It was a tidbit easy to skip over, a tacked-on phrase designed to illicit nary a response, a drip-drip-drip of information without the two latter drips. In Mazda’s press release announcing the addition of more safety equipment to the base Sport model of the 2018 Mazda CX-9, the company briefly made mention of a reconfigured passenger compartment.
“Among the highlights are more features at every price point,” Mazda says, “such as an improved second row for both greater comfort and easier third-row access and greater sound insulation in what is already one of the quietest vehicles in its class.”
An improved second row? Easier third row access? Of all the things the second-generation Mazda CX-9 required, those elements would certainly rank near the top of the list. But is this just a fanciful claim, or did Mazda actually make meaningful changes to the CX-9 less than a year and a half into its lifecycle?
We have answers.
“The CX-9’s rear seat improvements were made because engineers are constantly receiving feedback from world markets where it is sold to create the best customer experience out there,” Mazda spokesperson Jacob Brown tells TTAC. “Our engineers do not wait for major model changes to make meaningful improvements that benefit our customers.”
Therefore, while adding blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert to the entry-level CX-9 — and consequently increasing its price, as we reported yesterday — Mazda also decreased the effort required to operate the second-row seats’ levers.
*Crickets*No wait, there’s more. Mazda also made the second row slide farther forward so real humans can actually get into the third row. That gap measured 2.36 inches in the 2017 CX-9; it measures 7.87 inches in the 2018 Mazda CX-9. This is a difference maker.
But wait, there’s more. Previously, when the second-row seat was moved forward, the rake of the seat was just 50 degrees — it wasn’t leaning that far forward. Now the second row leans forward to a 33-degree angle.
Finally, aiding comfort in the second row is a seatback angle that’s now more like the CX-5: 22 degrees rather than the MY2017 CX-9’s upright 6 degrees.
Mazda didn’t add any actual legroom to the CX-9’s somewhat snug third row. (Remember, if you need a truly comfortable third row you need to consider the Pacifica, Sienna, Odyssey, Grand Caravan, or Sedona; not a crossover.) Yet the greater ease with which passengers can climb into the CX-9’s rearmost seats is a boon to overall useability.
Small changes such as these won’t turn the Mazda CX-9 from a relatively uncommon family vehicle to a top seller. But we will always applaud an automaker that, rather than defending the indefensible, steps up to the plate and responds to key complaints with tangible improvements.