Mazda CX-9 - Honda Pilot - Nissan Pathfinder - Toyota Highlander
Families on the go need vehicles with lots of room. They need storage space for all the soccer, little league and softball games they will be chauffeuring their kids to and from, as well as plenty of seating when it’s their turn to be the team bus driver. It used to be that you could only find that kind of versatility in a minivan or large SUV, but more and more people are finding that they don’t have to sacrifice ride quality for an SUV, or suffer the indignity of driving a minivan, when they can get three row seating and car-like handling in today’s large crossovers. Some of the best available on the market include the Mazda CX-9, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and the Nissan Pathfinder.
When comparably equipped, the Mazda CX-9, is the value leader offering more standard equipment than the competitors at the lowest price point: $32,420. The next closest in this group is the Toyota Highlander priced at $32,955. It’s more money but doesn’t include standard features on the Mazda CX-9 like automatic climate control, separate driver and passenger climate zones, or a leather wrapped steering wheels. The Honda Pilot at $32,780, does have the advanced climate controls, but certain available options on the Mazda CX-9 can’t be had at all on the comparably priced Pilot, such as heated front seats or a navigation system. The real loser here, however, is the Nissan Pathfinder. Priced at $34,050, while it does offer advance climate controls as a standard feature, unlike the competition it doesn’t even have an available third row seat.
Power and performance
Of the four large crossovers being compared here, three come with a V-6. Only the Mazda CX-3 comes with an I-4. That smaller displacement number means it also produces the least amount of horsepower, just 227 hp at 5,000 rpm. But remember, horsepower isn’t everything. With the lightest curb weight of the bunch and highest torque output of 310 lb.-ft. at 2,000 rpm, the Mazda CX-9 never misses a beat when the accelerator is punched, and is able to quickly and nimbly navigate past slower moving vehicles at will on the open highway, including the competitors listed here. After all, it is a Mazda, and if anyone knows how to get Zoom-Zoom out of a vehicle, even a large crossover, they can. And you won’t find Honda, Toyota or Nissan bragging about their vehicles performance, only their utility and practicality. But there is no reason utility can’t also be fun.
The Mazda CX-9’s four-cylinder engine also makes it an easy winner in the economy department as well, earning 22 mpg city and 28 mpg HWY, proving fun and economy can co-exist. Of course the competitors aren’t far behind. The Nissan Pathfinder comes in at 20 mpg city and 27 HWY, the Toyota Highlander at 19/25 and the Honda Pilot at 19/27. So not only will you pay more for the competition, you’ll continue to pay more at the pump.
For what they were designed to do, you really can’t go wrong with any of the vehicles here. All four are well equipped, spacious, and provide decent fuel economy, but the Mazda is better equipped and offers better gas mileage. All four offer lots of utility. But utility only gets the job done, and that usually means boring. Why settle for boring when the Mazda CX-9 makes utility fun? Combine that with better pricing, more features, and fewer dollars poured into the gas tank, and the fun Mazda XX-9 becomes the easy answer.