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When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

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A purple 2020 Chevy Traverse is driving away from a city.

Comparing Capable SUVs: The 2020 Chevy Traverse vs 2020 Mazda CX-9

Just because SUVs are a dime a dozen, does not mean you should buy the first one you test drive. There may be plenty of models to choose from across a broad spectrum of manufacturers, but not all SUVs are created equal. While each model is certain to have its highlight features or standout characteristics, some are better than others, and it is best to purchase the model that fits your needs. Amongst the growing throng of SUV models are the 2020 Chevy Traverse and the 2020 Mazda CX-9. These are two large SUVs that hope to live up to all of their specific model promises and provide a driving experience that is remarkable from start to finish. And they are both excellent vehicles, but which one is better? Today we are going to help you with that decision! We are going to make the comparison of the 2020 Chevy Traverse vs 2020 Mazda CX-9 and determine which will offer the best driving experience and give you the most bang for your buck.

A Top-Down Look of What’s Being Offered

Both the 2020 Mazda CX-9 and the 2020 Chevy Traverse are large SUVs, offering three rows of seats, and plenty of amenities to go with it. Although first impressions matter, and when you visit your local dealership to pick out either of these vehicles, the first thing you will likely notice is the price and the number of options.

Starting with the Mazda CX-9, you get four simple trims: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring, and Signature. The base, entry-level price of the CX-9 is not too bad at $33,890 MSRP, but compared to the competition, this can seem at first like a premium price bump. The Chevy Traverse, on the other hand, offers six trims, giving drivers the option between the L, LS, LT, RS, Premier, and High Country. The starting price in the Chevy Traverse is also lower, with base models going for an entry-rate of $29,800 MSRP.

So at face value, the Chevy Traverse brings a lot more to the table in terms of choice and personalization. That said, to determine the winner here, we will have to look a lot deeper than just what’s on the surface.

A gray 2020 Mazda CX-9 is shown from above driving on a dirt road lined with ferns.

Where They Source Their Power

A quality powertrain often equates to a quality drive experience, no matter what kind of car you are looking for. Although, this fact is even more central when shopping for an SUV. SUVs, particularly large SUVs, require a significant amount of power to propel them forward. Ensuring that your powertrain is adequately equipped to handle the extra weight of passengers and cargo can go a long way in being satisfied with your ride.

In regards to the Mazda CX-9, it appears as though Mazda was attempting to bridge the gap between power-delivery and fuel efficiency. Saddled beneath the hood of the Mazda CX-9 is a 250 hp, 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that is partnered with a 6-speed automatic transmission. While this engine would make a good fit in a two-row SUV, it seems oddly miss-matched for a vehicle like the Mazda CX-9. That said, if you can disregard some sluggish power output, you do get a rather smooth ride all around. The drivetrain sends power to either the front or all of the wheels, and while you can opt for 20-inch wheels, the 18-inch ones will do just fine. It is important to note that the Mazda CX-9 is far from being an off-road vehicle, and is better equipped for handling on smooth pavement with occasionally rough conditions.

By comparison, the Chevy Traverse is a little more fleshed out. The Traverse gets a 3.6-liter V6 that is responsible for 310 hp and 266 lb-ft worth of torque. Equipped with a 9-speed automatic transmission and the option of either front or all-wheel drive, the Chevy Traverse is much more agile across the board. While the 8 inches of ground clearance is good, the Chevy Traverse is not much of an off-road vehicle either. That said, the Chevy SUV is potentially more capable than the Mazda competitor, but not by much.

While we would have liked to see more powertrain variety in the Chevy Traverse or the Mazda CX-9, what’s here is not bad. In previous models, the Chevy Traverse did, at one point, have a 2.0-liter turbo-4 engine, but the V6 is still the better option. Meanwhile, the Mazda CX-9 could benefit from a V6 considering the amount of weight it has to haul. Overall, the Traverse has better performance.

The Experience Behind the Wheel

A look at the steering wheel and brown interior of a 2020 Chevy Traverse High Country, the winner of the 2020 Chevy Traverse vs 2020 Mazda CX-9 comparison.

While performance ought to play a massive role in determining the value of an SUV, the interior amenities should take a close second. Fortunately, both the Chevy Traverse and the Mazda CX-9 provide plenty in the way of cabin luxuries. The Chevy Traverse, for instance, gives second-row passengers 38 inches of legroom and third-row passengers 33 inches to play with. Cargo capacity is good, too, with a total of 98.2 cubic feet behind the front seats. Cloth may be standard upholstery, but should you desire it, you can upgrade to high-grade leather.

The Chevy Traverse also comes packed with a pretty diverse tech package. Base models get a rather standard 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. However, if you step all the way up to the High Country model, you will get to enjoy an 8-inch screen, a Bose quality audio system, as well as heated front seats, a wireless smartphone charger, and a power liftgate.

How does the Mazda CX-9 compare? Well, the Mazda CX-9 is arguably smaller in the third row, and a little bigger in the second. Third-row passengers get a cramped 29.7 inches of legroom, while second-row passengers get 39.4 inches. Cargo capacity is just as compact, with the maximum topping out at 71.2 cubic feet when all rear seats are folded.

Inside, you will find a 7.0-inch screen for infotainment in base models, but you will need to pay extra to get Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility. A panoramic moonroof can be found in high-end trims, as can a premium audio system. This interior is much like the Traverse, except it does not have as much space, by a whole 20 cubic feet – which is a big deal.

Determining Which Model is the Best Fit for You

Buying an SUV can feel overwhelming with the many options out there, but when it comes to determining between the Mazda CX-9 and the Chevy Traverse, we believe the answer is pretty clear. While the Mazda CX-9 does offer a premium-looking cabin, the level of luxury is only skin deep. To get higher-tiered features, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you’ll have to pay a lot more than you would in competitor models like the Chevy Traverse.

Meanwhile, the Chevy Traverse offers some pretty incredible value right at the baseline trim and at a far lower price. Plus, the performance is flat out better. In our opinion, the Chevy Traverse is the far better option; however, we implore all of our readers to visit their local dealership and see for themselves, which model offers the greatest level of appeal.

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