similar feel as the Volvo XC90, which Mazda should take as a compliment. The Volvo is turning heads left right and centre, and I have a strong feeling that the new CX9 will have the same effect on its market segment.

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Inside the CX9, you will be surprised what you’re getting for the starting price, which is $52,995, and its top spec model – the Limited – is $62,995. It seems to come with everything; Limited models have Mazda Radar Cruise Control (MRCC), Smart Brake Support (SBS), Adaptive LED Headlamps which improve visibility at night and prevent other drivers from being blinded by your headlamps, (ALH), Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), Lane-Keep Assist System (LAS) and Driver Attention Alert (DAA). On the inside you also got a Premium Bose Centerpoint surround system with 294-watt amplifier and 12 speakers including a subwoofer.mazda-cx9-new-zealand-6

On our drive, we managed to get lost, and not being from the region I feel like we should blame the nav, like any proper male driver would….. but it was only a short detour to get back on our route. However this detour was down a gravel road, a proper country metal road. Well it’s an SUV, if it can’t handle this slightly rough terrain, it’s going to be an issue in New Zealand. The CX9 did not disappoint and handled very well, even at high speed. Once we regrouped for a driver change, it was pretty noticeable that we had gone off and done our own thing.

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For lunch we stopped off at Mike Pero Motorsport Park and a short presentation on the new Mazda 3 and Mazda 6. After this we got to spend some time on the track in the CX9’s. No, we did not get to race them, much to my own disappointment. We did however get to fully test out the Mazda Radar Cruise Control and Driver Attention Alert. This cruise control worked flawlessly, as you would expect, but Driver Attention Alert had some issues. This may have been due to the fact we were trying to force it to activate, or that it is a somewhat odd system. On a controlled track straight we lined up the vehicle with a dummy suspended from a gazebo. The idea was to head straight for him, and the car will stop you just in time. Let’s just say, I was glad it was a dummy. The test requires you to not touch any controls, which tries to mimic the loss of concentration of the driver, but this system will disengage if there is any pedal or steering input. For many of us it worked, but for a few it did not. After the dummy, they had an inflatable car to test it with, it worked once for me, and then second time I crashed into it. The system does seem to work, however it’s not advised that you try and test it yourself.

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After the day’s end which was at Peppers Clearwater Resort, I found that I was very happy with what Mazda had to offer the 7-seater market. It looked great, it had all the options you needed, and it was very well priced. The range includes three models across two grades, the CX-9 FWD SKYACTIV-G 2.5T GSX 6AT with the retail price of $52,995, the CX-9 AWD SKYACTIV-G 2.5T GSX 6AT at $55,495 and the CX-9 AWD SKYACTIV-G 2.5T LIMITED 6AT at $62,995.

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