Mazda, Road Test Reviews

2007 Mazda CX-7 GS – Road Test

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When I first saw the MX-Crossport Concept Vehicle (now known as the Mazda CX-7) at the Toronto International Auto Show 18 months ago, I thought it was a nice looking, but impractical SUV/Concept vehicle. I was somewhat surprised when I saw the actual pre-production version at this past February’s Auto Show. It doesn’t look like any other SUV on the road today. It’s not boxy and generic-looking, it’s actually more Sport than Utility looking. From the front, it looks a lot like the Mazda RX-8 sports car – especially if you’re looking at it through your rear-view mirror. It certainly looks like its got zoom – but does it have Zoom-Zoom? Oh yeah, it goes like stink!

Mazda has been on a roll for a number of years now and each new vehicle is following the sporty, or Zoom-Zoom, theme to its fullest. While auto manufactures seem to be trying their best to make their vehicles blend in with one another, Mazda have gone in the opposite direction, with each vehicle being completely different from any other in its segment – not just in the looks department, but also in the fun to drive department.

When you think mid-sized SUV what are the first few SUV’s that come to mind? Perhaps Ford Escape, Saturn Vue, Pontiac Torrent, Hyundai Santa Fe and Tucson, Toyota RAV4 and maybe a couple of others. If you want a usable SUV, it has to be somewhat boxy and square to maximize the interior passenger and cargo capacity. It seems somebody forgot to tell Mazda! They’ve taken the SUV idea and morphed it into a sexy SPORT Utility Vehicle. The CX-7 is obviously going to replace the Tribute as their mid-sized SUV, and no one’s going to miss it.

First Impressions
Once you get past the unique look and the swoopy lines of the CX-7, you notice that it is a little bigger than it looks in pictures. The key fob is one of those all-in-one things with the key spring-loaded into the fob. Opening the door reveals a very tasteful interior with a flat-black upper half and a light-beige lower half encompasses the interior. The seating material looks like a combination of suede and lizard skin. It’s pleasant to the touch and is obviously chosen for the ability to hold passengers in place when the driver decides to take that 90-degree corner at 60mph. The one downside I found to it was when I had to move the CX-7 to cut the grass. I jumped off my riding lawnmower and dusted myself off thinking I’d gotten all the bits of grass off of me – wrong. Once I’d moved it and jumped out I noticed the driver’s seat was completely covered in grass clippings. No problem I’ll just brush it off with my hand – so I thought. Unless I stood there and picked every blade of grass individually, it wasn’t coming off. I had to get the vacuum cleaner out to get it cleaned up. So the moral of the story is… buy the leather interior if you own a dog.

The driver’s 6-way/passenger 4-way manual seats are very comfortable and offer plenty of support. I usually complain about the lack of a lumbar adjustment if it’s missing from a vehicle, but in this case it was pretty good even without one. Getting in and out is very easy because the seat is at just the right height for an SUV.

The small fat steering wheel adds to the sportiness of the CX-7 and tilts but does not telescope. The wheel also has the audio and cruise control buttons located on the spokes. The clock and radio information sit high out by the base of the windshield perfectly in line with the driver’s sight line. Directly in front of the driver is the speedometer, with the tachometer to the left and the fuel and temperature gauge as well as the vehicle’s computer info centre to the right.

In the center of the dashboard are round air vents that are not only stylish but useful, because they can be completely shut – something that appears to be overlooked in most vehicles these days. Below the vents is the audio system that is completely incorporated into the dash. It’s large enough that the optional SatNav system would fit right in there. Below the audio system are the HVAC controls that are the epitome of simplicity – large round dials clearly marked. One downside I found was that the floor option also turns the top vent on the dashboard on, so there’s always some air blow into your eyes.

The arm rest/centre storage area between the front seats is huge – and lockable (nice touch), with a removable bin inside. The glove box is also nice and large, as are the very useful door map pockets. The power windows have an auto up and down feature for both the driver and front passenger. I also liked the fact that Mazda chose to put the door lock button up by the door handle and not amongst the power window buttons where it can be confusing.

With the turbocharged 2.3L 4-cylinder engine pumping out 244 horsepower, combined with 258 lb/ft of torque at a very low 2,500 rpm, the 6-speed Tiptronic transmission holds the gear almost to the red line making the CX-7 a very quick SUV. I used the manual mode a few times, but in the end, the shift-points chosen by Mazda complimented the sporty nature of the CX-7 making it unnecessary for me to use anything but the regular automatic transmission. The response from the transmission was immediate, and if you aren’t paying attention and gripping the wheel, you could have some problems when you mash the accelerator. This is one of the few vehicles in which I don’t think a manual transmission would be a better option, or wish I had one – that’s how perfectly in sync the engine and transmission are. The rack and pinion steering and suspension is also perfectly matched to the CX-7 making it an all-round perfect Crossover/SUV. The steering in the CX7 was perfect – nice and heavy at higher speeds, but light enough at parking lot speeds that it’s still effortless. The suspension is very taut for an SUV and is tuned for very aggressive driving. Unfortunately, for the week I had the CX7 we had constant rain, so I couldn’t push it into the corners as I’d have liked, and my usual driving route was very subdued. Whenever I did take the opportunity to give it a bit of welly, the CX-7 responded without the hint of sliding or losing control.

Wind and road noise were very muted regardless of the speed we travelled. Entering the freeway was always fun, where I had to brake upon entering because I’d gotten up to illegal speeds long before the on ramp merged with the highway. Any time I entered where there was no traffic I had to double-check my speeds because reaching triple-digits was completely effortless.

The rear doors are bit smaller than those on the front, and that combined with the seats being just a little bit higher made rear-seat entry/exit a little more cumbersome. Once inside though, the CX-7 offers rear passengers an abundance of head and shoulder room. Legroom was average and foot room was very limited, likely due to the rear seat heating ducts that seemed to occupy too much space. The fold-down centre armrest in the rear includes two cup holders, and made back seat journey’s quite enjoyable. While there is a small bump on the floor of the rear passenger compartment, it is nothing that inhibits a third person from making use of the middle seat. The 60/40 seatback folds perfectly flat without the need to move the seat cushion or remove the headrests. The rear cargo area is a surprisingly large 29.9 cu/ft with the seats up and 58.6 cu/ft. with them folded flat. From outside the CX-7 doesn’t look anywhere near as spacious as it is in reality. To give you an example, when the seats are upright the cargo area is the same size as the much larger Toyota Highlander! Looks are obviously deceiving when it comes to the CX-7.

On the audio front, once again Mazda have put a killer system into their vehicle. Considering this is the base model, the sound quality is outstanding. Matched to the 4 speakers is an AM/FM single-disc CD unit that is very easy to use, with the volume button nice and large and obvious in the middle of the deck. I liked the little toggle switches on the steering wheel, they were clearly marked so there was no mistake as to whether you wanted to adjust the volume or change the station. Most manufacturers use buttons, but I think Mazda has mastered it.

The Mazda CX-7 comes in three FWD versions and three permanent AWD versions in the U.S., while in Canada we get the GS and the GT with FWD or AWD [$2,000]. The permanent AWD system adds 220 lbs to the FWD’s weight of 4,780 lbs, yet only punishes you 1mpg (city) at the gas pumps. A long list of standard equipment in the base model (GS in Canada) includes: 6-speed Tiptronic automatic with overdrive, P235/60HR18 tires on aluminum alloy rims, air conditioning, steering wheel mounted audio controls, cruise control, remote keyless entry, tilt steering, auto-down driver and passenger windows as well as numerous safety features (see below).

Safety
As is the case with most of today’s vehicles, the CX-7 is full of safety features that come standard such as: 4-wheel vented disc brakes with ABS, Traction Control, VSC (Vehicle Stability Control), side-impact door beams, dual-stage air bags, front seat-mounted side airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags, driver and front passenger seatbelts with pre-tensioners and an anti-theft engine immobilizer.

Warranty
The warranty is: 3-years/36,000 miles [60,000 kms] bumper to bumper, and 5 years/60,000 miles [100,000 kms] powertrain.
Towing capacity is a maximum of 3,500 lbs.

The Conclusion
I loved the CX-7 and didn’t want to give it back. It’s great to look at, it’s very fast and sure-footed and it’s a blast to drive. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t cooperating when I had it, so I wasn’t able to put it through its paces. The cargo capacity is very good and much larger than you’d expect by looking at it, it’s also perfectly shaped with no intrusions to limit its use. The ride, fit and finish are superb. The permanent all-wheel-drive option is a nice safety feature if you feel you need it, but 99% of the time you’ll be happy with the FWD. If it isn’t big enough for your needs just wait a little while because there’s a CX-9 coming soon which is bigger and offers 3rd-row seating. A couple of things that I liked were the sun visor extenders – I don’t know why all vehicles don’t include those. They’re such a useful item, yet even some luxury cars don’t have them. Also the latches in the rear cargo for folding down the rear seat were completely unobtrusive and work well. One thing I hated was the alarm lock horn. Instead of using a lower sounding horn or a chirp as other vehicles do, the CX-7 uses its full-blast horn to tell you the doors are locked – and let me tell you – it’s loud! Every time I was in a parking lot, people would stare at me when I locked the vehicle. The only way around it is to walk away as far as possible before hitting the fob, then no one knows whose car it is.

Pricing for the 2007 Mazda CX-7 GS:
As tested: $26,300 [$31,995 Cdn]
Base price of the FWD model starts at: $26,300 [$31,995 Cdn]

Fuel Consumption: [Premium Fuel – 91 Octane]
The Mazda CX-7 FWD is listed at 19 mpg City [12.8L/100 km] and 24 mpg Highway [10.1L/100 km]
I averaged 21 mpg [11.6 L/100km] in combined driving

+ PLUSES: 
An RX-8 on stilts
…with the adaptability of an SUV and an available All-Wheel-Drive option
Mazda’s excellent build quality
Zoom-Zoom to spare

– MINUSES:
Extra loud horn when locking brings too much attention
No telescopic steering
No Dual-zone climate control

Would I Spend My Money On It?: 
Yes. It’s reasonably priced and it’s got enough power to keep almost anyone happy.

Back Seat Driver Test: 8.5 out of 10
Passengers found it reasonably easy to get in and out. Once inside it was very comfortable.

Immediate Competition:
Chevy Equinox, Dodge Caliber, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Liberty, Kia Sorento, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan X-Trail & Xterra, Pontiac Torrent, Saturn Vue, Subaru Forester, Suzuki Grand Vitara & XL7 and Toyota RAV4

By The Numbers:
Horsepower: 244 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 258 @ 2,500 rpm
0 – 60 mph: N/A

Interior
10 – Quality
10 – Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)
10 – Cargo Area/Trunk Space
6 – Special Features (Climate Control/Moonroof/SatNav, etc)

Ergonomics
10 – Ease of Entry/Exit
10 – Front Roominess
8 – Rear Roominess
9 – Driving Position/Controls

Exterior
10 – Drool Factor
10 – Fit & Finish

Performance
10 – Engine
10 – Transmission
10 – Ride & Handling

Ownership Value
9 – Bang for the $$
9 – Fuel Economy

142 Total / 150


Copyright © 2006 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland ~ Images: Iain & Gail Shankland
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Also Published at: PaddockTalk