Americans buy a lot of 3-row SUVs and automakers design a lot of 3-row SUVs to sell. They’re great do-it-alls, with the ability to comfortably move up to eight people, cargo space for serious hauling, and all-weather safety. But they are not all the same.
In a parking lot full of similar Toyotas and Hondas, the Mazda CX-9 and Mitsubishi Outlander stand out as more interesting choices. Let’s see how they compare.
2023 Mazda CX-9
Designing the 2023 Mazda CX-9 must have taken some magic from Mazda engineers. It has as much room for passengers and cargo as most 3-row family haulers. But after dropping the kids off, it seems to shrink around you and behave like something smaller and much more fun to ride. It starts at $38,750, plus $1,275 destination fee.
Mazda CX-9 Highlights
Best-in-class handling: We don’t normally discuss the mannerisms of a sports sedan when covering 3-row SUVs. And it might be a bit of a stretch to use those terms for something this size. But our test driver says the CX-9 “doesn’t drive like a 3-row SUV. Rather, it has the agility and finesse of something smaller, and maybe even something that isn’t even an SUV.
A real third row: The Mitsubishi Outlander is a great solution if your third row only needs to seat kids. But it looks more like a 2-row SUV with jump seats in the back more suited to occasional use. The rearmost row of the CX-9 is larger in all dimensions. You won’t feel as guilty asking adults or older children to sit there.
It’s lovely: There is a decided trend towards squarer and more robust SUVs this year. The Outlander is distinctive, but still applies this philosophy. Mazda bucks that, with a sleek design that stands out from the crowd. Mazda also covers it in unusually deep paint colors. We love their take on red – Soul Red Crystal Metallic – which has a gem character that many modern car models lack.
Check this week Fair purchase price or view Mazda CX-9 models for sale near you.
Mitsubishi Outlander 2023
The 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander is something of a rarity – an SUV with the proportions of a compact crossover but three rows of seats like a midsize SUV. This puts it in a niche that few vehicles can accommodate. It has a surprisingly nice cabin for its price and a good price – starting at just $27,595, plus $1,345 destination fee.
Mitsubishi Outlander Highlights
A lot less expensive : The Outlander is smaller, but its price is much smaller. Starting at over $11,000 less than the CX-9, it could save you thousands of dollars if you can easily live with its tidier proportions. Its narrow third row makes it more of a 2-row SUV with a small third row for occasional use – but if that’s what you need, this one could save you five figures.
Spend those savings on luxuries: A well-equipped Outlander can look like a luxury car. Because its starting price is lower, luxury trimmings are at your fingertips for less. It even has a few options, like a high-tech head-up display and six driving modes, that aren’t available on the CX-9 at any price.
Plug-in hybrid (PHEV) option: Most Outlander models use the same 181 horsepower 4-cylinder engine. But Mitsubishi is building an Outlander PHEV with 248 horsepower and up to 38 miles of all-electric driving. Buying it erases the price advantage (it starts at $39,845). But it’s like having an electric car for your daily driving needs and a gas-powered car when you need to leave town.
Check this week Fair purchase price or see Mitsubishi Outlander models for sale near you.
Both can carry up to seven people, offer comfortable, almost luxurious cabins, and feature much-reviewed all-wheel-drive systems (although they’re optional on the Outlander)
Neither the Mazda CX-9 nor the Mitsubishi Outlander are the conventional answer for buyers looking for a 3-row SUV, but that’s part of their appeal. The CX-9 is a very maneuverable and fun-to-drive model despite its true 3-row size. The Outlander is much cheaper, but its third row isn’t useful for everyday adults. Its fuel-efficient PHEV option, however, is something Mazda doesn’t match (for now – look for it on the upcoming CX-90).
Both answers work. Which one suits your taste?
|2023 Mazda CX-9||Mitsubishi Outlander 2023|
|Engine||2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder||2.5 liter 4 cylinder|
|Powerful||227 hp at 5,000 rpm||181 hp at 6000 rpm|
|Couple||310 lb-ft at 2,000 rpm||181 lb-ft at 3,600 rpm|
|fuel economy||20 city/26 highway/23 mpg combined||27 mpg (24 city/31 highway)|
|Towing capacity||3,500 pounds||2,000 pounds|
|Basic warranty||3 years/36,000 miles||5 years/60,000 miles|
|Powertrain Warranty||5 years/60,000 miles||10 years/100,000 miles|
|NHTSA Overall Safety Rating||5 stars||n / A|
|Maximum seating capacity||7||7|
|Wheelbase||115.3 inches||106.5 inches|
|Total length||199.4 inches||185.4 inches|
|Width||77.5 inches||74.7 inches|
|Height||69.0 inches||68.7 inches|
|Turning diameter||38.8 feet||36.1 feet|
|Headroom, front||40.1 inches||40.6 inches|
|Headroom, rear||38.5 inches||39.1 inches|
|Head room, 3rd row||35.4 inches||34.5 inches|
|Leg room, front||41.0 inches||41.7 inches|
|Leg room, rear||39.4 inches||39.9 inches|
|3rd Row Leg Room||29.7 inches||18.7 inches|
|Shoulder room, front||57.9 inches||57.9 inches|
|Shoulder Room, Rear||58.1 inches||55.9 inches|
|Shoulder room, 3rd row||53.1 inches||51.2 inches|
|Cargo volume||14.4/38.2/71.2 cubes||11.7/33.5/79.7 cubic feet|
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