Prickly One

by Petrol Mum
Mazda CX-90 G50E Azami AWD Soul Red Crystal

This large, imposing looking SUV is the first ever Mazda CX-90, the new premium flagship seven seat SUV in the Mazda model lineup and the successor to the popular CX-9. The much-heralded CX-90 promises a new kind of family luxury and it’s bristling with technology.

The CX-90 is currently powered by either a petrol or diesel mild hybrid engine with a plug-in hybrid not due in Australia until the second half of this year. Just before Christmas I drove the top spec petrol-powered CX-90 variant, the G50E Azami AWD and in Japanese Azami means “thistle flower”.

On a road trip to the beautiful Belmore Falls near Robertson in NSW I took the CX-90 on highways, bumpy dirt tracks, and potholed country lanes and the ride was comfortable enough along all of them. The petrol-powered CX-90s have a 3.3 litre turbo in-line 6-cylinder engine with a 48V mild hybrid system and i-Activ AWD paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The engine produces 254kW of power and 500Nm of torque and comes with two on-road drive modes, Sport and Normal, and an off-road mode and it also has downhill decent control. The official combined fuel consumption for this engine is 8.2L/100km and for my week driving the CX-90 I used 9.7L/100km of 95RON petrol.

When you open the CX-90 using the smart keyless entry you are greeted by a pretty, wavy animation on the 12.3-inch digital driver’s dash, which changes design depending on what drive mode you are in. Beware when you are stepping up into the CX-90 though because if you are rushing and not paying attention you will hit your knee on the air vent that somewhat protrudes out from the dash and this hurts.

I like the stitched details on the dash of the Azami and that the leather steering wheel has electric adjustment so you can find that just right position. The CX-90’s head-up display is directly projected onto the windscreen limiting the need for the driver to ever take their eyes off the road. But if you do get distracted for a moment the CX-90 will loudly bong and display ‘distracted driver detected’ on the dash. This is not the only reason that the CX-90 bongs and we nicknamed our CX-90 ‘bongs-a-lot’ because of this.

The Azami comes standard with black Nappa leather seat trim or can be optioned with white or tan leather. Both front seats have power adjustment for recline, forward/back, seat height for the rear of the cushion only, and 2-way lumbar support, with the driver’s seat getting two memory positions. The front seats are heated and cooled in the Azami and neither of these worked up to a standard that I would expect for a premium SUV.

The other disappointing feature in the CX-90 was the air conditioning system, which operated poorly on a 35o Celsius day with four occupants in the vehicle. Even on the lowest temperature setting the air con took too long to get down to a comfortable temperature in the cabin. Then when the CX-90 did feel like it had cooled the cabin somewhat it would then warm up again like it had gone into Eco A/C mode. This happened even though I was driving down the highway with no start/stop driving. Then when it was a little cooler outside, I found it hard to find a comfortable temperature in the cabin and I had to keep adjusting the climate temp to maintain a balanced temperature. The final thing that annoyed me was that I had to press down on the red arrow to increase the temp because in my mind I wanted to tap up on this control as the temperature was going up, but maybe this is just me?

The 12.3-inch central widescreen display is not a touchscreen, so you need to navigate it using the rotary controller on the centre console. In some ways I prefer this as you don’t get fingermarks on the screen and it can actually be easier than sliding and pressing on a screen. Voice control can also be used to access the infotainment system and is done so by pressing the button on the steering wheel with the masculine-looking silhouette on it. The voice control worked well for me for making phone calls, changing the radio station and setting a destination on the sat nav.

I really liked the finish on the centre console and was glad to see that there was no gloss black trim elements on any part of the interior. Under the split folding arm rest there is a shallow storage area with two USB-C ports located here. The cubby at front of centre console for your phone has wireless charging and wireless Android Auto, which worked well on the CX-90, and here there is also one 12V socket. Wireless Apple CarPlay is also available or they can be connected via USB as well.

Rear passengers have their own digital temp, air speed, and mode controls and the second-row outer seats are heated. The second-row passengers get two central air vents with individual direction adjustment and one central on/off control with two USB-C ports below the air vents. The panoramic sunroof increases the amount of light into the cabin, but only the front half opens.

The second-row seats have a 60:40 split with manual recline adjustment and forward/back movement for each seat and I found that there was ample head and leg room in the second-row seats. If you are using the two ISOFix/three rear tether child seat restraint points you may find that there is only enough room for two car seats. The centre seat folds down as an arm rest with two cup holders at the front of it and there’s drink bottle storage cubbies in each rear door as well. To protect the little one’s eyes there are manual blinds on the windows and to keep the floor clean from their mess there are mats on the floor, but not over the transmission tunnel.

You access the third row by pulling a lever on the shoulder of either second row seat and manually slide it forward. The gap that opens is large enough for an adult to step through and there is a plastic cover where you would place your foot. With the second-row seat forward in a position that is still comfortable for those passengers there was still enough leg room for me to fit in the third row. There was also enough head room and the only problem for me was that my knees sat up high so there was no support under my thighs. The third-row seats both have rear tether points behind the seats, but they are not labelled in the standard way to indicate this.  

Third row passengers get two rigid cup holders in each of the wheel arches and there is one USB-C port on each side of the vehicle located near the bottom of the window. The air vent is slightly oddly positioned down low, so blows mostly on your legs only. To protect the carpet there are two mats that completely cover the floor, which can be removed for easy vacuuming.

The CX-90 has gesture open/close tailgate or it can be open/closed from the button under the tailgate, in the cabin and on the annoyingly small buttons on the side of the key fob. With the third-row seats up there is enough room in the boot space for school bags or a small shop. Or you can manually lower the split folding seats using the strap on the back of them and with the third-row seats down there is obviously loads of space, good for that last minute Christmas shopping. This large boot space has four substantial tie down points, two hooks, one light, one 12V socket, and one AC 220V/150W 3 pinned plug.

Under the boot floor there is some extra storage space for items that you would not need all the time and when my children were younger this would have been the perfect place for some emergency clothes and the like. Under the floor below this space is a temporary use spare tyre. The petrol CX-90 models have a 2,500kg braked towing capacity and the diesel models a 2,000kg and both have a 750kg unbraked towing capacity and a maximum tow ball weight of 150kg.

Mazda CX-90 G50E Azami AWD rear view camera

The Mazda CX-90 range does not currently have an ANCAP or Euro NCAP safety rating, but does come standard with front (driver and passenger), side (front and rear), curtain (front and rear), far-side (driver), and driver’s knee airbags. All CX-90 also come standard with a long list of driver safety aids including Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Monitoring, Emergency Brake Assist, Forward Obstruction Warning, Front and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane-keep Assist System, and Smart Brake Support Front with pedestrian and cycle detection. For convenience you also get  Has auto lights, high beam control and auto wipers. The Azami comes with a 360° view camera with see-through view and front and rear parking sensors.

All new Mazda vehicles are backed by a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty plus five year’s Mazda Premium Roadside Assistance. The petrol powered CX-90’s service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000kms, whichever comes first and the cost for the first five basic services on the CX-90 G50E Azami AWD is $3,390.

Mazda CX-90 G50E Azami AWD in farmland

Thistles may have beautiful flowers, but they are also prickly weeds, and likewise there are many first-rate features of this CX-90 Azami and some unsatisfactory ones as well. The Mazda CX-90 G50E Azami AWD is priced from $93,954 plus on-road costs and as tested with optional Soul Red Crystal paint ($995) this CX-90 was $94,949 plus on-roads. You can Build your Mazda CX-90 online or visit your preferred Mazda dealer for more information.

Three usable rows of seatingThe air conditioning system
The interior designIt bongs a lot   
The flexibility of the boot spaceNo ANCAP safety rating

Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.

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