of Zoom-Zoom motoring,
Mazda, bill their CX-7 Crossover
as combining sports car handling
and performance with the size and
presence of a Sports Utility Vehicle...
AS TO THE FORMER, THE 258BHP 2.3-LITRE TURBOCHARGED and intercooled DISI
powerplant under the CX-7's wide bonnet provides a generous serving of
power and torque 280lb ft of torque at 3,000rpm. We're
talking here almost as much bhp as a £35,300 3.0si BMW X3 and quite a bit more
torque (BMW: 272bhp and 232lb ft at 2,750rpm). More than enough to ensure
the CX-7 lives up to the 'performance' part of its billing.
Top speed is 130mph and it sprints off the line to hit 62mph in 8 seconds. DISI,
should you need to know for the next pub quiz, stands for Direct Injection Spark
Ignition. More useful to know is the fact that it is the same petrol-fuelled
engine that powers the go-faster Mazda6 MPS and Mazda3 MPS variants.
As such the CX-7 possesses a level of performance that is appropriately in keeping
with its sporty looks. Think Porsche Cayenne, then go curvier and you'll be
on the right track. The CX-7 rides high on smart 18-inch alloys tucked under
smoothly blistered wheel arches. A steeply-raked front screen and tapering glasshouse
with rear privacy glass edged with chrome and a prominent 'kicked-up' belt line
over the rear wheel arch, deep doors and a purposeful front-end give it 'attitude'
and seen in a rear-view mirror, it's mean and menacing.
It's also sleekly good-looking and appears far more expensive than its £24,595,
fully-specced purchase price. As it swishes past, overtaken drivers won't be
surprised to spot the two large-bore chromed tailpipes, one protruding from
each corner below the CX-7's rear bumper.
In a world awash with choices, Mazda has made decision making refreshingly simple:
the CX-7 is only available in one (albeit very well-kitted) spec, with a single
engine choice. The only option, in fact, is the paint finish. Integral to that
single spec are five doors. This justifies the Sports Utility bit of Mazda's
description. The CX-7 is more than a pretty shape it's also an attractive
compromise between an SUV and a family-sized sports hatch.
Inside, the CX-7 is a genuine five-seater and there's plenty of space for five
adults to travel in comfort. The semi-sporty design front seats are accommodatingly
wide but supportive (in particular around the upper back/shoulder areas) and
leather upholstery is standard. The driving position is commanding, with unspoilt
visibility out, and the driver enjoys a six-way adjustable powered seat with
manual lumbar support. The three-spoke leather-rimmed steering wheel has remote
audio control buttons and is finished in high-gloss black to match the fascia
and door inserts; it's also rake-adjustable. Both front seats are also heated
just a single stage, but nonetheless effective.
The well-loaded standard kit continues with automatic climate control air conditioning,
cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, power windows (one-touch auto
down) and a custom-built BOSE Surround Sound audio system with a 6-disc in-dash
autochanger, nine speakers and noise compensation so you can indulge in a 360-degree
sound field. You also get electric, heated door mirrors and automatic Xenon
headlights with washers and rain-sensing wipers.
Both ergonomically and style-wise, the CX-7's interior is strikingly smart with
classy, lustrous piano black inlays in the doors and to the centre stack that
houses the foolproof audio and comfort controls. The easy-to-read dials have
red graphics on black backgrounds. Set into the top of the fascia above the
centre console is a narrow display strip for the driver's information system.
Other stylish touches include well-considered satin chrome highlights. Cabin
storage is also well addressed, with ample neat storage solutions and the sun
visors extend sideways to cover the windscreen's usually missed top centre spot.
The rear seats are equally comfortable, thanks to a good backrest rake angle.
Split 60:40, the 'Karakuri' split-folding rear seats fold with sublime ease
at the pull of a lever in the boot (and no need to remove the head restraints),
converting the 455-litre boot into a flat load platform 1,758mm long with a
load capacity of 774 litres.
Another really useful, practical touch is the load area floor that flips over
from carpeted to waterproof plastic for the times you have to carry wet or muddy
items. The boot floor also folds back to reveal extra out-of-sight storage.
For families with younger children, both outer rear seats have Isofix fasteners;
the front passenger airbag can also easily be switched off using the key.
If you must fit a third passenger into the middle position of the back seat,
the low transmission tunnel makes sitting easier and more comfortable for them.
If not, two rear passengers can make good use of the centre armrest. For the
record, there's loads of headroom in the back and ample leg room (with knees
well away from the front seat backrests) for adults to stretch out even with
a 5' 11" driver and front passenger.
But the CX-7 has more up its sleeve than just family-friendliness and will satisfy
keen drivers who traded in their Golf GTi or equivalent for pushchairs and child
seats, but who still savour a spirited drive. Before launching the CX-7 to Europe,
Mazda went to a lot of trouble to make sure it would entertain enthusiastic
UK drivers. Upgrades included a new close ratio six-speed manual 'box, stronger
bodyshell, chassis tune-up with meatier anti-roll bars and more feedback from
the steering. Then they went off to check it out at the Nurburgring and fine-tuned
The results speak for themselves. The CX-7 drives like a sports car. Amongst
SUVs, perhaps only Porsche's Cayenne handles better. Despite a firm-ish chassis
set-up to benefit ardent driving, the CX-7 manages a happy compromise between
taut body control and ride comfort. The steering is precise and with an on-demand
four-wheel drive system there's always a surfeit of grip torque is normally
sent 100 per cent to the front wheels but up to 50 per cent can be channelled
to the rear wheels on a slippery surface. Corners are taken flatly and stability
on quick, twisty roads is reassuring.
While it is not a full-blown off-roader (its Active Torque Split system is primarily
intended to enhance on-road grip in all weathers), should you need to take the
CX-7 off the blacktop you'll find it is surprisingly competent in the rough
and copes easily with slippery surfaces and mud-filled ruts.
Another place you appreciate the CX-7's inherent stability is on the motorway.
At fast motorway speeds it feels confident ad it's easy to forget you're in
a high-riding vehicle. Cruising under 3,000rpm at the legal limit in top gear,
the CX-7 is hushed, but you do need to keep a careful eye on the speedometer.
Gear ratios are well stacked and with low-down torque there's plenty of oomph
for safe overtaking. Particularly on motorways, you rarely need to drop down
a gear to get clear of slower-moving traffic.
Official fuel consumption figures are 20.5, 27.7 and 34.9mpg respectively for
urban, combined and extra-urban cycles. Over the course of a week's brisk, mixed
driving we recorded an acceptable 25.1 with a best of 30.8mpg. C02 emissions
are 243g/km which means you pay the top whack of road tax at £400 for the year.
Safety is well covered with in addition to the on-demand four-wheel drive
Dynamic Stability Control and a Traction Control System along with the
usual ABS with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Emergency Brake Assist.
Should the worst happen, there are dual front, side and front and rear curtain
airbags. The brakes, discs all round and ventilated at the front, do a first-class,
fuss-free job. To the extent that you use them without even noticing them.
It's always satisfying to find a car that 'does what it says on the tin'. Mazda's
CX-7 is one such car and, yes, it really does combine sports car handling and
performance with the size and presence of a Sports Utility Vehicle. Should you
buy one? Well, you've just read that it's a competent, safe and comfortable
vehicle so I guess that you need to book your own road test... and then decide!
Mazda CX-7 2.3T| £25,595
Maximum speed: 130mph | 0-62mph: 8 seconds
Overall test MPG: 25.1mpg | Power: 258bhp | Torque: 280lb ft
CO2 243g/km | VED Band G £400 | Insurance group 15E