Mazda’s CX-9 gets new standard safety technologies and updated feature packages for 2018, making this highly-styled, seven-seat crossover an attractive choice for families on the go. The 2018 CX-9 remains a good value for buyers who value style and substance.

Standard technology this year on all CX-9s includes Smart City Brake Support (a low-speed emergency braking system), and blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert. Upper trims get more safety features as standard equipment, helping the CX-9 get excellent safety scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The CX-9 gets a “Top Safety Pick” award from the IIHS, winning the top score of “good” in every category.

The 2018 CX-9 is available in Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and Signature trims. Our test vehicle was the Grand Touring, outfitted with all-wheel drive. Touring models this year get new standard features like automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers and a suite of safety equipment. More than 55 percent of CX-9 buyers have opted for the upper end Grand Touring and Signature models.

All CX-9s are powered by a 2.5-liter turbocharged Inline 4-cylinder engine that develops 250 horsepower (premium unleaded) and a very respectable 310 lb.-ft. of torque. That horsepower number drops to 227 with 87-octane fuel. The transmission is Mazda’s SKYACTIV-DRIVE 6-speed automatic.

Gas mileage in my AWD test vehicle was rated at 20 miles per gallon in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg combined. For front-drive models, the numbers are 22 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 24 combined.

If you test drive a 2018 CX-9 – and I think you should if you’re shopping in the segment – you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how well this turbo-4 moves this crossover around. It’s pretty quick, and it’s surprisingly fun to drive.

A driver-selectable “sport” mode button is on the center console, boosting response when you give it the gas. Steering is very responsive and linear; move this wheel and the car will instantly obey. It steers and performs like a much smaller vehicle than it really is.

The CX-9 is more than 16.6 feet long and 5.9 feet wide, with 135 cubic feet of interior volume. Headroom in the front seat is 39.3 inches, and in the second row it’s 38.5 inches. In row three, headroom is just 35.4 inches. While legroom is very generous in row one (41 inches) and in row two (39.4 inches), it’s cramped in the back row at 29.7 inches. The thing about the CX-9s third row is that it’s primarily for little ones.

The CX-9 cabin can be as luxurious as you want, with available Nappa leather, wood and aluminum in the top Signature trim. Vehicle systems are governed primarily through a rotary controller on the console and buttons around it. The system is super intuitive, and graphics are crystal clear on the touchscreen that juts from the top of the center stack.

But my favorite feature might just be the button on the dashboard that allows the driver to raise and lower the power tailgate from inside the vehicle. How many times have you climbed into the car, buckled up and realized that the liftgate was open? It’s a simple but oh-so-thoughtful feature that more manufacturers should include.

Pricing for the front-drive 2018 Mazda CX-9 starts at $32,130 for the Sport trim, $34,960 for Touring and $40,470 for Grand Touring. The top-level Signature trim with AWD starts at $44,315.

2018 Mazda CX-9 AWD Grand Touring

Engine:

2.5-liter turbocharged Inline 4-cylinder

Horsepower/Torque:

250/310 lb.-ft. (premium unleaded)

Transmission:

6-speed automatic

Price:

$40,470 ($43,905 with options & freight)

EPA mileage estimates:

20 mpg city/26 mpg highway/23 mpg combined

Estimated highway range:

507 miles