There may be no category of vehicle as capable as the 3-row SUV. Carrying a lot of passengers? There’s minivan-like space back there. Road trip? Every creature comfort you can buy is available in a 3-row SUV. Going off-road? All-wheel drive and SUV ground clearance will get you where you’re going.
The 2023 Mazda CX-9 is among the most pleasant 3-row SUVs to drive. It looks great, too. The 2023 Kia Telluride is an all-around champion known for doing most things well.
Let’s see how they compare.
2023 Mazda CX-9
Lots of automakers build well-rounded cars. Mazda makes its bones on fun-to-drive cars. That’s true even in the big classes, as the 2023 Mazda CX-9 brings tight handling and premium design to the affordable 3-row SUV segment. It starts at $38,750, plus $1,275 in destination charges.
Mazda CX-9 Highlights
Curvaceous good looks: For the 2023 model year, almost every automaker seems to have gotten the same memo. They’re all making their SUVs boxier and more rugged-looking. While they’re zigging, Mazda has zagged. The CX-9 wears a sporty, curvy look and comes in an array of jewel colors that show it off.
Best on-road handling in its class: The CX-9 feels so much more fun to drive than it has any right to at this size. Mazda engineers are chassis wizards. Our test driver said the CX-9 “doesn’t drive like a 3-row SUV. Rather, it has the nimbleness and finesse of something smaller, and maybe even something that isn’t even an SUV.”
Near-luxury cabin: Mazda steals a few tricks from luxury automakers with the CX-9’s cabin. Quality, soft-touch surfaces abound, especially when you step up to higher trim levels with leather upholstery.
Check this week’s Fair Purchase Price or see the Mazda CX-9 models for sale near you.
2023 Kia Telluride
The 2023 Kia Telluride has been such a sales hit that dealers have trouble keeping it in stock. It’s roomy, with a long list of standard equipment and the longest warranty in the business. For 2023, Kia has added a pair of off-road trims to the lineup. The Telluride starts at $35,690, plus a $1,335 destination fee.
Kia Telluride Highlights
So much SUV for the money: The Telluride carries a lower sticker price than the CX-9 but doesn’t skimp on equipment to get there. Even the base LX has amenities like a huge 12.3-inch instrument display (Mazda’s entry-level trim gets 4.6 inches) and a 12.3-inch infotainment screen (10.25 inches for Mazda).
New off-road models: For 2023, Kia has honed the Telluride’s trail skills. The X-Line model gets added ground clearance and off-road traction control. The pricier X-Pro gets 500 pounds of additional towing capacity and grippy all-terrain tires. Mazda plans to introduce a more off-road capable CX-90 in 2024, but for now, it doesn’t have an answer for the Telluride’s wilderness skills.
More cargo space: With the rear seats down, a CX-9 gives you 71.2 cubic feet of space. A Telluride gives you 87. If you’re looking at big vehicles with an emphasis on the big, the Telluride will carry more. Additionally, the Telluride will seat up to eight, while the CX-9 maxes out at seven.
Check this week’s Fair Purchase Price or see the Kia Telluride models for sale near you.
Either choice will serve you well with three rows of seats, prices under $40,000, and options that inch them close to luxury car territory.
The 2023 Mazda CX-9 is gorgeous and fun to drive. It will carry up to seven passengers for under $40,000. The 2023 Kia Telluride is rugged, well-rounded, and will carry up to eight for under $40,000. You’d probably like either one. But their characters differ — one the corner-carver of big SUVs, the other a more burly and spacious choice.
Your shopping priorities will tell you which one is right for you.
|2023 Mazda CX-9||2023 Kia Telluride|
|Engine||2.5-liter turbo 4-cylinder||3.8-liter V6|
|Horsepower||227 hp @ 5,000 rpm||291 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Torque||310 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm||262 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm|
|Transmission||6-speed automatic||8-speed automatic|
|Fuel Economy||20 city/26 hwy/23 combined mpg||20 city/26 hwy/23 combined mpg|
|Also Available||3,500 pounds||AWD|
|Basic warranty||3 years/36,000 miles||5 years/60,000 miles|
|Powertrain Warranty||5 years/60,000 miles||10 years/100,000 miles|
|NHTSA Overall Safety Rating||5 stars||5 stars|
|Max Seating Capacity||7||8|
|Wheelbase||115.3 inches||114.2 inches|
|Overall Length||199.4 inches||196.9 inches|
|Width||77.5 inches||78.3 inches|
|Height||69.0 inches||68.9 inches|
|Turning Diameter||38.8 feet||38.8 feet|
|Headroom, Front||40.1 inches||40.9 inches|
|Headroom, Rear||38.5 inches||40.2 inches|
|Headroom, 3rd Row||35.4 inches||38.1 inches|
|Legroom, Front||41.0 inches||41.4 inches|
|Legroom, Rear||39.4 inches||42.4 inches|
|Legroom 3rd Row||29.7 inches||31.4 inches|
|Shoulder Room, Front||57.9 inches||61.6 inches|
|Shoulder Room, Rear||58.1 inches||61.2 inches|
|Shoulder Room, 3rd Row||53.1 inches||55.3 inches|
|Cargo Volume||38.2/71.2 cubic||21.0/87.0 cubic feet|