With full-size SUVs falling from public favor, manufacturers are pinning their hopes on crossovers. These cars combine the ride and handling of a car with the high seating position and spacious cargo hold of a large SUV, but without the larger vehicle's penalties for fuel economy and maneuverability. One such vehicle is the 2010 Mazda CX-7, a sleek, five-passenger SUV with the heart of a sports car. Designed to evoke the same sporty image as Mazda's flagship performance coupe, the RX-8, the CX-7 may be the sportiest crossover you can buy for around $22,000. Although the CX-7's available turbocharged four-cylinder engine may be a radical departure for those accustomed to a big V8, we think consumers will quickly warm up to its powerful performance and reasonable fuel consumption.
YOU'LL LIKE THIS CAR IF...
If you're the type who prefers a sport coupe to a station wagon, but the realities of family life mean you need interior space and versatility, the 2010 Mazda CX-7's roomy rear seat, optional all-wheel-drive and seductive good looks present a workable compromise.
YOU MAY NOT LIKE THIS CAR IF...
Those who require seating for seven or the ability to tow more than 2,000 pounds won't be enthusiastic about the CX-7. Drivers accustomed to a permanently-engaged four-wheel-drive system may not warm to the CX-7's Active Torque Split all-wheel-drive system that engages only when the front tires slip.
WHAT'S SIGNIFICANT ABOUT THIS CAR
A normally-aspirated (non-turbocharged) model is introduced for 2010. Available only in i SV and i Sport trim and only with front-wheel drive, the newest CX-7 lowers the entry level price to just over $22,000. All 2010 CX-7 trims receive improved sound insulation, a more rigid body and minor interior upgrades such as a new steering wheel, multi-information display and revised center armrest.
While Mazda's "zoom-zoom" driving experience may be easily blended into a small sports car, doing so with a five-passenger crossover SUV is quite another story. Fortunately, this one has a happy ending as the CX-7 excels in the areas of handling, braking, acceleration and overall ride comfort. The all-aluminum 2.3-liter turbocharged engine is powerful enough to move the CX-7 with ease, delivering 90 percent of its power in the 2,000-2,500 rpm range. More importantly, the engine's lightweight construction places less weight over the front wheels, helping improve steering response and maneuverability as well as creating a more evenly balanced chassis. From behind the wheel, the CX-7 feels more like the MAZDA6 than it does a crossover SUV, displaying level cornering, immediate turn-in response and excellent straight-line stability.
OUR FAVORITE FEATURES
Folding Rear Seats
The CX-7's 60/40-split folding rear seats can be lowered via a spring-loaded release located at the rear of the cargo hold. The seatbacks are designed to fold flat without needing to remove the adjustable headrests.
Advanced Keyless Entry and Start System
With the key fob-shaped remote securely in one's pocket or purse, the CX-7's doors can be unlocked simply by approaching the vehicle.
Mazda is known for its high-quality interiors and the 2010 CX-7 is no exception. A tasteful blend of textured black plastic and chrome surrounds make up the instrument cluster and center console, while the optional beige leather seating creates a striking contrast. The newly revised dashboard now features a monochrome LCD information screen displaying trip computer information. On Grand Touring models, the screen is color and is used for the navigation and rear backup camera. A sporty new three-spoke steering wheel features finger tip controls for audio, cruise, available navigation and Bluetooth activation, and the comfortable front bucket seats offer excellent support for spirited driving. An easy-to-reach lever located in the cargo area activates the spring-loaded rear-seat backs, allowing them to be folded flat without having to make a long and awkward reach.
The 2010 Mazda CX-7 is not your father's chunky SUV. With a windshield fixed at a sleek 66-degree angle, front wheels pushed far forward and an RX-8-inspired hood and front fenders, the CX-7 looks almost as though it was built to race rather than commute. Strong character lines sweep from the front A-pillars to the familiar Mazda five-point grille, while bulging wheel flairs combined with a gently rising beltline help accentuate the CX-7's sports car-like nature. Subtle touches, such as the blacked-out lower air intake, chrome door handles and large round dual exhaust tailpipes further separate the CX-7 from more traditionally-styled crossovers. Bolstering the CX-7's "zoom-zoom" attitude are handsome 17-, 18- and 19-inch wheels, with size dependent on trim level.
NOTABLE STANDARD EQUIPMENT
The 2010 Mazda CX-7 comes in four trim levels; i SV and i Sport FWD models feature a new 2.5-liter four cylinder engine and five-speed automatic transmision, while the s Touring and s Grand Touring are fitted with a 2.3-liter, turbocharged engine and six-speed automatic transmission. Both automatics feature a manual shift mode. Base models include manual air-conditioning, power windows, power door locks, 17-inch wheels, front side-impact and front and rear head-curtain airbags, cruise control, AM/FM stereo with single MP3-compatible CD player and auxiliary audio input jack, anti-lock brakes (ABS), traction control and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC). The Touring model gains 18-inch wheels, leather seating, a power adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats and a retractable cargo cover. The Grand Touring adds high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps, rain sensing wipers, automatic climate control, 19-inch wheels, driver's seat memory, Bose audio, DVD navigation, Smart Key keyless entry and start and the Blind Spot Monitor.
Most options are bundled into groups, such as the Touring Technology Package that adds a Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound System with nine speakers and a six-disc CD/MP3 changer, a power moonroof, automatic climate control and a color multi-function LCD screen with rear backup camera. The Sport Convenience Package adds a power driver's seat, heated front seats, a power moonroof, automatic climate control and a color multi-function LCD screen with rear backup camera. Stand-alone options include fog lamps, six-disc CD/MP3 changer, remote engine start, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, DVD entertainment system and a retractable cargo cover.
UNDER THE HOOD
The 2010 Mazda CX-7 is powered by a choice of two engines. Base i SV and i Sport use a 161 horsepower 2.5-liter engine teamed to a five-speed Sport automatic transmission with manual shift Mode, while the Touring and Grand Touring models employ a 244-horsepower, 2.3-liter intercooled and turbocharged Direct Injection Spark Ignition (DISI) engine. Though similar in design to the engine used in the MAZDASPEED3, the CX-7's uses a different turbocharger with a smaller turbine inlet. This design permits more power to be produced at a lower rpm, creating a more linear acceleration curve comparable to one produced by a larger, normally-aspirated V6. In fact, the CX-7's 2.3-liter powerplant displays none of the characteristics inherent with turbocharging, showing no noticeable rush of power as the turbo builds boost with essentially imperceptible turbo lag. Assisting the smooth transfer of power is a six-speed Sport automatic transmission featuring a manual shift mode for a more spirited driving experience.
2.5-liter in-line 4
161 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
161 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/28
2.3-liter in-line 4 Turbocharged
244 horsepower @ 5000 rpm
258 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/25 (FWD), 17/23 (AWD)
The front-wheel-drive CX-7 i SV's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts just over $22,000, while the i Sport trim starts closer to $23,000. The turbocharged s Touring model starts around $26,500 with all-wheel-drive adding another $1,800 to the bottom line. A fully-loaded s Grand Touring all-wheel-drive model tops out around $36,000. A look at the New Car Blue Book Value price shows real-world transaction prices paid for the CX-7 in your area. The CX-7 is expected to retain a strong resale value that is far better than most larger SUVs in this segment, on par with such rivals as the Ford Edge but well below the smaller Honda CR-V.