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Tested: Mazda CX-7 2.5 Dynamic

2010-03-12 09:31

Lance Branquinho

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Mazda
Model CX-7
Engine 2.5l four-cylinder
Power 120kW @ 6 000r/min
Torque 205Nm @ 2 500r/min
Transmission Five-speed auto
Fuel Tank 62l
Fuel Consumption 12.2l/100km
Weight 1 584kg
Boot Size 400l
Tyres 215/70/R17
Front Suspension McPherson struts
Rear Suspension Multi-link
Service Intervals 15 000km
Service Plan 5 year/100 000km
Warranty 4 year/120 000km
Price R340 380
The SUV market is, at the best of times, plainly incomprehensible to me.

If you wish to go off-road, well,  purchase a dedicated off-road wagon with low-range reduction gearing and some lockable axles. If you need loadspace and all-wheel traction security on dirt roads, buy an all-wheel drive station wagon.

Conversely, the idea of a Crossover (sedan platform, pseudo-SUV style) is completely beyond my faculties of reason.

Of course, the Crossover’s appeal is in combining the aspiration to an outdoor, active lifestyle (Camel trophy "lite", if you’ll excuse the tobacco-driven adage) without any of the solid axle ride harshness or ponderous on-road performance.

Crossovers are, mostly, a hapless compromise. Some manage to find the golden mean between faux dirt-road performance and urban usability better than others.

With these vehicles spending so little time on even the most unchallenging of dirt-roads, perhaps there is space in the market for more front-wheel drive derivatives?

Subsequently, after two weeks testing Mazda’s facelifted CX-7 (in 2.5L Dynamic guise) I pondered the issue: was it a hapless compromise or golden mean pseudo-SUV style wagon?

Facelift sees new front foglamp bezels and a revised grille treatment, framed by chrome detailing.

Best looking SUV?

Perhaps the most important purchasing decision for buyers in the Crossover segment is appearance. The Crossover, being in essence an image exercise, simply has to render proportions and surfacing which are bold and dynamic without appearing dreadfully conceited.

Mazda’s styling team has done a particularly admirable job with CX-7, it really is an unwittingly attractive vehicle.

From the imposing (and wholly distinctive) wide-mouthed front air intake, to the contoured hatch, surface curvature and proportion flow in near-perfect harmony across CX-7. I especially like the contrasting metal surround which frames all the side glass surfacing.

Although the CX-7 has been on sale for two years locally, people came up to enquire what it was every time I stopped.

Perhaps, and obviously pessimists will postulate this, public inquiries could be indicative of a lack of identifiable brand heritage or low sales volumes. I think, in all honestly though, most people simply find the CX-7’s styling distinctive and appealing - a notion substantiated by a raft of cellphone camera still images which were routinely captured of it when stationary.

Cabin design manages to be attractive and provide intuitive ergonomics. Quality outstanding.

Clever inside too

Clamber aboard and the exterior styling harmony is carried over in theme and function. The CX-7’s swooping cabin architecture is accompanied by intuitive ergonomics and a surfeit of satellite control functionality accessible from the helm.

The steering wheel is of a new design (you’d have to be a serious CX-7 fetishist to notice) and features additional satellite controls along the flanks of the wheel boss.

In terms of design CX-7’s recessed dials add a dynamic touch (and they’re practical too, starving off mid-day reflections) supported by a digital menu display atop of the centre console keeps one well informed whilst driving.

Seating is generous for all five occupants, with leather trim throughout and electronic adjustability (and heating) for the front row occupants.

Mazda's CX-7 features a comprehensive safety suite. Scattered around the cabin are dual front and side airbags, with curtain airbags wrapping around to cover the second row occupants too.

The centre console stowage bin between the front seats is simply massive, and features easily removable partitions. A slight debit was the lack of a sunglass holder.

Expandable sunshades are a Godsend when travelling through the Karoo.

Proper sunshades - at last

For me personally the highlight of CX-7’s cabin was undoubtedly its sunshades, which are simply a work of genius.

If you’re 1.8m (or taller) and seated at a proper dynamic driving posture to the steering wheel, you’ll know how frustratingly undersized most sunshades are when folded down and deployed to cover sun-glare entering the side windows.

This is particularly maddening when driving with the sun at a right angle – which is the case on highways in my area for most of the year. Mazda’s CX-7 has a simply solution - in features a deployable strip which pulls out from the end of the sunshade, increasing its shading surface.

For most of the two week test period I was completely taken up with these adjustable sunshades, which work a charm.

About that engine though…

As a driving machine the CX-7 is essentially an oversized front-wheel drive hatchback with additional ground clearance. 

Despite its imposing styling and generous interior space coefficient, CX-7 is trims out to a relatively light 1 584kg – the lack of all-wheel drive hardware noticeably helping to keep its kerb weight down. It’s turbocharged 2.3 DSI sibling is 1 772kg by comparison…

The new 2.5l engine is carried over from the Mazda6, albeit in slightly detuned form.

It’s worth 120kW at 6 000r/min, with peak rotational force of 205Nm online at an engine speed of 3 500r/min and shifts through a five-speed planetary geared automatic transmission. The 2.5l Dynamic's turbocharged sibling sports an additional ratio…

Mazda's 2.5l MZR engine is smooth and refined, yet struggled to move the CX-7's 1.5t mass with aplomb – hardly surprising considering it only produces 205Nm of peak rotational force.

Quiet - not quick

If you look at the output numbers you’ll gauge (quite correctly) that CX-7 2.5l Dynamic is not the swiftest of SUVs – and you’d be right.

The five-speed automatic transmission hardly engages with the most sophisticated of shift regimes – especially in a world where twin-clutch transmissions are setting the standard in dual-pedal driving dynamics.

Overtaking manoeuvres are only accomplished with any sense of urgency when one keeps the throttle pedal in contact with the driver’s footwell carpeting for a considerable length of time.

The CX-7 2.5 runs a top speed of 176km/h and through the gears you'll have to show the five-speed transmission scant sympathy to replicate consistent 11 second 0-100km/h times.

This relatively lack of performance is made even more perplexing when one considers the CX-7’s average fuel economy, which is hardly great. I managed a best tank-to-tank average of 12.2l/100km on an open road weekend getaway run, without passengers onboard.

The drivetrain’s lacking performance and unimpressive economy aside, the CX-7 remains a rewarding car to drive. Featuring independent suspension all-round, CX-7’s reassuring poised at speed over even the most haphazardly surfaced South African back roads.

Despite the steering being too light (it’s geared for easy parking and urban manoeuvring) I found the CX-7 not at all indifferent to being hustled around the occasional mountain pass at speed. Body roll is excellently controlled and font end grip terrifically secure – especially for something without all-wheel drive.

It's a great weekend getaway vehicle - provided you don't want to tow (it's only 1t rated) or do much dirt road driving (it carries a space saver spare only).

Impressive refinement

Beyond the CX-7’s tidy handling characteristics, the car’s low levels of noise intrusion (mechanical, road-abrasion generated and atmospheric) ensure passengers are conveyed in a serenely insulated cabin environment over vast distances. I would have no hesitation to state CX-7 can easily match some premium German products with regards to NVH management.

Obviously, being front-wheel drive only, it has negligible off-road ability despite sporting 208mm’s worth of ground clearance – which comes in handy only when negotiating substantial pavements when CBD parking is in short supply.

If you are the type who likes to have a third axle trailing you on weekend getaways, the CX-7 front-wheel configuration will probably frustrate your towing ambitions. This is especially the case on dirt roads, where any badly rigged towing scenario unbalances the CX-7’s front axle - reducing the vehicle’s sole source of traction and grip.


Distinctive without being elaborate. Styling is very harmonious - works well.


Exceptionally well equipped and assembled to a level of high perceivable build quality. Spacious too.


Very neat road manners despite the anesthetised steering. Easy to pilot in town and a wonderfully relaxing proposition on the open road - if you are not in a hurry. Fuel tank too small at only 62l though, truncating touring range.


Perception and reality. It’s an uncomfortable equitation in the automotive world, where the perception of a product (trumped-up by marketing forces) is often undone by the reality of robust, everyday use.

Mazda’s CX-7 is a very strikingly styled car (both inside and out). Despite its generous cabin space dimensions, CX-7 remains an effortless vehicle to pilot around claustrophobically trafficked and poorly planned urban environments – thanks to clever packaging (it’s only 4.69m bumper-to-bumper) and easily manipulated (light) controls.

I fully comprehend why Mazda wishes to engage the market with a lower buy-in point CX-7. It’s an awfully sensible, easy to live with pseudo-SUV. Many people are put off by the 2.3 DSi’s ravenous fuel habits and don’t (think) they require all-wheel drive.

This leaves me to question whether (especially at reef altitudes) the 2.5l Dynamic’s asthmatic performance and negligibly more economical fuel consumption really address the issue of broadening Mazda’s SUV range offering in market.

I think Mazda would have been better served with a turbodiesel alternative, something Kia does particularly well with its new Sorento – a vehicle which matches the CX-7 styling elegance and boasts all-wheel drive.

If you do not have a fundamental requirement for the CX-7's spaciousness, that's the one to go for.


Strikingly styled
Huge, practical, well-quipped cabin
Neat road manners


Front-wheel drive
Not the swiftest of cars
Highish fuel consumption


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