Mazada CX-7 Review: CX for C-exy and X-citing

Mazada CX-7 Review: CX for C-exy and X-citing

OneShift Editorial Team
OneShift Editorial Team
29 Nov 2006

What’s not to like about the new Mazda CX-7, the star of the recent Motorshow, and one of the best-looking cars around. Did we mention that the CX-7 is an SUV? Not a bulky, boxy one mind you, but one that is sleek and sexy! It’s so good looking that it will send everyone back to the drawing board – it’s what the BMW X3 should have looked like.

But more than just looking good, the CX-7 has a great engine as well – underneath its sleek bonnet lies the same lusty engine that powers Mazda 6 MPS. This means a state-of-the-art DOHC 2.3-litre direct-injection unit, turbocharged with an output of 235bhp, powers the CX-7. Just for comparison sake, Volkswagen’s trendy Golf GTI, which is also powered by a turbocharged direct-injection engine, puts out 200bhp.

More than just having looks and power though, is the fact that the CX-7 extends the Mazda DNA, the indescribable X-factor that makes the RX-8, Mazda 3 and 6 such wonderful driver’s cars, into a completely new segment. The Cx-7 is a tall and spacious SUV, albeit one that is considerably more sporty than anything before it.

Looks-wise, the CX-7 has no bad angles, not something one can say about its rivals. In profile, the car is well-proportioned and athletic – there is the sharp, pointed nose, a windscreen with a dramatically steep rake, and a deliciously sexy upward kick in the belt-line. The rear end finishes off by being well-resolved and smartly proportioned, with Mazda’s signature circle-within-a-rectangle tail lamps. No gimmicks, just good, clean and well-balanced good looks.

Its from the front that the CX-7 borrows a lot its character from the RX-8 – the big, under bumper grille and the manner in which the wheel arches push up into the bonnet are all taken front the iconic rotary-Wankel powered sportscar. Line the CX-7 next to an RX-8, and the family resemblance is strong, despite both cars being different in size, height and configuration. Line the CX-7 next to any other SUV, and the sleekness and modernity of the Mazda stands out.

Step into the CX-7’s cabin, and again it is a classy mix of style and sportiness that makes the car wonderfully attractive. A glass sunroof is standard, and the test car’s two-tone sand-and-black colour combination hit all the right notes. Behind the sporty three-spoke steering, the three rimmed gauges stare out of instrument panel. They are back-lit and light-up in a soothing orange hue when the ignition is turned-on.

Also nice, and an integral part of the new Mazda DNA, are the cabin details. The switches for hi-fi and the climate control are fully integrated, and every aspect of its function and detailing is of the highest quality. The MP3 CD player is particularly impressive as it has a 240 watt 9-speaker Bose system that was specially developed for the CX-7. The stylish detailing extends to the leather seats, which have a black strip of Alcantara running down the middle, providing contrast and added sophistication.

On the road, the CX-7 doesn’t disappoint. Its turbo-charged direct-injection engine is deceptively smooth and docile when driven normally, but powerful and willing when pushed. There is no turbo-lag, and the engine just continues to give and give. Not only is it more powerful than the Golf GTI, its output compares favourably to that of the 3.5-litre Nissan Murano, a car with a considerably larger engine. The six-speed transmission is also wonderfully responsive, and an LED display lets the driver know exactly which gear he is in. It’s remarkable how quickly it shifts into 6th gear to improve fuel consumption, but willingly drops a couple of ratios the moment it detects the slightest hint of enthusiasm from the driver’s right foot. This high-gearing allows the CX-7 to cruise easily at 100km/h with engine tick-over at just 2,500rpm.

As for off-roading ability, we weren’t able to test this out, but as with most its rivals the CX-7 has permanent 4-wheel drive, which means there is power going to all the wheels all the time, and the drivetrain automatically allocates power to whichever wheel needs it. In default mode, I suspect most of the power goes to the front wheels. Impressive electronic gadgetry such as Traction Control and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) are standard, and on hand to make sure traction and roadholding are of a high order. All the driver needs to do is to concentrate on enjoying the car.

As the CX-7 is largely based on the Mazda6, it is innately a driver’s car, and a ball to drive. It handles like a dream, although the higher driving position makes one feel more precarious than in the 6. Roll angles are moderate though, and so once one gets used to the additional height, the ‘problem’ is solved.

The degree of though that went into designing the driver’s cockpit extends to the rest of the cabin, itself an impressively spacious space to be in. Impressively, there are three 3-point seat-belts in the rear seat, allowing all 5-passengers to be safely buckled in. Also very useful are the pull-handles in the luggage compartment that allow one to lower the either one or both of the rear seats without stretching forward. Everything seems to have been carefully considered in the CX-7.

There is really very little wrong with the CX-7, but if one were to nit-pick, it would be that rear visibility could be better. The rising beltline means the rear window is rather high, but then again, there are parking sensors to alert the driver of impending obstacles.

So, yes, just the like the rest if its range, Mazda has scored a bulls-eye with the CX-7. It brings together the spaciousness and versatility of an SUV with the sportiness of an athletic GTI. It’s almost as if Mazda took the RX-8 and made it into an SUV, creating a finely balanced and impressively engaging car in the process. Its back to the drawing board for everyone else.

Credits: Justin Lee

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