Review: 2007 Mazda CX-7
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
The crossovers are coming, and in a big way. If you don't believe, go to a Mazda dealership, where the new-for-2007 Mazda CX-7 has been getting lots of looks.
The CX-7 is Mazda's first crossover sport-utility vehicle, meaning it combines the higher seat height and sporty looks of a sport-utility vehicle with the handling, ride, and in this case, even the engine, of a car.
Specifically, the CX-7 is based on a much-modified version of the Mazda6 sedan platform. The CX-7's 4-cylinder engine comes from the sporty MAZDASPEED6 car. The crossover's all-wheel-drive system also is a modified version of that on the MAZDASPEED6.
But the five-door, five-passenger CX-7 doesn't look like a car, or even an SUV. For example, the CX-7 is 3 inches longer and wider than the MAZDASPEED6. It's more than 8 inches taller and it's some 200 pounds heavier, too.
The CX-7 might be more accurately described as a stylish, tall wagon that's designed for singles and couples as well as families. Mazda officials hope to attract consumers seeking a zippy ride and easy-to-use cargo space in a not-too-big package.
Ah, that crossover pricing …
With automakers looking to capitalize on the latest car-buying trend—away from rugged SUVs and toward more car-like vehicles that still look on the outside like SUVs—prices on these crossovers aren't necessarily bargains.
At introduction, the starting manufacturer's suggested retail price for a base, 2007 CX-7 Sport with front-wheel drive and 244-horsepower 4-cylinder engine was near $24,000—a lot more than that for a compact SUV like the Mazda Tribute that starts around $20,000. It also was more than the starting price for other family haulers like many minivans and wagons.
But the CX-7 pricing was in line, more or less, with those of other crossovers already on the market.
For example, the Nissan Murano was starting at near $28,000 for a base, front-wheel-drive model with a V6 that provided virtually as much horsepower—245—as the CX-7's 4-cylinder powerplant. And the popular Toyota Highlander was starting at more than $24,500 for a base, front-wheel-drive model with a lot less power—a 155-horsepower 4 cylinder.
And despite the CX-7's more than 3,700-pound weight, the seat-of-the-pants "oomph"—or torque—is palpable at 258 lb-ft at 2500 rpm. Thanks to the direct injection turbo, the torque is higher than the 246 lb-ft at 4400 rpm in the Murano, too.
In the test CX-7, there wasn't noticeable turbo lag. The vehicle eagerly merged into traffic, climbed hilly roads and passed other vehicles.
Note that at introduction in calendar 2006, Mazda's CX-7 and Acura's new-for-2007 RDX were the only crossovers on the U.S. market to come solely with turbocharged four-cylinder power plants. Officials at both Japan-based companies say they wanted to provide both spirited power and decent fuel economy.
But don't look for exceptional fuel economy in the hefty CX-7. It basically ranks just a bit above the middle of the SUV pack in terms of federal government fuel economy ratings.
Specifically, the front-wheel-drive CX-7 had a government rating of 19 miles a gallon in city driving and 24 mpg on the highway. Optional all-wheel drive drops the city rating to 18 mpg, but the highway rating remains at 24 mpg.
Gosh, some SUVs and crossovers with V6s have higher government fuel economy ratings than the CX-7. These include the Ford Escape and Subaru Outback.
Then factor in that pricey premium gasoline is listed as the required fuel for the turbocharged CX-7, and you can begin to see this 4-cylinder engine doesn't necessarily equate with fuel savings.
An aside about the engine choice
And they decided against using a V6 for several reasons. A V6 would be a larger unit under the hood, and designers wanted a hood that wasn't too long. A V6 would add weight to the vehicle up front, which would affect the CX-7's handling. And, of course, a V6 might be viewed as a gas gulper.
Note that the CX-7 doesn't have the word "turbo" included in the vehicle badging. It's not in the instrument panel inside, either, and there's no turbo boost gauge.
A Mazda official from Japan said the company worried that Americans, who have long preferred big engines, don't have a great opinion of turbo 4 cylinders.
He also assured that the CX-7 turbo, with high-tech features, is long-lived and durable. But, of course, time and the experience of real-world CX-7 drivers will tell.
The CX-7 has only one transmission: A 6-speed automatic with shift-it-yourself mechanism.
Handling is noteworthy
No wonder. The windshield is steeply raked at a 66-degree angle, which is more than what's on some sports cars.
While this gives the CX-7 a sporty look, it also makes for some large side pillars by the windshield. So drivers must look carefully around these pillars when making turns.
The rack-and-pinion steering is more responsive than I expected in a crossover vehicle. In fact, the CX-7's steering feels like a sports car's.
I just wish the steering wheel was a bit larger in diameter, because its smallish size tends to make drivers turn it a bit farther than they need and then further adjustments follow.
The CX-7 gives good views over traffic because of the high seat height, and passengers can notice some head toss when the vehicle is going aggressively through curves and turns.
But the test CX-7 handled admirably, holding its line on mountain roads with nary a tire squeal. There's also no unsettling feeling of weight shifting precipitously in this nicely done crossover, and brakes had strong stopping power.
The test CX-7, with 18-inch tires, had a lot of road noise coming into the passenger compartment, and passengers routinely felt road vibrations through the seat cushions.
Seats feel both cushioned and supportive, though, at 5 feet 4, I never could see the end of the CX-7's hood. I had a great view of the windshield wipers, instead.
Three full-size golf bags fit into the cargo area when the rear seats are in use. But when more room is needed back there, the rear seatbacks don't fold down quite flat and the front passenger seatback doesn't fold forward at all. I guess Mazda emphasized the "zoom-zoom," rather than cargo-hauling practicality, in this crossover.
Maximum cargo space is 58.6 cubic feet, and the CX-7's towing capacity is just 2,000 pounds, which is less than the 3,500-pound maximum of a compact SUV like Ford's Escape.
A final note: Don't confuse the CX-7 with the Mazda CX-9. The slightly larger CX-9 has three rows of seats compared with the two rows of seats in the CX-7. Styling, however, is similar for both CX vehicles.