Mazda CX-7: Fresh Face Makes an Impression

 by The Car Family

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 Stepping to the front of the mid-size crossover line in the under $25,000 category isn’t easy in a class that has proven winners from Toyota, Ford, Honda, Nissan, Volkswagen, and Subaru. Indeed, we were quite skeptical, but that is what Mazda has done with its CX-7. Of course, that does not mean that this Mazda is the best for everyone as it clearly favors those who like a more compact SUV that handles well, gets excellent fuel mileage, and can live with possible subpar resale. We could accept these and we also think that Mazda’s reliability index is going to improve as we could find nothing remotely wrong with our test vehicle after a week of significant driving in all types of conditions.

 Mom’s view: When I got out of the CX-7 After two hours of driving this sporty Mazda I was not stiff and was quite pleased with its features. It is attractive inside and out, and except for the dam, and I mean dam, speedometer it was a joy. The problem with the speedometer is that it has fonts that are way to small and the 80 mph and 60 mph readings are too close together. Why does a SUV like this need a speedometer that goes to 140 is beyond me.

Getting in and out is easy and the rear doors open wide to accommodate even larger adults. There isn’t much cargo space, which is a weakness, but its base price of $22,340 makes up for it. Of course, it is still priced a bit higher than the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV-4, both of which have more useful interior space.

 Safety wise the Mazda has done well on federal crash tests with side curtain air bags, ABS, and electronic stability control. On the negative end is the reduced rear visibility and I would highly recommend the rear view camera, even though the dash mounted monitor is small and the image sometimes cloudy. The high seating position was also welcomed on crowded highways.

The interior is lively, and this Mazda has 60/40-split folding rear seats that can easily be lowered using a handle in the cargo bay.

Another plus is that the rear seats can be folded flat without having to remove the headrests. Our test vehicle had a few touches of chrome with the optional beige leather surfaces which was okay, but the dashboard was quite modern looking and the easy to grip steering wheel with its abundance of controls for the sound system, cruise control, Bluetooth, and more were well done and easy to master.

Dad’s view: Mazda’s CR-7 has a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine creating 161 horsepower, of which 90 percent is online at just 2,000 rpm, and providing the owner with about 24 mpg in mixed driving. It isn’t as quick as the optional turbocharged engine, but it is a lot easier to live with, especially if you reside in areas where it snows. You can order the Mazda as a Sport, Touring or Grand Touring. We had the Sport model with front wheel drive and it was a great combination of family hauler, daily commuter, and still had canyon running capabilities. The only competition we see for the Mazda is from Volkswagen and Acura and neither of these had the combination of price, sportiness, and gas mileage that we like, although the Volkswagen and Acura had excellent build quality that seemed unsure of how many gears to downshift on steep climbs. On the other hand it was very responsive to heavy accelerator inputs. The handling was exceptional, although the steering was a bit light. Unless you have a need for speed the base engine is plenty, but for a few thousand more you can order the the 244-hp turbocharged four cylinder version and challenge many more expensive crossovers. The Mazda CR-7 reminds me most of the Acura SUV in terms of handling and the Nissan Rouge for acceleration. The Subaru Forester has more room and all of these are priced almost identically and so exterior allure may be the deciding factor. All fo these vehicles come with all drive either as standard, or as the Mazda, as an option.

Young working woman’s view: Not the prettiest face and I am not sure about its reliability based on some mediocre consumer ratings, but it is easy to live with and has the charm and lovability those in my demographic group seem to admire. I do wish Mazda would prove a better warranty as the Mazda’s three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty isn’t attractive in this market outside of those with a more established reputation. I also found the rear seat a bit tight and the interior lighting was dim. The headlights were excellent and visibility in all directions except to the rear were excellent. I would order the optional rear view camera and the heated seats, too, although they push the cost up a $1700. The air and heat work fairly rapidly, but he huge windshield area is difficult takes a while to defog and defrost. Cleaning this large piece of expensive glass is also difficult both inside and out unless you are a NBA player.

 Young working male’s view: Superior radio reception with an easy to use system and lots of features that included the ability to pause the stereo. Well done. There is an abundance of standard items such as halogen headlights, a 6-way manual adjust driver’s seat, tilt and telescoping steering column, power doors and windows, air, and a plethora of safety details.

 However, I would recommend the optional Touring Technology Package with its Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound, nine speakers, six-disc CD/MP3 changer, moonroof, automatic climate control, and LCD screen with rear backup camera. I also recommend the quick acting heated seats. Speaking of which, I felt myself warming up to this Mazda the longer we drove it. The seats take a time to get correctly adjusted, but you don’t get tired on long trips. I would buy this SUV, and that is something I seldom say about a crossover or any SUV outside of a Lexus RX for that matter.

 Family conference: A superior effort from Mazda and one which should get more attention from those families who like a little sport in their daily delivery treks. For a list of all vehicle websites go to