In years gone by, a formal four-door sedan was the default choice for family-oriented buyers. But, today Australian families tend to choose between the vast number of mid and full-size SUVs on sale. Their drivability, functionality, and interior space have made them increasingly popular in the Australian market. 

Two of the most successful family SUVs on the Australian market are the Kia Sorento and Mazda CX-9. They are pretty much neck to neck in technology, equipment, and size. Both models have a three-row seating configuration, which makes them practical for large families.

Yet, there are still significant differences between those two bestsellers and today, we will tell you more about them.


Both brands have invested a lot of time and money in creating the best driver and passenger environment. They know that buyers in this segment choose vehicles based on interior space and comfort. Mazda has an elegant and sporty design, a smaller steering wheel, a precise dashboard setup, and superb ergonomics.

The idea is to provide the driver with a more sporty environment and lower seating position. The driving dynamics of the CX-9 are more like a sedan than a full-size SUV. The default seating configuration in CX-9 has seven seats, but if you want more comfort, you can opt for six-seating in higher trim levels. However, we are talking about a model which hasn't received a major overhaul in five years. So the whole interior design, although pleasant, is a little bit outdated.

The Kia Sorento is a brand new model introduced in 2020. This means that interior design is up to date with more modern shapes and materials, which are primarily visible in the dashboard layout. In front of the driver, there is a digital display (12.3 inches) and a 10.25-inch infotainment screen next to it. This is a design feature we commonly see on such models.

The materials in Kia feel slightly upscale with new shapes and improved ergonomics. There is shiny plastic on the steering wheel and central console, which looks premium but is prone to scratching. Both models feature Apple Car Play and Android Auto connectivity. More modern technology installed in Kia makes the Sorento a better user experience.

Looking For Something A Little Smaller? See The 7 Best Mid-Size SUVs in Australia.


We have to say that the exterior design of the Mazda CX-9 still looks fresh and dynamic even if it is old by industry standards. The large signature grille, aggressive headlamps, and elegant roof-line make CX-9 quite a looker. Even though this is a segment where body design is secondary to practicality.

Mazda offers the CX-9 in eight different colours and five distinct trim levels, all with slight visual differences. The top of the line model, called Azami, is recognizable by unique wheels, review mirrors, and side skirts.

With more angular, boxy lines, the new Kia Sorento emphasises the bulkiness and practicality of its full-size SUV nature. The front end is unmistakably Kia but the rear lights design has an unusual look and is reminiscent of Kia Telluride which isn't sold in Australia. The Sorento is offered in four trim levels, and you can recognize each one of them by wheel design, front-end details, and colour choices.

Performance And Drivetrain

Mazda buyers have only one engine choice, a 2.5-liter, turbocharged Skyactiv petrol engine, which produces 170 kW and 420 Nm of torque. Paired with six-speed automatic transmission, it sends its power to the front or to all four wheels.

Due to modern engine technology, the fuel consumption is relatively modest, with 8.4-liters per 100 km. This result is for the front-wheel-drive model.  However, you will need 9.0-liters of petrol needed to cover the same distance if you drive an all-wheel-drive version.

Although the sheer performance is not what these cars are all about, Mazda stays true to its promise of sporty dynamics with 7.3 seconds to 100 km/h.

mazda cx-9 vs kia sorento

But, Kia Sorento comes with two engine choices and more advanced automatic transmissions. Buyers can opt for a 3.5-liter, naturally-aspirated V6 petrol engine with 200 kW and 332 Nm of torque. There is a more frugal, 2.2-liter turbocharged diesel four-cylinder 142 kW and 440 Nm of torque.

The petrol engine is only available with front-wheel-drive and diesel with all-wheel-drive train. But, that is not all. Petrol buyers will get an 8-speed automatic, but for diesel owners, Kia has prepared 8-speed dual-clutch automatic. It is designed to improve the performance of a slower engine.

However, despite the modern automatic, Kia is no sprinter, and it is slower to the 100 km/h mark than Mazda. The brand new Sorento can achieve 100 km/h in 8.5 seconds with a petrol engine, and diesel is a bit slower at 9.5 seconds.



Mazda CX-9

  • Great Driving Dynamics
  • Elegant Styling
  • Generous Space
  • Performance

Kia Sorento

  • Modern Interior
  • More Equipment
  • Engine And Transmission Choices
  • Available Space
  • Price


Why Should You Buy Mazda CX-9

The CX-9 is an older model, but it still has a lot to offer to buyers. First, excellent driving dynamics make you forget that you are in a three-row full-size SUV. High-revving engine with more than enough power and elegant interior and exterior design.

If you are not going after the latest model and value the driving experience more, the CX-9 is a perfect car for you and your family.

Read About The Top 7 Family SUV's in Australia

Why Should You Buy Kia Sorento

Besides being a newer model, the Sorento is clearly better equipped and comes better prepared for market battle. It features a fresh design, a modern dashboard and interior, more comfort and safety options, and technology. It is also significantly more affordable, being about 6000 dollars cheaper in top trim level.

For customers concentrated on fuel efficiency, there is also a diesel option which Mazda lacks. All in all, Sorento is more advanced, better engineered, and better suited for a new generation of family-oriented buyers.

Read Our Full Review of The 2021 Kia Sorento

Final Verdict

There is so much to love about Mazda CX-9, and for quite a few years, it has been one of the best cars in the class. In fact, it has been chosen as the car of the year by various news outlets. But its time is up, and Kia Sorento is here to claim the throne.

Mazda has a sporty appearance, powerful turbocharged engine, and sedan-like driving dynamics. That makes the CX- relevant. Still, it loses valuable points when it comes to technology, comfort, safety, and price. Kia is better in all those aspects and more affordable, making it a clear winner of this comparison.

Other Options To Consider

Although the CX-9 and Sorento are some of the more popular choices in the large SUV market, there are quite a few similar models for you to consider. 

Mazda CX-8

If you like the Mazda design and driving feel, you can always go for CX-8, which features a diesel option that CX-9 hasn't.

Related Article: Mazda CX-5 vs Hyundai Tucson

Honda CR-V

There is also the Honda CR-V with slightly less space and power but a lower price and better standard equipment. This model benefits from Honda's quality and durability.

Read Our Review Of The 2021 Honda CR-V

Hyundai Santa Fe

You should also consider the Hyundai Santa Fe. This SUV comes with diesel and V6 petrol options. And it has more aggressive front-end styling and exciting interior design.  

See Our Comparison of The Hyundai Santa Fe vs Hyundai Tucson

You can find a Mazda CX-9 or Kia Sorento on at a great price, with financing options available through Credit One - Australia's best-rated finance broker.

For a great deal on financing your new purchase, contact Australia's best reviewed finance broker on 1300 Credit (1300 273 348) today or visit

Jordan Ballard

Jordan Ballard

Automotive Content Editor

Jordan is a car finance and automotive industry specialist at Only Cars. With over 20 years of experience with frontline and management roles in sales, finance and other areas, Jordan has an incredible understanding of the automotive industry. As Automotive Content Editor, Jordan loves sharing his passion for cars with the Only Cars audience.