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2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV Long-Term Review, Part 5: Ergonomics in Movement

The Mazda CX-90 PHEV 2024, multimedia screen
Photo: Mazda
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Michel Crépault
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Auto123 is spending several 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 fourth part of our long-term review.

In the previous chapter of our saga, we looked at the on-road behaviour holding of the CX-90 in both its forms, with the 6-cylinder and with the plug-in hybrid system. Let's stay on the road and check out what the interior can do for you...

Is the Mazda CX-90's dashboard well thought-out?

On the whole, yes, but with one or two reservations. I've already pointed out that cabin aesthetics vary from model to model. You can go from the all-black of a GT PHEV to the sophisticated hues of an elegant Signature. But the two screens adorning the dashboard also vary in size depending on the model.

The screen hosting the instrument cluster behind the steering wheel stretches to 12.3-inches in the PHEV, but can be anything from 7 to 10.25 to 12.3 inches in the 6-cylinder models.

The data display behind the steering wheel of the 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV
The data display behind the steering wheel of the 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV
Photo: M.Crépault

Press the Info button on the steering wheel, and a string of information scrolls past, such as instantaneous or average (calculated every 30 seconds) electricity or fuel consumption. Divided into three digital sections, themselves subdivided, the information is clear and often colourful. In short, there's enough to keep you entertained while you wait at the drive-thru.

The central screen is 10.25-inch on all CX-90s sold in Canada, except the Signature, which boasts a 12.3-inch display. Located so close to the windshield, it's easy to see why the designers didn't make it touch-sensitive. Wouldn’t do to dislocate the shoulder of the customer, after all. So to access its secrets, you have to use the big wheel sitting in front of the central armrest. This wheel again, and again, this wheel that Mazda insists on.

It often forces you to make one or two clicks that we deem superfluous before reaching the desired function. And with every click, it’s forcing you to take your eyes off the road to check what you're fiddling with.

I must admit, however, that the ergonomics are perfect. For example, once you've clicked enough to access the FM radio's manual tuning function, your fingers naturally enjoy sampling songs like a judge on The Voice, while your eyes remain fixed on the road ahead. Fun guaranteed!

2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV, dashboard, lower console
2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV, dashboard, lower console
Photo: M.Crépault

I had at my disposal a wireless charger for my phone which could sit comfortably on a tray nestled under the dashboard. But I couldn’t use it because my iPhone case also houses credit cards and the charger is allergic to their chips, or vice versa. I wasn't about to start stripping my iPhone naked on every ride...

Speaking of Apple, CarPlay and Mazda are pals, and same with Google's Android Auto. But you have to upgrade to the fancier models to get a wireless connection.

If you want to find your way around the Mazda way, you have to slide in an SD card containing map data, which costs $652 for basic models. Mazda Canada tells me that some customers prefer this accessory to free smartphone applications.

In keeping with this mindset, where simplicity sometimes seems like a strange idea best avoided, it's worth noting that the transmission selector requires a certain amount of coordination to leave position P. Indeed, you have to simultaneously depress the brake pedal and a button on the lever knob before you can move the lever horizontally to the vertical slot where R, N and D await. Mazda must prefer this complication to the dreaded sudden acceleration.

Interior of the 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV
Interior of the 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV
Photo: D.Boshouwers

How's life inside the CX-90?

Well it’s good - thanks for asking! The heating works like a charm, both up front and in the back seat, and I deduce that the air-conditioning in summertime is equally charming. Traditional buttons are present and appreciated. The heated steering wheel is always a blessing, and may I add that more than five minutes of the seat heating puts you at risk of burnt buns.

The driver's seat can be adjusted electrically in 10 directions, while poor ol’ front passenger has to make do with four.

The GS-L adds a panoramic sunroof and electric tailgate, which can also be opened with full hands by pretending to kick the rear bumper. With the GT, 360-degree cameras are added, as are a head-up display, 12 Bose speakers (instead of eight) and a free three-month trial of SiriusXM satellite radio.

The central locking system will incite you to explore the vehicle parameter settings stat, to tick the right boxes and avoid frustration. Having but a few seconds to access the rear seats after parking before the doors lock can be infuriating, let’s say.

Steering wheel, data screen in the 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV
Steering wheel, data screen in the 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV
Photo: M.Crépault

How safe is the CX-90?

At Mazda, the electronic systems that protect the vehicle and its occupants are grouped under the i-ACTIVSENSE umbrella. These systems are divided into two families: active safety and pre-collision. What's the difference? Active safety aims to prevent accidents, while pre-collision tries to reduce damage when a collision is unavoidable.

In fact, all modern vehicles now offer this kind of electronic armor. The CX-90 is no exception. Its active safety features include gadgets with which we're all familiar, such as blind spot monitoring and a myriad of other alerts: Watch out! A vehicle is sneaking up behind! Warning! You (the driver) are showing signs of fatigue! Caution! You're forgetting grandpa in the back seat!

In pre-collision mode the vehicle is essentially saying “Sorry, I did what I could to spare us a visit to the body shop, but it looks like this time there's no way around it!” The on-board computer brakes for you, even applying the parking brake and activating the hazard lights.

Add to this a very solid chassis (the new Premium Multisolution Architecture or PMA platform) and it’s no suprise to learn that the very serious Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has made the CX-90 its top choice for a mid-size SUV.

My disappointment comes from the very limited semi-autonomous driving system. It doesn't work if you exceed 64 km/h, and it doesn't like tight bends, whereas other manufacturers offer much more advanced systems in less expensive vehicles.

The 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV 2024, recharging
The 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV 2024, recharging
Photo: M.Crépault

What is the CX-90's load capacity?

When all the backrests are folded down (and they all go down in a jiffy), you get a flat floor and 2,101 litres of cargo space (and even 2,129 litres in 6-seat Signature models). Is that a lot? Let's say it's decent, but a Hyundai Palisade and a Volkswagen Atlas offer 2,445 and 2,741 litres, respectively.

On the other hand, when it comes to storage, Mazda comes through, offering a cavernous glove compartment, deep space under the central armrest, cubbyholes on all four doors and no fewer than 16 cup holders. 16! More than two per person in a full car!

What is the CX-90's towing capacity?

Most CX-90s, including the PHEV variants, have a towing capacity of 1,588 kg (3,500 lb), but this can be increased to 2,268 kg (5,000 lb) by choosing a High Input in-line 6 (which requires premium gasoline).

 

See also: 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV Long-Term Review, Part 1: Big and Versatile, Just Like Mr. Clean

See also: 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV Long-Term Review, Part 2: Refined Simplicity

See also: 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV Long-Term Review, Part 3: Let’s Talk Millimetres

See also: 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV Long-Term Review, Part 4: One Road, Two Personalities

Michel Crépault
Michel Crépault
Automotive expert
  • More than 45 years of experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 12 test drives last year
  • Attended more than 190 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists