It’s time to pit two SUVs against one another. Two absolute titans. The Mazda CX-9 and the Toyota Kluger.

Mazda’s CX-9 series is Australia’s best-selling SUV. The Toyota Kluger comes in at around fourth or fifth -  it varies month to month. 

Both are phenomenal cars continuing the legacy of two of Australia’s most loved SUV lines. 

In this quick post, we’ll break down the two cars and see what’s new in 2021.

The Basics

Let’s talk about prices first. The Mazda CX-9 starts at $45,920 AUD, and goes up to $73,875 for the higher-end models. 

The standard AWD (All-Wheel-Drive) versions cost between the $46000 to $60000 range, while the FWD (Front-Wheel-Drive) versions cost between $60000 to $74000. 

The Toyota Kluger 2021 base model starts at $47,650 and goes up to $63,350. You can choose between the 2.5L hybrid engine, which starts at $56,000, or the standard 3.5L petrol engine, which starts at $47,650.

The Mazda CX-9

The new CX-9 is Mazda’s biggest car.

It’s sleek, modern, stylish and looks more sporty than comparable SUVs, albeit more delicate, than competitors like the Nissan Pathfinder or Toyota Kluger. 

This year’s CX-9 has that same large metallic grill and flat front, which practically hasn’t changed since the CX-9 came out. What they have changed are the inserts on the grill. It looks steampunk. It looks good. It looks like a Mazda.  

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The Toyota Kluger

The Toyota Kluger has been Australia’s favourite seven-seater family SUV for the last seven years. The 2021 model saw the Toyota Kluger drastically redesigned. It’s still recognisable as a Kluger, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a bigger RAV-4. It’s significantly less boxy, and in my opinion, has a more sporty look than last year’s model.

2021 is an exciting year for the Kluger because it is the first Kluger with a hybrid in its range. Overseas, where Klugers are called Highlands, there was a hybrid in 2020, but this is the first time the hybrid Kluger has been offered in Australia. 


Mazda CX-9

The interior of the Mazda CX-9 is gorgeous.

Every model above Sport has leather seats and there are different colours, of increasing decadence, which you’ll get to choose from as you start paying more for the expensive models.

The chrome finish on the soft-touch dash gives off the right kind of vibes. So does the all-leather steering wheel and the overall build quality of the cabin.

At the GT model and above you get a small moonroof and an upgraded Bose Speaker System.

Speaking of speakers, there's a fair amount of tech in the new Mazda CX-9. 

Thanks to a HUD (Heads up Display), all your navigation, advanced Blind Spot Monitoring, and Mazda Radar Cruise Control are projected onto the lower windshield, which looks futuristic and allows you to keep your eyes on the road at all times.

The Sport CX-9 comes with a 7-inch screen and the Touring model has a 9-inch screen.

Every model above Touring has Mazda Connect, basically, this means the screen is a little bigger 10.25-inches.

As we’ve seen in all recent Mazdas, the screen sits on top of the dashboard and it’s controlled with a dial that you’ll find between the driver and passenger by the gear stick. Mazda says this has been designed this way for driver safety, but we would still prefer to see a touch screen.

The new Mazda CX-9 has all the connectivity options you’d expect for the price tag. From wireless charging to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. There’s plenty of technology in this vehicle.

The Toyota Kluger

The Kluger is a car known for its spacious interior. It’s a mammoth car so this is hardly surprising, but Toyota has built itself a Tardis. The Kluger is the perfect fusion of minivan space and SUV looks.

The base model Kluger has fabric seats. If you’d like synthetic leather you’ll need to upgrade to the GXL and for real leather, you’ll need to step up again to the Grande. 

The Grande is also where the HUD and moonroof kicks-in.  

The overall interior of the Kluger is very focused on passenger comfort and convenience. There are sunshades on the sides for the passengers in the back row. The visibility in this car is great. You sit high up and see everything. Considering this is a family car, this is extremely important.

The Kluger 2021 comes with an 8’’ colour touchscreen display, which also supports Android Auto™ and Apple CarPlay. Unlike the CX-9, the Kluger only has a reversing camera, not a full 360 camera. 

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The Mazda CX-9 still maintains that same sporty exterior we know and love. It’s a little bigger and the grill has different indents, but there’s little change from the 2020 CX-9. 

The Toyota Kluger received a drastically different design this year. At the front, it has a sporty design for its bottom bumper and grill. Some might even say it’s more sporty than the CX-9. But from the side, the exterior still looks like a Kluger.

The Kluger naturally has larger rims than the CX-9, because it’s a larger vehicle. The Kluger also has 8-colour options for the exterior, compared to the 7 colour options available for the CX-9. 


toyota kluger vs mazda cx-9

Under the hood, the Mazda CX-9 uses a 2.5-litre SKYACTIV®-G Dynamic engine and the Toyota Kluger uses a 3.5-litre v6 engine or a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine in the Hybrid model.  In terms of horsepower,  the CX-9 has 227 hp at 5,000 rpm, while the Kluger has 295 hp at 6,600 rpm. 

The Kluger has an 8-speed automatic transmission, which is great for fuel efficiency compared to the 6-speed transmission of the Mazda CX-9. The standard model of Kluger has a fuel consumption of 8.9/100KM, while the CX-9 has a fuel consumption of 9.83L/100KM. 

They both offer all-wheel-drive systems and at the same time automatic transmissions, different driving modes. The Mazda doesn’t offer any sort of off-road style, you only have sports modes. In addition to the AWD system, the Kluger also has a hybrid engine, which is more fuel-efficient. The Hybrid edition has a fuel consumption of 5.6 L/100km. 

Overall the Kluger is more fuel-efficient. Reviewers have said that the CX-9 has more consistent handling, but the Toyota Kluger has a quieter engine. The off-road driving modes on the Kluger makes it a better choice for longer trips. The Kluger has a more powerful engine, but the CX-9 is lighter. This is why you get better handling with the CX-9. However, The CX-9 has a stiffer suspension, which adds a certain lack of comfort when it comes to longer trips. 

Why You Should Buy the 2021 Mazda CX-9

Overall, The Mazda CX-9 2021 is a strong choice for families. If you’re looking for the perfect blend of sporty and luxurious design, then it’s definitely your go-to vehicle in 2021. 

The CX-9 puts a lot of emphasis on its tech features. Its 10.5 inches screen (in models GT and above), 360-degree camera, and high-tech safety features are great if you like a little tech in your car, and I think everyone does. The CX-9 has a spacious interior and a sporty look. If you’re in the market for a high-tech SUV, then the CX-9 is definitely worthy of your consideration. 

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Why You Should Buy the 2021 Toyota Kluger

The Toyota Kluger is more spacious than the CX-9. The 7-seater option means that it is the perfect choice for large families. The Kluger is renowned for its comfortable seats.

The Kluger drives comfortably in all terrains. You just have to choose the off-road driving mode that suits the type of your journey. So, whether you’re driving in the city, the highway, farmlands, or the mountain road, the Kluger will always give you a balanced and comfortable driving experience. 

The Hybrid engine means that it’s also the best option for environmentally conscious users. Its low fuel consumption means that it’s also the most cost-effective option. 

Read About Australia's Best 7 Hybrid SUV's

Final Verdict

The 2021 versions of both the Mazda CX-9 and the Toyota Kluger are great options as compact SUVs. Both of them have a very powerful engine and spacious interior. You can choose between AWD (All-Wheel-Drive) and FWD (Front-Wheel-Drive) versions on both models. 

Both models are also equally matched in terms of advanced safety features. The Mazda CX-9 and Toyota Kluger come with pedestrian and collision detection, active cruise control at all speeds, and lane trace assist. 

However, the 2021 Toyota Kluger Hybrid version comes with certain additional features that just can’t be matched by the CX-9. In addition to being significantly more fuel-efficient, the Hybrid Toyota Kluger has a very low level of carbon emission. It is hands down one of the most comfortable vehicles for long trips. 

The 10.5-inch display of the new CX-9 is a great feature, but the fact that it’s not a touchscreen just makes it feel outdated. The Kluger also comes with off-road driving modes unlike the CX-9, which we think is very important for modern SUVs.  

These additional features give the 2021 Toyota Kluger Hybrid version an undeniable edge ahead of the Mazda CX-9. For drivers who prefer a comfortable, fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly experience, the 2021 Toyota Kluger is truly the most optimal SUV.

Other Options to Consider

For similar features and price points, you can also consider the Skoda Kodiaq, KIA Sorento, and the Hyundai Santa FE. All of these models come with a standard 2.5L engine and hybrid versions which makes them an equally optimal option as the Mazda CX-9 and the Toyota Kluger. 

Skoda Kodiaq

The 2021 Skoda Kodiaq is packed with features that are just too good to ignore for its price tag of around $50,000. It has a 2.0L TSI engine with a 7-speed automatic transmission.

It’s not the most powerful option out there, but it’s a more fuel-efficient option. The 7-seater SUV has a luxurious interior, with Seudia leather seats, a 9.2" glass touch screen with voice control features, wireless charging, and a Virtual cockpit.

Read Our 2022 Skoda Kodiaq Review

Hyundai Santa Fe

If you’re looking for more compact SUV’s, the five-seater Hyundai Santa FE 2021 is a good alternative to the Toyota Kluger and the CX-9. In addition to the equally powerful and fuel-efficient engine, it also comes with a 10.25-inch touch screen and 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, taking your driving experience to the next level. 

See How The Hyundai Santa Fe Compares To The Hyundai Tucson

KIA Sorento

The 2021 KIA Sorento is another 7-seater beast to consider if you’re in the market for a spacious SUV. It has that 2.5L 4 cylinder engine and 8-speed Automatic transmission for a powerful performance on the road. 

The 2021 Sorento also comes with a Hybrid option. The interior has a modern look to it, where every element feels more futuristic. From the 8-inch touch screen display to the 4.2-inch Trip Computer Display, technology is at the heart of the new KIA Sorento. 

Plus, you get KIA’s UVO subscription completely free with the 2021 Sorento for a better driving experience. 

Read Our Kia Sorento vs Mazda CX-9 Comparison

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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.