Vernon, British Columbia–Following a beautiful day of driving the meandering roads around Vernon, BC in an all-new CX-9, a few peers and I stood around with Mazda Canada’s Product Strategy and Development Manager Mark Peyman and scratched our heads over what it’ll take to finally get the masses to notice Mazda. Ultra-popular Mazda3 notwithstanding, Mazda’s dealerships tend to draw far less traffic than the sales-leading competitors.

The Mazda Kodo design language across the brand is handsome, the products represent good value and quality, and more so than any of the direct competitors, these are machines that always engage the driver. Plus, with seemingly endless praise (and awards) bestowed upon pretty much everything Mazda has introduced in the past few years, we auto writers are doing our part to spread the word about the worthiness of the Hiroshima company to earn spots in Canadian garages. And yet Canadians simply don’t buy as many Mazdas as they should.

So, as Peyman points out, with a vehicle like the new mid-size CX-9 crossover, they’re forced to offer up a luxury-level product at common-folks pricing, just to try to get noticed.

And noticed they should be for their new flagship offering since it represents a triumphant leapfrog not only past the outgoing model, but beyond the competitors in many key areas.

This new CX-9 is a better performer, more efficient, better equipped and more attractive than the model it replaces.

The CX-9 represents the final model to receive the current 6th-generation Mazda Kodo design language, and exterior design boss Ethan Song enthusiastically pointed out many proud features of the design. From its bold, upright grille to the sculpted, Japanese-blade-inspired three-dimensional chrome accent across the liftgate, the new SUV is well-proportioned and purposeful.

Compared to last year’s model, the wheelbase is stretched, but overall exterior dimensions are reduced, pushing the wheels to the outer corners. This, combined with careful attention to the arc of the pillars meeting the body and the 20-inch wheels on the upper trim vehicles, gives the CX-9 a much more aggressive and planted stance than before, and than most of its competitors.

We drove two different trim levels, a volume-leader GS-L (with niceties like leather seating, power moonroof, power liftgate, 8-inch screen and heated steering wheel), and a new top-trim “Signature” level. It became very clear Mazda is looking to pit the CX-9 against not only its traditional competitors, but also some premium products like Infiniti’s Q60 and the Acura RDX.

In-depth: Mazda CX-9’s Skyactiv Technology

Particularly in Signature grade, the design, fit and finish are all outstanding. Supple Nappa leather, real rosewood and aluminum trim, and an overall pleasing (and comfortable) design aesthetic create a cohesive – and comfortable – interior.

With a greater focus on design and style than some of Mazda’s class competitors, the CX-9 will never be top of the class for interior passenger or luggage space, nor does it have cavernous bins and cubbies strewn about the cabin. But it is still a sizable and comfortable machine that will seat up to seven passengers.

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