The Mazda CX-9 vs. The Honda Pilot

May 11th, 2023 by

The 2023 Mazda CX-9 and the 2022 Honda Pilot are both excellent models in the three-row midsize SUV range. The Honda Pilot can be seen as one of the roomiest and best vehicles in its range. In contrast, the Mazda CX-9 gives you a smaller, stronger vehicle that drives better and is easier to maneuver, park, and engage. Overall, these vehicles are considered close rivals, which means having to find out the variations between them.

Our Capistrano Mazda team compiled this article to walk through these differences, compare and contrast what makes them so special, and note their highlights. 

Engine and Handling 

With a standard 3.5-liter V-6 engine, the Honda Pilot doesn’t have as much strength as the Mazda CX-9 and offers 262 lb-ft of torque to the Mazda’s heftier 2.5-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder model with 320 lb-ft of torque. The Pilot gives you more muscle with 280 horsepower to the CX-9’s 250, but it pays for this in the fuel economy department, with the Pilot offering 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. 

In contrast, the CX-9 does slightly better in terms of fuel economy, with 20 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. These may seem like minor differences, but they can add up to significant enough savings over time. However, fuel capacity is slightly lower on the Pilot, with 18.5 gallons compared with the CX-9’s 19.5 gallons. This means that you’ll be making fewer visits to the pump when you’re behind the wheel of the CX-9 than if you opt for the Pilot. 

The transmission on the Pilot is a 10-speed automatic, whereas the CX-9 gives you six-speed automatic transmission. The ground clearance is slightly higher on the Mazda, with 8.8 inches compared to the Pilot’s 7.3 inches, which makes a crucial difference if you intend to go on unpaved roads or even venture out off-roading into the great unknown areas around Orange County. Handling is considerably better on the Mazda with a more responsive steering system, which might make the CX-9 a better choice in this area. 

The exterior design is a strong point, and the appearance of both models is pretty good. Perhaps the Pilot has a more functional look, given that it’s such a large SUV, with the CX-9 offering a sleeker look in response. Overall, the CX-9 has a lot of paint options on offer, giving you more choices to personalize your look. This includes greater variability than the basic white, black, and gray options available on the Pilot. 


The Honda Pilot gives you a little more interior space than the CX-9. With enough space to seat eight people and more third-row legroom, it’ll be a better buy if you need more cargo space. Bear in mind that extra space means you’re essentially driving a van, and you’ll need more space for turning and parking, so it’s essential to be sure that you need the extra space. 

 Regarding the design features, the CX-9 offers high-quality leather upholstery with aluminum trimming as a standard feature. You can opt for wood inserts and other advantages as required. Technology is a particularly strong point of this vehicle, with a 10.3-inch infotainment screen offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, cruise control, and three-zone automatic climate control. The 12-speaker surround-sound Bose system is especially notable, giving you superb audio fidelity even when driving around Orange county. 

The Pilot also has a pretty impressive interior, but its leather trimming and rubber surfaces are just not quite as welcoming as the CX-9. The fully digital driver’s display, adaptive cruise control, and its own version of the three-zone cruise control are fairly strong here. The Pilot comes as either a seven-seater, with the second rear row option of captain’s chairs, or as a full-on eight-seater. The front seat has power adjustments and heating functions, adding to its comfort. And the Pilot comes with sixteen cup holders. 

In contrast, the CX-9 seats six or seven, depending on whether you choose either a bench seat for the second row or a set of captain’s seats. The Mazda also offers similar features in the front seats, with the heated functions but beats the Pilot by offering the luxury of a heated second row.

The cargo space for the Pilot is 16 cubic feet in the rear, but this can be increased to a whopping 82 cubic feet if you fold down the back seats. The CX-9 provides 14 cubic feet of cargo space if all seats are raised and increases to 71 cubic feet if the rows are lowered.

This might suggest you’d be better off getting the Pilot, but this depends on how much space you need; there’s no point in getting a vehicle with the extra capacity if you’re not going to use it regularly. Unless you have a real need for extensive cargo space, the CX-9 gives you the space you need. 

Trim Levels and Pricing

The CX-9 comes with five trim levels, each offering all-wheel drive as standard. They’re the Touring, Touring Plus, Carbon Edition, Grand Touring, and Signature. The pricing starts at an MSRP of $38,750 to $48,640 for the Signature edition. The Pilot also comes with five trims. However, the starting MSRP is $39,150 and rises to $52,030. So, between these, the CX-9 begins at a slightly more affordable price but also offers you greater specs in the base models than is the case for the Pilot. 

Choosing Between the CX-9 and the Pilot

Basically, the choice is really up to you. Both the Pilot and the CX-9 offer you slightly different advantages. If you regularly need to ferry people long distances, the Pilot has a slight advantage, but for nearly everything else you might do, the CX-9 wins. It gives you greater comfort and style, and many of its advanced specs are more affordable than the Honda. If you’d like to know more or take a closer look, come by Capistrano Mazda in San Juan Capistrano, and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have and show you more. 

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