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Mazda CX-9 nimble, roomy

| Friday, July 4, 2014, 8:57 p.m.

Mazda, the car company that gave the world the nimble, two-seat Miata roadster, makes a commendable seven-seat crossover sport utility vehicle, too.

And like the Miata, the 2014 Mazda CX-9 is a nimble handler that drives as if it's smaller than it is.

The nearly 17-foot-long CX-9 is attractively styled with a raked windshield and well-proportioned shape and has strong V-6 power and comfortable interior room. The five-door CX-9 is rated by Consumer Reports magazine as above average in reliability as well.

Pricing is competitive with better known family SUVs.

Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, for a 2014 CX-9 with 270-horsepower V-6, six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive is $30,815.

Among the standard features on every CX-9 are three-zone climate control, tilt and telescoping steering wheel with cruise control and audio buttons on the wheel, power windows, door locks and outside mirrors, three 12-volt power outlets and 5.8-inch color display touchscreen.

The test CX-9 — an all-wheel drive model in top, Grand Touring trim — was a stalwart people carrier. Both front and second-row seats moved forward and back on tracks easily, so tall and short passengers always found a way to apportion legroom to make everyone comfortable. Plus, the large and right-height lever on each side of the second-row seats that quickly unlocked them and moved them out of the way for quick entry to the third row was simpler to use than those in some other SUVs.

Even the two seats in the third row of the test CX-9 could accommodate adults if the second-row seats were moved up a ways on their tracks, though third-row seats sat close to the floor.

Driving the CX-9 is a sporty experience. The test CX-9 rode on 20-inch tires and hewed close to the pavement, even though it sat up a good ways.

Via the front MacPherson strut suspension and rear multilink configuration, the driver of the test vehicle felt a constant connection to the road, much as one would in a sporty sedan. This affected the ride by transmitting road bumps to passengers as mostly mild vibrations. But some passengers noticed the noises that the tires conveyed as they traveled over the bumps.

Ann M. Job is an Associated Press contributor.

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