SUVs are like potato chips; you can't have just one. And since the inception of the first SUV (the Jeep-Eagle) in 1984, Mazda has made its mark by offering iconic models that deliver best-in-class off-road capability and fuel efficiency. Today's consumers are looking for vehicles that provide driving enjoyment and dependability, and Mazda SUV models offer just that. There are many factors to consider when purchasing an SUV, including power, comfort, features, and of course, safety. While all the models on this list have excelled in those categories, what sets them apart is their uniqueness and how they've evolved. Some were trailblazers in their time, while others have perfected the formula. Here is our list of the ten best Mazda SUV models of all time.
10. Mazda CX-7 (2007 – 2012)
The Zoom-Zoom brand may be better known for its sports cars and light trucks, but it hasn't ignored its SUVs. Introduced in 2006, the CX-7 was a two-row SUV built on the compact platform of the Mazda 6 and shared many features with its sedan counterpart. Although it wasn't quite as agile or fast as some competitors (the V6 engine only produced 200 horsepower), the CX-7 had an edge for its supple handling and modest curb weight, giving it both a sincere feel and agile cornering. It's also one of the few SUVs available in a front-wheel-drive configuration that still offered all-wheel drive, which was a bonus for drivers in wintry climates. The interior was spacious enough to accommodate up to seven passengers over three rows with surprisingly decent headroom for its size. The cargo area was also voluminous, with up to 56 cubic feet of space behind the third row or 110 cubic feet with all seats folded flat. A redesign in 2011 brought new standard features, including rear air vents and a limited-slip differential. Mazda discontinued the CX-7 after 2012.
9. Mazda CX-9 (2007 – 2016)
Although it was introduced to North America in 2007, the Mazda CX-9 dates to 2002, debuting in Japan. With a long list of standard equipment and more cargo space at its disposal, it quickly became one of the most popular SUVs on the market. In 2011, Mazda upgraded the CX-9 with a full redesign featuring a refreshed exterior and interior, and it also added an eye-catching blue paint option. In keeping with its Zoom-Zoom heritage, the ride was very agile and sporty for an SUV. The CX-9's 3.7L V6 engine produced a healthy 273 horsepower and 270 lb.-ft. Of torque, this was more than enough to get this big SUV up to speed in an instant. A six-speed automatic transmission provided smooth acceleration, and the overall driving experience could be further enhanced by adjusting the suspension settings for comfort or sport mode. In 2009 Mazda introduced i-ACTIV all-wheel drive to give the CX-9 an extra boost of confidence during off-roading. And with the addition of a new package offering 22-inch alloy wheels, BOSE sound system, and a blind-spot monitoring system, it's hard to ignore the value and quality packed inside this seven-seater SUV.
8. Mazda Tribute (2001 – 2009)
The Mazda Tribute was introduced in 2001 as a compact SUV designed to compete with the Nissan Xterra and Honda Passport. Although it wasn't the biggest of its kind, it did offer an unmistakable presence on both road and off-road, thanks to its unique styling and chunky body lines. For a compact SUV, the Mazda Tribute had a surprising amount of cabin space for both front and rear passengers. The up-level model came with features like heated seats, power everything, and a six-disc CD changer. In 2005, Mazda introduced an all-new four-wheel-drive version called the Mazda Tribute i-AWD Sport, which had a potent V6 engine under the hood. It was capable of producing more than 200 horsepower and 222 lb.-ft. Of torque, so it wouldn't take long to get this sport utility vehicle up to speed. For buyers looking for an all-wheel-drive SUV that stood out among its rivals on the road, the Mazda Tribute i-AWD Sport is worth a look.
7. Mazda CX 3 (2017 – Present)
Although Mazda's original plan for its compact SUV revolved around the CX 9, it did release a smaller version of the CX 3 in 2013. And while it did have its share of problems, it served its purpose in filling in the gap between its compact Mazda 3 lineup and midsize CX 5. The biggest problem with the CX 3 was how it drove, especially compared to other compact SUVs on the market. It had a choppy ride quality resulting from its firm suspension system, which caused back pain for some drivers after prolonged periods. Fortunately, they fixed this issue with the 2017 redesign. Besides comfort and cabin space, the CX 3 offers an impressive list of standard amenities like heated seats, push-button start, and keyless entry. The i-ACTIV all-wheel-drive system provides added security in slippery conditions by using sensors to detect how much traction you have and distributing power accordingly. The base trim comes with a 130 horsepower four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. But the only reason why we recommend one of the higher trims is because they come equipped with a turbocharged engine that generates 250 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft. Of torque. If you're looking for a compact SUV that can hold its own on the road, then this is it right here.
6. Mazda CX 5 (2013 – 2017)
The Mazda CX 5 was initially released in 2013 as part of its new three-row crossover lineup to take on the likes of the Honda Pilot and Chevrolet Traverse. The original model was equipped with a front-wheel-drive standard or i-ACTIV all-wheel drive as an optional upgrade. However, the one thing that held this compact SUV back from being great was its lack of power under the hood. The base engine provided good fuel economy, but you have to floor it to get it to move. Even then, there were so many times when it struggled to pick up speed in highway situations. But Mazda knew they had to fix the problems, which is why they released a redesign in 2016 with two different engine options. The base model came with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that generated 187 horsepower and 186 lb.-ft. Of torque, while the up-level model featured a turbocharged engine that put out 250 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft. Of torque. Due to its smooth ride quality and comfortable cabin space, this compact SUV makes a great choice for families who need lots of cargo room to haul all their gear in.
5. Mazda CX9 SUV (2019)
A game-changer in the midsize SUV category, the CX9 is packed with features like four-wheel drive and i-ACTIV All Wheel Drive. With 19 cup holders, it's one of the roomiest SUVs on the market. Mazda decided to switch things up when designing this model, opting for an old-school boxy look that still manages to be sleek. This goes against current design trends, but Mazda's gamble paid off. They even trademarked it as "Kodo Soul of Motion. The CX9 SUV 2019 sits high-up on the road for an elevated driving experience and has plenty of legroom on both sides of the cabin. It feels very roomy on the inside while not being too large on the outside to cause parking problems. One of the best features of this model is its available technology. There's a 7-inch multi-function Commander control display to access all your media and navigation needs. Thanks to voice recognition, you'll only have to say what you want once. It also comes packed with an even more advanced 360-degree Around View Monitor. For the 2019 model, Mazda added some new safety features, like Smart Brake Support and Forward Obstruction Warning. If you're looking for a large family vehicle that performs like a sports car, the CX9 SUV 2019 is a perfect choice.
4. Mazda Tribute i-AWD Sport (2004 – 2009)
For an SUV released back in 2002, the Mazda Tribute was ahead of its time with its i-Stop system that automatically shut down and restarted the engine when you came to a stop. Even today, very few vehicles have this feature as standard equipment. Other amenities included in the Tribute's base model were anti-lock disc brakes, daytime running lights, and seven airbags to protect both front and rear passengers from any collision. The only reason why this SUV was discontinued after 2009 is because of poor sales, which led to Mazda having to lower the price on it. But if you look hard enough at used car dealerships, you can find decent examples that don't cost an arm and a leg.
3. Mazda CX 9 (2017 – Present)
Even though it has a longer wheelbase than ever before, this Mazda crossover SUV still manages to provide a highly entertaining driving experience without being overly expensive to maintain. Mazda has been able to keep its price point competitive with the CX 5, and Touring models come standard with all-wheel drive, a turbocharged engine that generates 250 horsepower, and 310 lb.-ft. Of torque and a six-speed automatic transmission for easier shifting. The only downside is that all of these amenities come at a steep cost. Still, when you consider that the CX 9 has a starting price of $32,495 and a leather interior standard, it's a reasonable alternative to most luxury compact SUVs in its class.
2. Mazda CX5 (2020)
Though it's new to the market, the Mazda CX5 2020 has all the features drivers are looking for in an SUV. It is loaded with tech, including facial recognition and a touchscreen interface. This model also offers excellent fuel economy. Mazda hit the nail on the head with this one. It has a subcompact crossover design, which gives it lower weight and more responsive handling. There are three trim levels to choose from: Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring. The vehicle offers a smooth ride on all kinds of surfaces thanks to its available i-ACTIV AWD with a G-Vectoring Control system. The CX5 2020 has great safety features, including Lane Departure Warning, Smart City Brake Support Forward Detection System, and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.
1. Mazda Speed 3 (2013-Present)
At first glance, the Mazda Speed 3 may seem like just another compact car success story. With class-leading power and braking performance, as well as a comfortable interior and stylish exterior, it's no wonder that this SUV has brought even more success to its older brother, the celebrated Mazda3. But what puts this crossover on our list is its driver-focused technology and performance, making it a perfect vehicle for anyone looking to get the most out of their daily commute. It has a five-door front-wheel drive that offers an unmatched balance of performance and fuel economy, with a six-speed SKYACTIV-MT manual transmission. The direct injection 2.3 liters 4 cylinder engine gives you up to 263 horsepower at 5500 pm, allowing you to go from 0 - 60mph in under 6 seconds. Regardless of whether this SUV was discontinued or not, there's no denying that it set the bar for future models such as the CX 5.
Written by Benjamin Smith
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