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2018 Mazda CX-9 Ownership: Aye, Aye, Captain

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author photo by Tara Trompeter October 2018

I'm going to make a bold statement: Automakers are making a HUGE mistake by not offering captain's seats as an option on every single 3-row SUV they manufacture. I don't think they realize how many more parents with kids in car seats would consider their cars if they had captain's seats. I've been driving our long-term 2018 Mazda CX-9 almost exclusively for a few months now, and I can't even tell you how many times I've thought, "This car would be PERFECT if it just had captain's seats and Apple CarPlay." (Side note: Apple CarPlay is offered on the 2019 Mazda CX-9! Captain's seats are not.)

Captain Obvious

Here's the deal: If you have at least two children, and those kids sit in a car seat or any type of booster, AND you need to be able to put a human in the third row (child or adult, doesn't really matter which), captain's seats are imperative. Let me give you an example. Over the weekend, my daughter had a friend over, and I was getting ready to take the two girls (ages 7 and 8) and my son (age 4) out to dinner. My daughter (over 40 pounds) uses a high-back booster. My son (under 40 pounds) still sits in a convertible car seat with a 5-point harness. My daughter's friend was going to use a traditional booster seat.

At first, I tried to put it between my kids' seats (in the middle of the second-row bench), but it didn't fit. So I opened the rear lift gate where, to my surprise, there were bags of clothing my kids had outgrown that I had intended to drop off at a friend's house but had forgotten about. I started moving everything around to make a path for our guest to climb through the cargo area. As I did so, I was grumbling to myself about the lack of captain's seats. A clear pathway from the second row to the third would have prevented all of that trouble.

Real Life

Funny story: As I was writing this article, I received a text from one of my best friends, Lindsey. She drives a Honda Odyssey and had to take it to be serviced. She has three kids, ages 6, 3.5 and 2.5, all of whom are in boosters or convertible car seats. Instead of loaning her another Odyssey, the Honda service department gave her a Honda Pilot in a version without captain's seats (they only come on the Elite trim level).

She said, "I wish you could have seen me trying to switch out all of my car seats." Partly, the issue is that the Pilot is an SUV and not a minivan with sliding doors -- those doors make it MUCH easier to install second-row car seats. But the issue was also the lack of captain's seats and a clear path to the third row. To install her son's car seat in the third row, she was forced to crawl through the trunk! Not really the best look for a 37-year-old mother of three. Her exact words: "You cannot have three kids in a 3-row car without captain's seats." I couldn't agree more, and I don't even have three kids!

Car seats are not a new invention, and 3-row vehicles have been around for about 20 years. How is it possible that all automakers haven't figured out the necessity of captain's seats for parents who have multiple children in car seats? At the very least, make them optional, to give buyers the choice. My gut says most parents with young kids will want them. That's why so many of my contemporaries are driving around in the Buick Enclave! Buick discovered the winning formula early on, and now it's time for some of the other automakers with midsize 3-row SUVs to catch up. I'm looking at you, Mazda.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2018 Mazda CX-9 Ownership: Aye, Aye, Captain - Autotrader