The Inside

Because of its preproduction status, Mazda warned that there might be some imperfect trim pieces in the cabin, but our CX-9 held up well to our scrutiny. Sport models have cloth seats, and the first and second rows of Touring and Grand Touring models have leather-covered seats (the third row is finished in vinyl, a common practice).

The front leather seats were comfortable, but I would have liked them more if the seat cushions were a little longer, for additional thigh support. Forward and over-the-shoulder visibility is good, which enhances driver confidence when changing lanes on the highway. The CX-9's dashboard falls away from the driver and front passenger nicely, and the two-tone color scheme in my test car was appropriately upscale.

All CX-9s have a second-row bench seat whose 60/40-split segments can slide backward and forward to create more legroom in the back rows. The backrests recline, and the generously sized seats mean adults should be able to get comfortable with relative ease. The same can't be said of the two-passenger, 50/50-split third row; though probably tolerable for a short trip, adults who get back there will find limited space and headroom. It's built more for children. When not in use, the third row folds flat into the floor.

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