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2015 vs. 2016 Mazda CX-9: What’s the Difference?

Editor’s note: You may want to read more of Autotrader’s model vs. model comparison car reviews as well as the 2015 Mazda CX-9 review and the 2016 Mazda CX-9 review.


If you’re interested in a family-friendly SUV with all the latest trimmings, the 2016 Mazda CX-9 should be on your shopping list, as it’s well-equipped and fully redesigned for this model year. But what exactly is the difference between the all-new CX-9 and the outgoing 2015 model? And which one should you get?

To help you answer those questions, we’ve created a close comparison between the all-new CX-9 and the 2015 version.

2015 Mazda CX-9    2016 Mazda CX-9


On the outside, the CX-9 has undergone some major changes compared to the outgoing model — no surprise, since the 2015 CX-9’s design is almost a decade old. The new model is dramatically more modern in appearance, touting narrow headlights and taillights, a sportier side profile and a more aggressive front end with a larger grille.

While the new CX-9 and the outgoing model share the same general size, the two SUVs are otherwise easy to tell apart

2015 Mazda CX-9 interior    2016 Mazda CX-9 interior


The CX-9’s exterior has changed drastically, but Mazda has updated the SUV’s interior even further. While the old model used a fairly simple center control-stack design, the new version offers a lot more style and panache integrated into the dashboard and controls. There’s also a new infotainment screen perched above stylish center air vents.

Of course, the refreshed CX-9 also features improved materials, updated door panels, a new steering wheel and a larger interior with more space for all three rows of seats.

2015 Mazda CX-9    2016 Mazda CX-9


Like most models in the midsize SUV segment, the outgoing CX-9 used a V6 — in this case, a 3.7-liter unit that offered 273 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, mated to a 6-speed automatic. It returned up to 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway with standard front-wheel drive or 16 mpg city/22 mpg hwy with optional all-wheel drive.

The new CX-9 is unusual among midsize SUVs in that its sole engine offering is a 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which delivers between 227 hp and 250 hp, depending on whether you use regular or premium fuel. Once again, a 6-speed automatic is the only transmission. Standard front-wheel drive returns 22 mpg city/28 mpg hwy, while the optional all-wheel-drive setup gets you 21 mpg city/27 mpg hwy.

2015 Mazda CX-9   2016 Mazda CX-9

Features & Technology

Although the old CX-9 offered a surprising amount of technology for its age, the new 2016 model is at the front of the midsize-SUV pack when it comes to equipment. The new model touts adaptive cruise control, retractable sunshades, a heads-up display, lane-keep assist, adaptive headlights, a 12-speaker Bose stereo system and forward-collision warning with automatic braking, none of which you could get in the outgoing CX-9.

In other words, if equipment and gadgets are your thing, you’ll want the newest CX-9 over its predecessor.

2015 Mazda CX-9   2016 Mazda CX-9

Driving Experience

On the road, the latest CX-9 presents a more complete package than the 2015 model. While performance is down due to decreased power output, the new CX-9 boasts excellent handling and roadholding capabilities for a midsize SUV. It also offers a highly improved interior with striking new touches that you’ll notice the moment you climb inside.

In fact, it’s hard to say the new CX-9 includes any drawbacks when compared to the outgoing model. In addition to offering more technology, a wide range of useful new features and improved fuel economy, the new cabin is just a better place to be, whether you’re a passenger enjoying additional leg and hip room or a driver basking in the improved controls and the graceful handling.

2015 Mazda CX-9   2016 Mazda CX-9


The latest CX-9 has not yet been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). But the latest model clearly hailed from a different era, as it touted a mediocre 4-star NHTSA rating (compared to five stars for most rivals) and decidedly average marks from the IIHS as well, including a troubling Poor score on the firm’s small-overlap front crash test. We suspect the new model will do a lot better.

In fact, the 2016 CX-9 is already vastly improved in one key area: safety features. While the old version offered everything you’d expect (side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control) and a few modern features like rear cross-traffic alert and a blind spot monitoring system, the latest CX-9 boasts all of that and a lot more — including automatic high beams, lane-keep assist, forward-collision warning with automatic low-speed braking and a backup camera that’s now standard rather than optional. Simply put, if safety is a priority, the new CX-9 delivers much more than the outgoing model.


This one is easy: The 2016 Mazda CX-9 represents a huge leap forward over the old model. While some redesigns are subtle and include only a few changes, the latest CX-9 touts a new look, an updated interior design, a long list of new safety features, a lot more technology, enhanced materials, better gas mileage and much more.

If you’re trying to decide between the new CX-9 and the outgoing model, we strongly suggest choosing the new version, unless you get a deal you just can’t pass up.

Find a Used Mazda CX-9 for sale


Doug Demuro
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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  1. I am in the process of getting a Mazda CX-9. I am torn between 2015 and a lot more expensive 2016. The 2015 one has adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist and a 10-speaker Bose stereo system which in opinion of many is a bit better than the newer one. The only downside of this car I see is the fuel economy and no vented seats.

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