We took the Mazda CX-9 to Jane’s last soccer tournament. It was a few hours of driving with anywhere from two to four teenage girls, their soccer bags, their pillows, their overnight bags, their mounds of miscellaneous crapola and a bag or two of fresh food (I know, I have issues). I felt smug because the vehicle never felt too crowded and I never felt like I was driving a truck. Mazda manufactured a miracle.

With three rows of seating the CX-9 still manages to feel like more of a car than a truck. Perhaps because the CX-9 is on Ford’s CD3 platform along with a list of cars that I’ve also loved to drive: Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, Ford Edge, Lincoln MKX, Mazda 6 and more. The front wheel drive model that I drove has a modestly powered V6 engine that cranks out 273 hp with a curb weight of 4,528 lb.

While the CX-9 isn’t a performance vehicle it is sturdy and stable and accomplishes all it sets out to do. There’s room for 7 full sized people (to be fair our tallest was 5’10″ and everyone was comfortable in all three rows), all our junk and the ride is smooth. I can’t explain why but I love the look of front of the vehicle. When the CX-9 was parked at the soccer tournament I sort of scanned the rows and decided that I really love the pointier front end as opposed to the boxier look on most of the other CUVs.

2013 mazda cx-9 front

As I said before the engine is modestly powered but you can overcome the slowness of this by using the ActiveMatic and geting the CX-9 a little closer to the redline. Of course when you do this you’ll be giving up on the 19 mpg fuel economy but some fun is worth having. The Mazda is not a loud car in that there’s no engine rumble or rattling bits but there is highway noise once you hit about 60mph.

The cabin design is the highlight of the CX-9. Drivers and passengers are equally courted by a comfortable cabin with an intuitive dashboard. There’s no fumbling and wondering where things are, they’re exactly where they ought to be. My vehicle was equipped with a tech package that includes Sirius radio. Pandora was also incorporated into the dash and we took advantage of that. With terrestrial radio tanking these are great options. The navigation system was a little unwieldy and unfortunately it froze on me midway through the week so I never had the opportunity to figure it out. I am not easy to please with a navigation system. My Mercedes navigation has some pretty major flaws, the Jaguar is an abomination and Acura has nearly perfected theirs. With smartphones and navigation apps an underperforming nav system shouldn’t dissuade anyone from a purchase but a great one could help seal the deal.

2013 mazda cabin

With an MSRP of $34,785 (mine was loaded at $38,115) the CX-9 is a brilliant purchase for an active family or anyone who wants the conveniences of an SUV without having to actually drive an SUV. The 2013 star safety ratings aren’t out yet but IIHS gives the 2007-2013 mostly good ratings, I feel very safe with this particular vehicle.

iihs mazda

Click here for IIHS’s full rating.