The Mazda CX-9 is one of the “underdogs,” if you will, in the mid-sized 3-row SUV market. It’s not nearly as popular as a number of more-established 3-row crossovers like the Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, Dodge Journey, Dodge Durango, Hyundai Santa Fe, Ford Flex, Toyota 4Runner, and Toyota Highlander. However, it’s a reliable SUV and it had some of the lowest driver death rates of all vehicles between the 2008 and 2011 model years in the Volume 50, No. 1 IIHS Status Report.
In that report, the 4WD version of the 2008-2011 Mazda CX-9 was estimated to have had a DDR of 5 and the 2WD version a DDR of 12. That’s just amazing, and a testament to the safety of the vehicle. As a result, it’s no surprise that it’s often chosen as a family vehicle by parents interested in something safe and reliable that costs less than some of the bigger-name 3-row crossovers.
Being such a solid SUV, I made it my mission to figure out how well it did when it came to fitting 3 car seats across the 2nd row. The good news is that it’s a wide-enough SUV to theoretically fit 3, 4, or even 5 car seats in. The bad news? The 2nd row is the only row that comes with tethers, which means you can’t tether while forward-facing, which means you’re missing out on a very important safety feature if you decide to use forward-facing seats in the 3rd row.
Before we dig into the details of which seats will give you the easiest time making 3 across installations work, let’s look at which kinds of car seats should be used to keep your kids safe at various ages.
First of all, I like to begin with rear-facing, since it’s the safest position for young children. I suggest rear-facing from day one until you can’t anymore, even if that takes you through the preschool years (ideally until 4!), before forward-facing them in harnessed convertible or combination seats (ideally until 8!). Once they outgrow their harnessed seats, it’s best to keep them restrained in high-back boosters until they’re physically and psychologically ready to use adult seat belt systems (which typically happens between 10 and 12). These suggestions may take a bit of extra work, but they provide a lot of extra safety.
My results of car seat puzzling in the CX-9 are below. It’s not a complete list, but as with all of my 3 across guides, it’s my goal to make it the most complete on the Internet over time, especially as I get access to more seats. If you find the list helpful when shopping for car seats, you can shop through my Amazon link below. I’ll add more seats as I test them over time.
You can access the complete 3 across guide for every vehicle here and the complete list of recommended seats here. The Canadian car seat guide is here. 3 across car seat images are courtesy of Wikipedia.
2016 Mazda CX-9
Guaranteed 3 across installations:
2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 Mazda CX-9
Guaranteed 3 across installations:
Clek Fllo (x3).
Clek Foonf (x3).
Diono Radian RXT (x3).
Diono Radian R120 (x3).
Diono Radian R100 (x3).
Combi Coccoro (x3).
Graco Size4Me 65 (x3).
Graco Contender (x3).
Tips and Tricks:
The current and only generation of the Mazda CX-9 is 200 inches long and 76 inches wide, which means you’re going to be able to fit a lot of car seats in the 2nd row without much trouble. The 3rd row will be a bit more tricky, but it’ll still be significantly easier than most of the other 3rd rows in the mid-sized SUV segment, simply because the CX-9 is longer than the vast majority of crossovers in this segment.
The biggest issue with the CX-9, as I stated above, is that the 2nd row is the only row that comes with tethers, which means you can’t tether while forward-facing, which means you’re missing out on a very important safety feature if you decide to use forward-facing seats in the 3rd row.
In the 2nd row, make use of your seat belts to get maximum side-to-side space, as usual. While you can use LATCH anchors, it’ll rob you of space if you’re aiming for 3 across setups. If you’ve only got one or two seats to install, on the other hand, it doesn’t matter at all.
Something nice about the 2nd row is that while you can’t remove the middle seat there to make it easier to get to the 3rd row, you can slide the outboard seats. Additionally, the center 2nd row seat is also a much larger seat than that you’ll find in most crossovers.
Another potential challenge with the 3rd row is the fact that you can’t always get to the 3rd row seats from the hatch and trunk area in order to buckle them the way you can with certain other vehicles. In other words, if you can’t buckle your kids in the 3rd row from the 2nd row and they aren’t old enough to buckle themselves, you might have a lot of trouble using that 3rd row in general.
Given the lack of tethers in the 3rd row in general, you might just want to restrict it to either children in booster seats or to teenagers who no longer need child safety seats in general. Technically, adults can also sit there, but there’s just not that much room.
If you find the information on car safety, recommended car seats, and car seat reviews on this car seat blog helpful, you can shop through this Amazon link for any purchases, car seat-related or not. Canadians can shop through this link for Canadian purchases.