Hail to the chief

Ice, ice baby delivers a punishing pounding to CX-9ís panels

TOBY HAGON

TWO days. Thatís all it took out on the street for the reigning Wheels Car of the Year to succumb to thousands of dollars of damage.

For the first five weeks at Chateau Hagon the still-new CX-9 long-termer had been tucked safely away in my carport. But the arrival of an MX-5 RF test car saw it relegated to life on the streets, which is when things went wrong.

The culprit? Ice. Big chunks of it falling from the sky. I wasnít even home when the biggest hailstorm in years hit Sydneyís north, destroying thousands of cars and stripping leaves from trees.

To be fair, the CX-9 wasnít destroyed.

Golf ball-sized stones left more than a dozen dings in the roof and bonnet, but no windows were smashed. From 10 metres away youíd struggle to spot the damage.

Still, for $63K of new car itís less than ideal. And the aluminium bonnet is likely requiring replacement due to the metalís reluctance to be beaten back into shape.

From now on, though, the Azami AWD will be back under cover, something that often provides a source of excitement for my kids. They love it when I reverse towards the plants at the back of the carport and let the auto braking system grab the anchors hard, which is accompanied by a graunching sound as the ABS does its thing.

My wife isnít as enamoured and refuses to take part in such skylarking. Sheís a bigger fan of the 12-speaker Bose sound system (complete with a subwoofer in the boot) coupled to the digital radio tuner. Thereís decent bass and crisp treble, making for great 80s blasts.

However, the digital radio reception isnít as strong as it is in a Toyota, Holden, Audi or Mercedes-Benz. You can be happily bopping along to Whitney Houston (the missus, not meÖ) on full bore, proud of how in-tune you are and how well youíre hitting the high notes Ö before being hit with the sound of silence when the reception strikes a black hole.

Somehow the CX-9 finds plenty of them.

Itís then you realise how out of tune you are. And how youíre at least two octaves shy of hitting those high notes.

Boost juice

Fuel thirst is a hot topic among owners of seven-seat SUVs and Mazda acknowledges the original CX-9 (powered by a 3.7-litre V6) was no saint. The turbo four-cylinder second-gen CX-9ís official combined cycle consumption drops to 8.8L/100km, which is more miserly than petrol-powered V6 competitors but falls short of all-paw diesel rivals (7.8L/100km for the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe) and the Pathfinder hybrid (8.5L/100km). Our best effort on a 110km/h freeway run is 8.2L/100km, but around town itís solidly in the 12s.

OurGarag

MAZDA CX-9 AZAMI

Date acquired: January 2017 Price as tested: $64,695 This month: 899km @ 12.2L/100km Overall: 2048km @ 11.2L/100km a a m Overal 34 3 3 WEEK 12 34 44 3 0 0 3 0 5 1 3 URBAN COUNTRY SPORTS FAMILY MOTORWAY