Mazda CX-7 2.3
The wings are reminiscent of the RX-8 coupe
- Attractive, sporty styling
- Rewarding but easy to drive
- Powerful petrol engine
- Spacious and practical interior
- No diesel engine option
- Unforgiving ride on rougher roads
- Noticeable wind noise from door mirrors at speed
- Rear visibility restricted
Mazda joins the compact SUV and crossover market with a model it calls a "sports crossover SUV". By combining a powerful petrol engine with a sportily styled body attached to a capable part-time four-wheel drive chassis, the company has created a car that offers off-road ability, practicality and an enjoyable driving experience.
The CX-7 is a niche within a niche, but Mazda is confident that its sports crossover SUV can reach out to drivers who see the benefits of an SUV's practicality and enhanced driving position, but also like a responsive and sporty drive. The model's credentials are clear from the outset. The front wings borrow heavily from Mazda's sports coupe, the RX-8, while the high window line and 18-inch allow wheels give the model the appearance of an inflated hot-hatch.
The CX-7 is a familiar sight in the US and Japan, but for the European market Mazda has made some adjustments. The suspension, in particular, has been re-worked to offer a firm ride more suited to European tastes. Only one engine choice is available: the 2.3-litre turbo is the same as found in the Mazda 3 MPS and Mazda 6 MPS models. It's potent, offering 256bhp, enough to whip the CX-7 to 62mph in eight seconds. A six-speed gearbox and intelligent part-time four-wheel drive system transfer the power to the road.
Mazda is fully aware that the CX-7 won't sell in huge numbers. Globally a figure of around 7,00 units per year has been suggested, and it's fair to say that something approaching 1,000 will find homes in the UK. Of course, with the possibility of a diesel variant on the horizon that number might increase.
As well as a single engine choice Mazda is only offering the CX-7 in a single trim level - albeit a generous one. The company has slotted the car in just below the luxury sector, making it one of the most luxurious and well equipped of the non-premium SUVs. Cruise and climate control, a premium sound system, leather interior, tinted windows and 18-inch alloys are all standard, further enhancing the cars appeal and unique approach.
Our verdict on the Mazda CX-7 2.3
It's a highly individual approach, but one that Mazda has pulled off with great aplomb. The CX-7 is highly enjoyable to drive and offers the practical benefits of room for five adults, part-time four-wheel drive and a healthy specification as standard. The relatively high running costs of the 2.3-litre petrol engine may put off those searching for economy, but keen drivers will appreciate its enthusiastic performance.
The 2.3-litre petrol engine returns a combined fuel figure of 27.7mpg and emits 243g/km CO2 meaning it's thirstier and falls into a more expensive tax bracket than the average compact SUV. It's also liable to be more expensive in terms of insurance, but its low initial asking price, considering the equipment level and performance, still makes it a tempting proposition.
Space and practicality
Although a high window line and sporty transmission tunnel give the impression of less space on the inside, the cabin is roomy for front and rear passengers. The boot is a good size too, and the rear seats easily fold flat or split 60/40 for additional luggage space. A revolving boot floor offers a wipe clean durable, waterproof, plastic surface for carrying dirty objects as well as the usual carpet lined example. A clever lip is incorporated to stop items sliding forward in the boot into the backs of the seats.
Controls and display
Everything inside the CX-7 feels well planned and solid and that includes the switches, which are all conveniently positioned and straightforward. The dials are shrouded by plastic tunnels which reduce glare and are lit deep orange making them extra visible. The placement of the climate and audio display is also well considered - being directly beneath the windscreen makes it less likely to divert attention from the road ahead, than if placed in the centre console.
The sporty handling does come at the expense of the usual pillow soft SUV ride. However, the firmness is only really evident on rougher road surfaces and for the most part the CX-7 offers a smooth ride. The car is well equipped to keep five adult occupants snug with comfortable leather seats, electric driver's seat, climate control, good head and legroom and keyless operation. Mazda has put a lot of effort into reducing the CX-7s drag coefficient and road noise. Perhaps too much, as a slight whistle and flap from the door mirrors is audible above the rest of the at speed.
The CX-7 comes with keyless entry as standard and it also has privacy glass at the rear for added security. A category one Thatcham approved alarm and immobiliser is standard equipment.
The part-time four-wheel drive system offers additional traction in treacherous conditions and improved grip through the corners. Meanwhile, the body has been reinforced in several places, with the European spec model boasting a five-star Euro NCAP rating. The usual three-letter acronyms are all present; ABS, EBD, DSC and TCS as are front side and curtain airbags, a collapsible brake pedal and Isofix child seat mounting points.
The engineers have gone to work on the CX-7, stiffening up the body-shell and tuning the chassis and suspension for European roads. This has given it the edge over it's SUV rivals in driving appeal, with responsive and nimble handling making the CX-7 feel lighter and smaller than it has any right too. The use of the 2.3-litre turbo engine is an inspired one in terms of performance. The engine provides an impressive zero to 62mph time of eight seconds and top speed of 131mph. Moreover, it is usable power across the rev range rather than a turbo induced surge. This makes the CX-7 as easy to drive around town as it is pleasurable on the open road.
Family car appeal
The CX-7 is a different take on the family SUV, but it's a family SUV all the same. The space and practicality will appeal to families and its part-time four-wheel drive makes it perfect for adventurous family outings. With only the 2.3-litre petrol engine available it may stretch the running budget a little, but for parents who don't want to forgo an enjoyable driving experience for something mundane, it's perfect.
First car appeal
Younger drivers can find the same sporting driving dynamics and design in a smaller hatchback, so unless they specifically require the additional room are unlikely to opt for the CX-7 as a first car.
Quality and image
Mazda has done an excellent job of blending sports car characteristics into the SUV shape and the result is a unique and highly attractive image that will no-doubt age well. The CX-7s window tints and 18-inch alloys bolster its street cred. The build quality can't be called into question either with the car standing up well to rougher road surfaces without rattles or crashes despite the firm ride. The interior feels equally sorted with flush fitting trim and strong materials.
Mazda has clearly put a lot of thought into making the CX-7 useable and therefore accessible day-to-day. Take the models sills for example, which have been deliberately lowered and recessed to prevent occupants rubbing their legs against the muddy underside as they leave. Generously proportioned doors and healthy rear legroom also make for effortless entry and exit.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
The CX-7's centre console incorporates the controls for the high quality Bose sound-system. Nine speakers, MP3 compatibility, a six-disc changer and an Audio Pilot system that automatically adjust the sound quality to cancel out cabin noise are included. The controls themselves are refreshingly basic and self-explanatory with further sound-system controls incorporated into the steering wheel.
Colours and trim
The paint choices for the CX-7 are as bold as the idea of a sports crossover SUV itself with Cooper Red Mica and Aurora Blue Mica being particularly attractive. The only non-metallic or mica paint option is brilliant black, the others all come at a premium. Black leather is standard with lighter Stone leather also available with the black and red paint options. The leather and interior plastics are of good quality and easy on the eye. The crocodile skin textile strip through the centre of the seats is an individual touch.
Strangely for a vehicle only available in high specification, parking sensors are a cost option on the CX-7. That's a shame because the, sporty leanings of the SUV mean its quite wide. Slight flares on the arches make it wider still, while a window line especially towards the rear can restrict the view. The mirrors are excellent though, and drivers used to larger vehicles shouldn't find it a struggle.
Space saver fitted as standard under boot floor.
Petrol engine options - 2.3-litre (256bhp). Transmission options: six-speed manual gearbox with automatic part-time four-wheel drive.
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