2019 Subaru Ascent vs. 2018 Mazda CX-9: Driving dual category leaders side-by-side


As vehicles designed essentially to schlep a garland of people and all their things from one place to another, practicality is of peerless regard in this car segment. And a Subaru takes a win. Little touches like well-placed squeeze handles, easy-to-reach chair composition levers, and a whole bucket of cupholders of each figure and distance mix to make a Ascent easier to live with on a daily basement than a CX-9. Just as important, a Ascent’s boxy figure lends itself to big, box-shaped openings for a back doors and hatch, that creates it easier to get people and load in and out.

The Mazda CX-9 is in no approach impractical, yet a neat styling cuts down on interior space in predicted ways. For instance, even yet a Mazda is longer and wider than a Subaru, there’s some-more head- and shoulder room in a Ascent in all 3 rows, and some-more legroom in all yet a center row. It’s a identical story with load space. The CX-9 offers significantly reduction space for things no matter how a interior is configured, and has 15 fewer cubic feet of storage room overall.

Plus, a Subaru Ascent can draw 5,000 pounds (note that a bottom indication is singular to 2,000 lbs), while a Mazda CX-9 has a significantly reduce 3,500-pound rating.


We’re going to give this difficulty to Subaru. The Ascent’s 2.4-liter turbocharged flat-4 engine creates 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque, on regular-grade gasoline. The Mazda offers 227 hp on 87-octane fuel, or 250 hp on premium, and spins out a vigourous 310 lb-ft of torque no matter what class of fuel is used. In a genuine world, conjunction engine feels like a powerhouse, yet both are totally adequate for daily pushing duties.

The Mazda will run only excellent on 87 octane, yet a fact that owners have to make a choice of that fuel to put into a CX-9 can’t count as anything other than a demerit. And even yet it creates utterly a bit some-more torque, a CX-9 doesn’t unequivocally feel any quicker than a Ascent on genuine roads.

We customarily tremble when we see a difference invariably non-static delivery on a spec sheet, yet Subaru seems to have mastered a art of creation CVTs livable. It only works, and roughly never feels like it’s removing in a approach of your delight of a vehicle. Plus, there are paddle shifters that fast let a motorist quarrel by 8 pre-set ratios, that can be both fun and useful on up- and downhill gradients.

Mazda went with a normal six-speed involuntary in a CX-9. These days, transmissions with 8 or even 9 gears are common, and some-more gears mostly meant quicker acceleration and larger fuel economy. But a Mazda six-speed works fine, doesn’t hunt and pat for gears, and has primer and competition modes. What a CX-9 doesn’t have, though, are paddle shifters. It’s a tiny thing, yet as a car designed and marketed as a sportier choice than a rivals, it feels like a bizarre omission.

The Ascent, like all Subarus (minus a BR-Z sportscar), comes customary with all-wheel drive. The CX-9 comes customary with front-wheel drive, and all-wheel expostulate is optional.

Fuel mileage is tighten between a dual crossovers, with both a Ascent and all-wheel-drive CX-9 earning an EPA-estimated 23 miles per gallon combined. But remember, CX-9 buyers will have to select between unchanging and reward fuel.

Driving dynamics:

Mazda flattering most has a close on crossover pushing dynamics, as a CX-5 and CX-9 are both during a tip of their particular segments in a fun-to-drive quotient. The float is on a organisation side of gentle and is really good tranquil for such a vast vehicle. Its steering feel and stifle response are a best in a segment, and while we’d peril a ultimate boundary are identical between a Mazda and a Subie, a CX-9 is some-more fun when pushed.

That said, a Subaru isn’t bad, either. The float is softer and a steering is most lighter, yet it’s never floaty and never feels out of control. The Ascent’s framework feels really stiff, and, while it’s a biggest Subaru ever made, a altogether heft is well-masked from behind a wheel.


This one goes to Subaru, with a Mazda’s $33,105 bottom cost only somewhat aloft than a Subaru’s $32,970. But a Mazda we get for that sum is front-wheel drive, given a Ascent is customary with all-wheel drive. Add that to a CX-9 and you’re looking during $34,905.

Of course, conjunction automaker is going to sell a ton of base-model vehicles. And when climbing a options ladder and selecting aloft trim levels, a Subaru Ascent continues a pricing advantage over a Mazda CX-9. Optioned out with a leather interior, upgraded sound system, and a breathtaking sunroof, a CX-9 Grand Touring runs $43,840 contra a Ascent Limited’s $42,920. You can go aloft — to a Signature trim on a Mazda or to a Touring on a Subaru — during that indicate a cost will only design $45,000 for possibly vehicle.


Count ’em adult and you’ll see that a Subaru Ascent won 3 out of a 5 categories. By that measure, it’s a leader of this comparison. But, as is so mostly a case, a existence is some-more nuanced than that.

If we wish a really best-driving three-row crossover for sale in America, we should substantially strut on over to your Mazda dealer and take a exam expostulate in a CX-9. Similarly, if you’ve grown used to small, sporty cars yet now have a flourishing family to consider about, we might cite a dynamics of a Mazda, since, as contributing editor James Riswick puts it, it feels reduction like a chastisement for parenthood.

But notice that we put pushing dynamics down toward a bottom of a comparison. There’s a reason for that. Enthusiasts — including, we’d guess, a satisfactory series of Autoblog readers — might obsess over a few tenths here and there during a competition track, yet these are not competition cars. They shouldn’t expostulate like something they aren’t, and in existence they don’t.

Ultimately, if we caring some-more about carrying fun behind a circle on a curvy highway than anything else, and you’re not disturbed about creation your third-row passengers carsick, collect a Mazda. Otherwise, we’d advise starting your new-car selling outing during a Subaru play and operative down from there.

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