What's it about
The latest offerings from Mazda are like a breath of fresh air. Just look at the success of the Mazda2 where it is redefining the small car segment. Then other new generation products such as the MX-5 and RX-8 also took the motoring world by storm.
So, does the Japanese carmaker's CX-7 SUV lives up to this expectation of breaking the mould? We tested it.
The CX-7 is an SUV that is designed for an exhilarating on-road experience and it isn't crafted to head into the bundus. For example a key molecule in its genes is its driving dynamics which is on par with that of a sport sedan. The CX-7 is after all a "sports crossover" and this is confirmed by its sleek styling.
There are plenty of zoom-zoom design elements and just by looking at the CX-7 it is clear that this vehicle comes from the same breed as the RX-8 and MX-5. It is attractively styled with narrow headlights, a prominent grille and bulging wheelarches, giving the CX-7 a definite sporty look.
Furthermore, power comes courtesy of the high-performance 2.3-litre turbo engine found in Mazda's racy MPS range. So, performance is a prominent aspect of the CX-7.
The airy cabin of the CX-7 is a pleasant place to be. The dashboard layout shares a family resemblance with that of the RX-8 adding to the CX-7's sporty appeal. However, the cabin feels plasticky and it doesn't share the same upmarket feel of a BMW X3 or Land Rover Freelander, for example.
Everything appears to be well put together and the layout is sensible. The commanding driving position is comfortable with good all-round visibility.
Rear space is plentiful and the boot's loading capability is acceptable. A clever one-touch seat folding system makes lowering the rear seats easy.
It's really well-equipped too, with a fantastic Bose audio system incorporating a six-disc frontloader, glass sunroof, heated leather seats, climate and cruise control and xenon lights all as standard.
A welcome feature is the very spacious cubby beneath the centre armrest which easily swallows a big CD folder.
Under the skin
The CX-7 sits on an all-new platform but shares quite a bit of its engineering with other products in the bigger Ford Motor Company structure. The engine and four-wheel drive system come from the Mazda 6 MPS.
Only one derivative is available and its power is provided by the familiar 2.3-litre Disi turbo engine sourced from the Mazda6 MPS. In the CX-7 it produces 175 kW at 5 000 r/min and 350 Nm at 2 500 r/min.
This is mated to a six-speed Activematic gearbox, while a manual transmission is offered in Europe too.
The CX-7 also comes with the Active Torque Split all-wheel drive system used on the Mazda6 MPS, which continuously monitors road conditions to distribute torque between the front and rear axles. This system sends up to 50% of torque to the rear wheels on a slippery surface
Mazda has also tuned the CX-7's McPherson strut and multilink rear suspension arrangement for high performance antics.
Although the CX-7 is not a full-on off-roader it has a decent ground clearance of 206 mm and approach and departure angles of 20.1 and 24.9 degrees.
Standard safety equipment includes ABS with DSC dynamic stability control, EBA emergency brake assist, EBD electronic brakeforce distribution and TCS traction control and front, side (for the front occupants only) and curtain airbags.
On the road, the CX-7 offers an excellent and involving ride with its MPS-derived engine giving respectable performance. What strikes one as well is how refined the CX-7 is with little road or engine noise making their way to the cabin.
Although the ride is firm the CX7 does impress in the handling department showing good body control when tackling corners. It is easy to forget that you are behind the wheel of an SUV, and not a sport estate or sedan.
Further proof to this is the CX-7's stability at speed and its straight-line performance. Here is an SUV that can accelerate from 0-100 km/h in about eight seconds while the top speed is 210 km/h. Yes, the CX-7 is quite confident at higher speeds and cruises quietly.
Also, thanks to the CX'7s all-wheel-drive system, traction is never a problem. Mazda has, after all, designed the CX-7 for the tarmac and not for off-roading, which means that its overall dynamics are impressive.
Considering its inherently higher centre of gravity, CX-7 handles really well. It is a vehicle that feels alive and sure-footed all the time. The steering, which is light and firms up when needed, offers plenty of feedback, too.
We tackled about 80 km of dirt road too during our test period and the CX-7 didn't disappoint. These challenging road conditions were not a problem for the CX-7 and its four-wheel-drive system and safety aids ensured that the vehicle kept its pose. It felt extremely secure and solid on gravel.
Fuel bills will be high though, with Mazda claiming an average consumption of 12.3 litres per 100 km. However, on a 600 km road trip our test car's trip computer indicated an average consumption of between 14 and 15 litres per 100 km? Ouch.
It is a common fact that that most SUV buyers will never tackle serious off-roading. And the CX-7 is an SUV that doesn't have some identity crisis about its capabilities as Mazda is blunt about its intent with the vehicle: the CX-7 is a road-biased car SUV a sporty nature - it isn't a 4x4.
This is a sports crossover with stunning looks and practicality.
Its styling and road manners make it an attractive choice too. CX-7 is sleek and athletic and allows Mazda to blur the boundaries between sport sedans/estates and SUVs.
Plasticky feel to cabin
High fuel consumption