2007 Mazda CX-7

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Review: 2007 Mazda CX-7

By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Sporty new SUV blends fun, practicality and adventuresome styling.
Pros:
  • Fun to drive
  • Roomy
  • Stylish
Cons:
  • Rather high cargo opening
  • Sensitive brake pedal
  • Not as fast as it looks

The new 2007 Mazda CX-7 SUV blends racy styling, driving fun and a roomy interior.

That's a winning combination for this SUV, or crossover vehicle (take your pick). That's especially true, considering that well-equipped front-wheel-drive trim levels begin at an affordable $23,750 and end at $26,300. Opt for all-wheel drive and prices hardly jump off the map at $25,450 to $28,000.

Styling is original and very aerodynamic. The 66-degree windshield angle gives the CX-7 the steepest rake in its class, and there's a swoopy roofline and bulging fenders reminiscent of those on Mazda's unique RX-8 rotary engine 4-door sports car. The big, stainless steel dual exhaust outlets are a nice final touch at the back end, also distinguished by detailed taillights.

Especially for North America
The CX-7 was designed and engineered especially for North America and is aimed at married, childless couples 30-40 years old. However, there's plenty of room in back for kids or 6-footers. The CX-7 feels as if you "wear" it, like a Porsche 911, not "just get" into it.

Powering the new Mazda is a turbocharged, intercooled direct-injection 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine from Mazda's racy MAZDASPEED6 sedan.

The 16-valve engine has enough features to give it 244 horsepower, although the figure is down from 274 from the Mazdaspeed6 because the engine is tuned to provide the more utilitarian CX-7 with better response at lower speeds.

Engine torque peaks at a low 2500 rpm, when 258 pound-feet of torque is available. And 99 percent of maximum torque is maintained for a muscular feel all the way to 5,000 rpm, where peak horsepower is delivered, but also where the engine begins to run out of breath.

Durability
The low-emission engine isn't smooth enough to be mistaken for V6, but its balance shafts help curb 4-cylinder noise and vibration. Forged internal components such as the crankshaft and connecting rods, promise long-lasting durability.

The CX-7 provides a 65-75 mph passing time that's good, but not great because this vehicle weighs 3,710 pounds with front-wheel drive and 3,929 pounds with all-wheel drive, which isn't meant for off-road use.

However, 60 mph zips by in a respectable 7.8 seconds and there is only occasional turbocharger lag when a driver floors the accelerator pedal.

Responsive Automatic Transmission
No manual gearbox here, though. The only transmission offered is a responsive 6-speed automatic. Part-throttle downshifts occasionally feel too abrupt, but there is an easily used manual-shift feature.

Estimated fuel economy is respectable at 19 mpg in the city and 24 on the highway with front-drive and 18 and 24 with all-wheel drive. Premium gasoline with at least a 91-octane rating is recommended.

A light, stiff unibody provides a good foundation for a smooth ride and agile handling. Steering is outstanding, being direct, precise and linear. Some may find the suspension too firm, but it's supple and generally provides a comfortable ride, although sharp bumps are felt and the ride gets a bit choppy over uneven surfaces.

Sports Car Soul
However, body lean is nearly eliminated unless a driver is moving faster than he or she should on public roads. Mazda, after all, says the CX-7 has the "soul" of a sports car," but doesn't go so far as to claim that it is one. Not that it could, although the definition of "sports car" is used too widely by too many automakers these days.

Anyway, a broad stance and large 18-inch wheels contribute to confident handling, and a standard stability/traction control system helps keep the CX-7 nailed to roads if, say, a driver enters a curve faster than he or she should.

Stopping power can't be faulted, but some drivers may find the brake pedal to be overly sensitive—just press it fairly lightly and the brakes immediately bite pretty hard.

No Poor Boy Version
The CX-7 comes in entry Sport, midrange Touring and top-line Grand Touring trim levels. There is no "poor boy" version.

Even the Sport has lots of comfort, convenience and safety features. Standard for the Sport are such items as air conditioning, cruise control, an AM/FM/CD player, a tilt steering wheel with radio controls, split-folding rear seatbacks and power windows, mirrors and door locks with remote keyless entry.

Upscale Versions
Added to the Touring are leather trim (seats, steering wheel, shift knob), heated front seats and a power driver's seat.

The Grand Touring adds leather with a black "sport" seat stripe, high intensity discharge (HID) headlights, fog lights, body color mirrors, chrome door handles and automatic climate control.

Options include a $1,585 package with a power sunroof and upscale Bose sound system with an in-dash 6-disc CD changer. There's also a $350 remote engine starter, $430 Sirius satellite radio and a $4,005 Technology package with a bunch of items, including an easy-to-program navigation system and rearview camera.

Airbags Galore
Standard safety features include six airbags, including front-seat side and side-curtain airbags with rollover protection. The 4-wheel ventilated disc brakes have an anti-lock system.

The floor is a just a little higher than in most cars, but big door handles make it easy to get in the upscale, generally quiet interior. Large inside handles help allow a quick exit. All doors open wide for easy entry and exit.

Front bucket seats are unusually supportive. Gauges can be easily read, although they're set almost too deeply in the dashboard, and climate controls are unusually large. Highly placed sound system controls are just moderately large, but also easy to use. Front cupholders are conveniently placed on the console.

Five adults fit, but the center of the back seat is hard and thus there's just comfortable space for four tall occupants. Front doors have useful storage pockets, and the console has a deep, covered bin. However, the CX-7 could use more small storage areas.

Large Cargo Area
The large cargo area has a rather high, but wide, opening. Rear seatbacks easily fold forward and sit flat to greatly enlarge that area.

A manual hood prop, instead of a more convenient hydraulic strut, is surprising to find in such a new, refined vehicle. And the engine is hidden by a big plastic cover, although there's no problem checking the engine oil level and such.

The CX-7's distinctive looks will probably initially grab many prospective buyers, but its driving fun and functionality will go a long way toward completing a sale.

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BB01 - 9/19/2014 4:53:28 AM