In a class full of Johnny-come-latelies, the 2014 Mazda CX-9 is tried and true. This was the sportiest 3-row crossover when it first came out, and years later, it's still the one. But the CX-9 isn't just about having fun; it has everything that a family-minded shopper could want. Whether you're looking for space or pace, this multi-talented Mazda has the goods. Here are five reasons why the CX-9 continues to charm.

Huge Cabin

Most Mazdas aren't that big, so you might assume that the CX-9 is just another midsize crossover. But this thing is large. With three standard rows of seating, there's actually room for adults in back. And when you fold both rear seats down, you have almost 101 cu ft. of storage space. Unless you're talking minivans, the CX-9 is about as spacious as it gets; it just doesn't look that way when you see one on the road.

Nimble Feel

Despite its imposing dimensions, the CX-9 does a magical shrinking act on winding roads. We couldn't believe how nimble the CX-9 felt when we put it through its paces. Not that people typically buy 3-row crossovers to have a good time, but if you're looking for some fun, the athletic CX-9 is always ready to oblige. This crossover really lives up to Mazda's sporty image.

Strong V6

Big crossovers need big power to get moving, and the CX-9 obliges with a strong 3.7-liter V6. Rated at 273 horsepower, the V6 leaps into action when called upon, and it makes a nice little snarl, too. Even if you have a full load, the CX-9 can still get out of its own way. And since this isn't a new engine, Mazda has had plenty of time to work out the kinks.

Great Value

With a starting price of around $30,000, the CX-9 gives you full-size functionality at the same price as some compact crossovers. And it's not like the base CX-9 doesn't have any features. You get the same great handling and strong V6, plus plenty of standard amenities. You can go ahead and grab a top-of-the-line model if you want to, but you might be perfectly happy with the base trim, and that's unusual in this segment.

Sleek Style

Large crossovers are known for valuing function over form, but the CX-9 gives you both in the same sleek package. Even though there are newer rivals on the market, we still think the Mazda's the best-looking of the bunch. It's a head-turner, and that's an unexpected bonus.

AutoTrader Says

If you want a family hauler that'll put a smile on your face, go try the 2014 Mazda CX-9 and see what you've been missing.

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Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

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