Auto123 is spending the next few weeks behind the wheel of a Mazda CX-90 PHEV, and we’ll need all of it to properly analyze this new plug-in model from the Japanese brand. Here's the third part of our long-term review.
In the previous installment, we examined the exterior and interior designs of the CX-90. This time, we focus on the functionalities of the cabin, which is after all one of the main selling points of this large Mazda.
What are the dimensions of the Mazda CX-90?
The SUV has a height of 1,745 mm when including the roof rails, which are very discreet mind you, and a width of 1,971 mm with the mirrors folded (2,157 with them deployed). Most importantly, the vehicle has a length of 5,120 mm and a wheelbase of 3,120 mm.
That’s all fine, you say, but that doesn't tell us much unless we compare these measurements with those of the competition.
You are absolutely right!
Since the Mazda CX-90 can carry up to eight occupants (more on that below), let's look for some similarly sized rivals, which is to say midsize SUVs that can accommodate at least seven occupants. Let's say the Acura MDX, Hyundai Palisade, Mitsubishi Outlander and Volkswagen Atlas.
Yes, it’s true that the Infiniti QX80 and Chevrolet Tahoe, to name just two, can of course carry just as many humans, but their inflated dimensions place them in the full-size SUV category. A different segment from that of the CX-90.
So sticking with comparing apples with apples, I've prepared the small table below, including the old CX-9 as well, and in bold, the biggest measurements for each of height, width, length and wheelbase:
Model = Height/Width/Length/Wheelbase
- Atlas = 1780 / 1989 / 5098 / 2980
- MDX = 1724 / 1999 / 5039 / 2890
- Palisade = 1750 / 1975 / 4980 / 2900
- Outlander = 1748 / 1897 / 4710 / 2706
- CX-9 = 1716 / 1999 / 5065 / 2930
- CX-90 = 1745 / 1971 / 5120 / 3120
What are the seating configurations of the Mazda CX-90?
The secret behind a spacious interior is far less secret than that of the Caramilk bar: It’s all about the wheelbase. Indeed, by fully exploiting the potential space available between the two axles, designers can (sometimes) deliver an amazing cabin. And it so happens that the table above reveals that of all the mentioned models, it is the CX-90 that enjoys the most generous wheelbase.
That's no accident.
According to Jeff Guyton, Mazda's President in North America since June 2021, the CX-90 corrects the shortcomings of the CX-9, not least its interior, which was ultimately not spacious enough in the view of many buyers, and thus in the view of the manufacturer's top management.
The designers of the CX-90 endeavoured to produce an interior that can accommodate six, seven or eight occupants.
It will be six if you choose to have captain's chairs in the middle and rear rows. The high-end Signature version, exclusive to models equipped with the inline-6, requires not only captain's chairs in the centre but also in the 3rd row.
It will be seven if you keep the captain's chairs in the middle row but opt for a bench in the back. For example, the GT and GT-P models don't want anything to do with a middle bench, but will be glad to welcome a bench in the far rear.
Finally, it will be eight seats if you skip the individual seats and opt for benches in the middle and rear. Among the models with the inline-6, the base GS version comes standard with that configuration. The GS-L does as well, but with the option of captain's chairs in the middle.
Are all seats in the Mazda CX-90 comfortable?
A good and relevant question. It's all well and good to claim that you can seat up to eight humans, but you must not make enemies for life of those humans forced to endure a long road trip in cramped quarters.
What is the access to the designated seats like?
For the driver and passenger, no complaints. Both can slide into their thrones without worrying about being scalped, because the height of the CX-90 is decent. Once seated, they will immediately appreciate the contours of the seats and their carefully calibrated firmness.
Access to the middle seats is even easier, thanks to the very wide doors that pivot almost to a right angle. The top of your tuque might brush against the roof frame, but nothing dangerous, even if you’re a six-footer. The threshold is high but not too high.
No complaints about comfort in the middle row either. The captain's chairs in my GT PHEV model had slim but effective adjustable armrests. A tray with two cupholders, retractable from the left seat, proves very handy once everyone is in place and the journey begins.
As you can imagine, the real test concerns the back seats. First, to access them, Mazda chose not to reinvent the wheel. As in many other vehicles, you slide the centre seat forward as much as possible and then fold its backrest. The opening created should allow volunteers/conscripts heading to the rear to wriggle to their seat without too much grumbling.
Their efforts will be rewarded with a quarter window that reduces the risk of claustrophobia (if you have the optional panoramic roof, even better), as well as a double cupholder, USB-C port and adjustable ventilation nozzle. As for comfort, it is acceptable. The seat, although of the pancake type, offers satisfactory padding, while the knee clearance, raised due to the stepped floor, remains viable even if the middle-row passenger moves their seat back.
Take note, however: the eighth seat should only be used by a child. It is steep, elevated, hardly comfortable. Those either side of them should ideally not be too broad-shouldered.
A second way to access the rear seats is possible when captain's chairs are present in the middle row. The third-row volunteer/conscript is then invited to use the central aisle.
Certainly, I found this path less challenging to extricate myself from the vehicle from the back. Because otherwise, exiting from the sides, even with the middle seat reclined to the maximum, means one’s legs must contend with the wheel arch, which is the obstacle to overcome before setting foot on the ground. It's not easy.
In short, I now understand better why colleagues have written that they would use those rear seats only for youngsters. Indeed, flexibility and an enviable waistline are required to venture there.