May 22, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Thursday, 08 July 2010 12:10
When Mazda anted up for the crossover-SUV game in 2007, it had a special challenge. The well-established formula was to build a vehicle with car-like handling, all-weather sure-footedness and a touch of ruggedness, if not actual off-road capability. But Mazda, bound by the “zoom-zoom” promise of its sedans and sporty specialty cars, had to inject a substantial dose of fun into its crossovers.
The project was a success. Our 2010 CX-7 s Grand Touring with all-wheel drive was enjoyable to drive thanks to its 244-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, responsive six-speed shiftable automatic transmission, and taut handling. But all that driving pleasure comes at a price.For people who just want basic transportation, the CX-7 likely will fall well down the list in this crowded segment. The ride is firm, though not quite harsh, and road noise intrudes at a noticeable level. Cargo capacity and rear seating room are not up to the level of major competitors, such as the Honda CR-V. We averaged just 19.7 mpg in mostly highway driving — and Mazda recommends the use of costlier premium gasoline.
Our CX-7 s Touring, at $33,880, is priced between the CR-V and Toyota RAV-4, two of the most popular compact crossovers, and the European models such as the Volkswagen Tiguan and Japanese premium crossovers like the Acura RDX. The base CX-7, with a normally aspirated 161-horsepower 4-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive, delivers up to 28 mpg on regular gasoline, and starts at $21,700. That makes it competitive with the likes of the 32-mpg Chevrolet Equinox.
We were impressed with the engine. There was little turbo lag, and the engine performs forcefully in all circumstances. Unlike the fuel-sipping GM crossovers, the CX-7 never finds itself in too high a gear. And the handling is not just car-like; it’s sports-car-like. We cornered our CX-7 fairly hard at times on Route 6 and other secondary roads in western Connecticut, but never felt we were approaching its limits.
Inside, most materials are of a high quality, especially the seat cushions and hardware, and the leather upholstery. Leg room was a little short for our tallest driver, but the power seat and steering column have a wide range of adjustments, ensuring most drivers will find a comfortable position.
There’s plenty of head room in the back seat, but knee room is tight. The seating position there is slouched rather than upright, which may displease some passengers.
The CX-7 attained exemplary scores in government crash tests: five stars across the board, and four stars for rollover resistance. Alone among Mazda products, it scored below average in reliability, based on Consumer Reports magazine reader surveys.
For the driving enthusiast, the CX-7 is about as good as it gets among crossovers this side of the Mercedes-Benz GLK. But it may disappoint those whose preferences run to maximum fuel economy, a spacious back seat and ample cargo room.
Engine: 2.3-liter turbocharged Four, 244 horsepower, 258 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 4,001 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Ground clearance: 8.2 inches
Wheels: 19x7.5 inch alloy
Tires: P235/55R19 H all season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 29.9 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 59 cu. ft.
Maximum towing capacity: 2,000 lb.
Fuel capacity: 18.2 gallons
Fuel economy: 17 mpg city, 23 mpg highway
Fuel type: Premium unleaded
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