Thanks to Mazda for letting us test drive the Mazda CX-9 as we explored the City of Chicago.

As many of you might know, I grew up in Chicago.  Technically in the south suburbs but lived in the city for a few years after college. Many of our family trips now involve a visit back home to Chicago to visit family.

best suv for families in big cities Mazda CX-9

Best SUV for Families in Big Cities

Having 3 teenagers and plenty of luggage finding a car big enough, that will stand the Chicago Winters can be challenging.  For long road trips, the kids prefer to sit 2 in the middle row and one in the third row of our SUV.  However, my SUV is huge and hard to maneuver and park in big cities.

Our Thoughts of a family of 5 and the CX-9

After cruising downtown as well as the surrounding suburbs, we found the 7 passengers, AWD, Mazda CX-9 a great pick for families in big cities.

My 15-year-old was the first to discover the offers an ample supply of entertainment features like Apple CarPlay. (It also comes equipped with Android Auto in all but the base models)

Safety Features of Mazda CX9

Transitioning from a 2010 model at home to a 2019 Uplevel Trim model of the CX-9 was amazing.  Safety features such as automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring are standard in every CX-9 which is so important and came in handy on the crazy expressways of Chicago.

best suv for families in big cities Mazda CX-9

Parallel Parking A Breeze

If you drive in a big city at all you know that parallel parking is a skill you can’t live without. In our model, we had adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection, and a 360-degree parking camera. Between backing up in a driveway to fitting in the perfect spot on a city street, the camera was a lifesaver.

best suv for families in big cities Mazda CX-9

Feel on the Road

Pulling onto a busy road or toll booth, you want a car that can easily pick up speed.  This is the first SUV I did not have to press the gas pedal to the floor to pass a slower vehicle. Thanks to the turbocharged four-cylinder engine, you get the impression you are driving a V6/ “The CX-9 comes with a polished six-speed automatic transmission, and depending on which octane gasoline you use, cranks out either 227 or 250 horsepower.”

best suv for families in big cities Mazda CX-9


The Mazda CX-9 is a 7 passenger, three-row SUV.    I did not discover any automated features to adjust the rows, it was super simple to do manually.  The middle row by far was more spacious than the third row, but tell me 1 SUV that all three are the same.

best suv for families in big cities Mazda CX-9

CX-9 Gas Mileage:

Another advantage of the smaller SUV is gas mileage.  My truck gets about 315 miles a tank.  When I filled up the Mazda, I was looking at over 400 miles in one tank.  Since we were driving an AWD version, a must in the cold midwest winters, gas mileage ratings drop to 20 mpg city/26 mpg highway.


best suv for families in big cities Mazda CX-9

This was the part that was a little disappointing coming from a full-size SUV.  Driving from the airport was only possible without having the 3rd road utilized.  We easily fit 4 suitcases and a large backpacking backpack. without obstructing my view.

best suv for families in big cities Mazda CX-9

If you need the third row to travel cargo space may become an issue.  IF you are a family of 4 or 5 there would not be an issue.

Overall, the Mazda CX-9 was a comfortable car to drive, had the great pick up and safety features.  For a road trip with 3 kids and a large dog, we might have to go a little bigger but for cruising in and out of Chicago I could not imagine a better vehicle.

best suv for families in big cities Mazda CX-9