The center of any vehicle’s tech offerings is its infotainment system, and what qualifies to me as a successful system is one where there is an easy learning curve and impressive functionality.
In those terms, Mazda’s system is a fairly strong success. The system is user-friendly -- controlled via a knob in the center console, which doesn’t take very long to get used to. After a short time in the vehicle, using the knob is not a distraction -- and it’s comparable to similar systems from other automakers who use a center knob, including Audi.
In addition to the center console controller, there are also steering wheel controls that come in very handy for: volume control, music source, phone calls and other voice commands, plus cruise control and a feature adjusting distance allowed between you and the vehicles ahead of you. All of these controls are well-placed and don’t distract you from your primary duty of driving the vehicle safely.
Via the infotainment system, you will get access to a variety of music sources, including AM radio, FM radio, Satellite radio (four-month free subscription included), Aha/Pandora/Stitcher apps, plus Bluetooth music sources. You can also save preferences for stations so you don’t have to hunt for them.
Navigation info is easily viewable on the 8-inch monitor, which is well-positioned about the dashboard, and the monitor also features a rear camera that’s helpful for safety when backing out. Text message audio delivery and reply is also offered.
Another critical function of an in-car tech system is the voice controls. You don’t want to be fiddling with buttons and knobs if you don’t have to while on the road. And it’s also true that various automakers do better than others when it comes to these voice commands working accurately and the vehicle recognizing what you are saying.
On the system I tested in the Mazda CX-9, everything worked out quite well with the voice commands. Once you connect your phone via Bluetooth, making calls is as simple as asking the vehicle to do so. Radio controls are also very responsive. Even with Navigation, an area where some vehicles are glitchy in terms of understanding commands, the Mazda system understood me every time. A nice bonus is the inclusion of the system helping you find POIs (points of interest) on your route. For example, “Find nearest coffee shop” will bring up a list of area options.
If you love music like I do, you want a strong sound system in your vehicle. The CX-9 I tested offered an optional Bose 12-speaker sound system that while simply booming and top-notch. It offered a sharp sound overall, and even low bass is clear to the ear and not muddy like some systems can be.
The system features Centerpoint 2.0 Surround technology, Audiopilot 2 noise compensation technology, Surroundstage Signal Processing, and a subwoofer.
Last but not least, all new vehicles are rightly judged by the level of safety technology included. A wide variety of features are offered on the Mazda lineup, some standard and some optional, and it’s clearly that safety is fresh on their mind.
These features include: Rain-sensing windshield wipers; Windshield wiper de-icer; Tire pressure monitor; Traction control system; Front parking sensors, rear parking sensors; Blind spot monitoring; Rear cross traffic alert; Traffic Sign Recognition; Lane Departure Warning/Lane Keep Assist; Smart Brake support and Smart City Brake Support (featuring automatic emergency braking); and LED headlights (auto on/off). Also, advanced dual front airbags, front side-impact airbags and side air curtains (in all three rows) are included.
Going beyond safety and to comfort, the CX-9 I tested offered: Heated front seats,
Heated steering wheel, Heated second-row seats, Heated power mirrors, Keyless entry and start; plus 3-zone auto climate control
Add up all of the above, and you’ll see that if tech is a key concern of yours, shopping the Mazda lineup won’t lead to a disappointment. From infotainment to safety, and everywhere between, I would rank it highly against many manufacturers that have much higher budgets to develop in these areas, which is an impressive feat.
Keeping up with its reputation as the little car company that could, Mazda performs more strongly with its in-car technology than many might have expected.
Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.