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The 2020 Mazda CX-9 SUV is seen under the Chief John Ross Bridge near Coolidge Park. / Staff photo by Tim Barber

When it comes to family haulers, three-row SUVs such as the 2020 Mazda CX-9 define the sweet spot. And the CX-9, shown here in Soul Red Crystal Metallic, is definitely one candy-coated confection.

Among the medium-size SUVs I've tested, the Mazda CX-9 is hands-down the prettiest — in a candied-apple kind of way.

My tester was the top-of-the-line "Signature" edition with every option that Mazda offers. Now standard are Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, smartphone interfaces which will help you comply with Tennessee's new hands-free phone law.

Inside, the CX-9 Signature looks like a luxury SUV costing thousands more. From the Parchment-colored Nappa leather seats to the rosewood accents to the heated steering wheel, the CX-9 delivers a posh environment only a half-step down from Lexus and Mercedes-Benz.

FAST FACTS

* Model: 2020 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD

* Exterior color: Soul Red Crystal Metallic

* Interior color: Parchment

* Engine: 2.5-liter, turbocharged

* Horsepower: 250

* Transmission: 6-speed automatic

* Fuel economy: 26 mpg highway, 20 mpg city

* Local dealer: Tim Short Mazda

* Price (as tested): $47,855

 

WHAT IS IT?

The 2020 Mazda CX-9 Signature is a mid-size six-passenger SUV, powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that generates 250 horsepower. While not the most powerful SUV in its class, the CX-9 sips gas, returning 26 miles per gallon in highway driving and 20 mpg city.

 

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

My tester was the fanciest and priciest in the CX-9 line. It rings up at $47,855, which is actually quite reasonable for what you get. You can get a base CX-9 starting at $33,790. In the middle of the price pyramid is the Touring trim with all-wheel-drive, which goes for $37,510.

 

WHAT'S TO LIKE?

Oh, let's see. The 360-degree monitor helped me keep from scuffing the paint, the two-tone interior is classy, and the second-row seats look like first-class airline recliners.

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The 2020 Mazda CX-9 cockpit is seen. / Staff photo by Tim Barber

 

WHAT NEEDS IMPROVEMENT?

The 9-inch color touchscreen juts out of the dash in a way that makes it look tacked on. The four-cylinder engine is adequate but doesn't deliver the smooth power of the best six-cylinder motors. This may sound strange, but the key fob is a bother with its side-mounted control buttons. I fumbled around in the parking lot trying to open the doors.

 

WHAT'S THE DRIVING EXPERIENCE LIKE?

The CX-9 prioritizes comfort and luxury. The driving experience is vanilla.

 

BOTTOM LINE?

All things considered, the CX-9 is my favorite mid-size SUV. And the Soul Red is my favorite color by a mile.

Online: In the market for a new vehicle? To access hundreds of Mark Kennedy's Chattanooga Test Drive columns, visit timesfreepress.com/testdrive.


View other Test Drive stories by Mark Kennedy



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