2009 Mazda CX-7
Entry-level crossover. Those words – typically synonymous with uninspired, utilitarian design – strike fear into the hearts of automotive enthusiasts the world over. Which leads us to believe that the 2009 Mazda CX-7 must be in the midst of a severe identity crisis. While it certainly looks, smells and tastes like an entry-level crossover, if you were to drive it blindfolded (safely, of course), you’d never guess its proportions matched those of a Honda CR-V
. Tactile steering and sport-tuned suspension bless the CX-7 with surprising agility and response. Its turbocharged engine delivers a torque-filled surge that will put a smile on anyone’s face, and it’s keen to snappily turn into whatever corners you throw at it. For all intents and purposes, it drives like a car. A fun car at that. But unlike most fun cars, when it comes time to load in bulky cargo or tackle adverse conditions, the CX-7 loses none of its flair. It just might change your idea of what a crossover can be.
What's to Like
There’s plenty of space inside the CX-7 and rear storage is ample, as is headroom. The turbocharged engine has plenty of power anywhere over 3,000 rpm, minimizing gear changes yet providing surprising performance. The standard equipment list is impressive and matches the price well.
What's not to like
While the CX-7 has plenty of headroom, rear legroom comes at a premium, and you can forget about sitting behind tall drivers. Getting a good view through corners can be tricky due to the large A-pillars and the small, chunky fixed corner window. Road noise can be intrusive on particularly coarse pavement.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
Forget any impressions the CX-7’s unassuming exterior may have left you with – it’s more nimble than you would ever have guessed. The torquey engine provides ample punch and is happy to rev, though power does drop off at the very top of the rev range. Steering is a particular highlight, and while there is a minute dead spot at the center, twist on some lock and you’ll be greeted with fantastic tactile feel and impressive accuracy. The suspension complements this well with stiff, controlled dampening, providing you with a connection to the road that few cars in this segment can emulate. The transmission has a manual-shift mode, and apparently someone at Mazda has actually driven a sequential gearbox racecar – you pull back to go up a gear and push forward for downchanges, as it should be.
Engine and Drivetrain
Perhaps the best piece in the CX-7 puzzle is its 2.3-liter four-cylinder turbocharged, direct injection engine, which produces an impressive 244 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic drives the front wheels and Mazda offers an optional all-wheel drive system for those who demand extra grip and control.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
One feature that surprised us in its convenience and simplicity was the front window venting system, which slightly cracks the windows with one push of the button and fully lowers them with a longer press. A rearview mirror-mounted backup camera is available if you don’t want to go all out and order the navigation screen, and it has the added bonus of working more intuitively than dash-mounted items. All-wheel drive is available as an option, but we’d recommend it only out of necessity, as the front-wheel drive feels well planted and exceedingly capable.
Key Technology Evaluation
If you want the full technological treatment, you’ll have to splurge for the top of the line Grand Touring package, the only model with available satellite navigation. Still, even the base model comes well equipped with comforts such as steering wheel-mounted controls, keyless entry and MP3 compatible audio system. If you’ve been known to crank up the volume, we highly recommend the optional bass-tastic Bose sound system; it can shake the rear-view mirror so severely you may mistakenly think you’re in the middle of an earthquake.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
Keeping the cylinder count to a modest four means good things for the CX-7’s fuel economy. The EPA reports 17 mpg city and 23 mpg highway for the front-wheel drive model and 16/22 for the all-wheel drive variant, which in turn gets an LEV-II emissions rating. You may see better than that on the highway given the six-speed transmission, though the urge to downshift into the powerband and eat up gas is very tempting.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
The CX-7 follows a simple, intuitive interior design, and we mean that in a good way. When equipped with a navigation system, the dash remains free of cluttered buttons and knobs. Plastics don’t feel low-rent, nor do they feel outside of the CX-7’s price range. Drivers are greeted with attractive, sporty red gauges, and the seating position has a sporty disposition to it.
The CX-7 strikes a good balance between utility and aggression with its traditional crossover shape yet jutting, jaw-like front end and rear spoiler. Overall, the car’s shape is aerodynamic and modern. All models get 18-inch wheels, a relief in a world gone mad over increasingly huge alloys.
Market Segment and Pricing
Pricing for the CX-7 begins at $23,900 for a no-extras-added sport model, but can rise north of $32,000 for a loaded Grand Touring model. The CX-7 faces stiff competition from models like the Volkswagen Tiguan
($23,200), Saturn VUE
(23,050), Subaru Forrester
($19,995), Nissan Rogue
($20,220) and the ever-present Honda CR-V
($23,395), all of which at first glance appear cheaper alternatives, but factor in options and you’ll find it’s a relatively level playing field.
What We Think
Mazda’s CX-7 presents a unique choice for the crossover shopper. It’s about as much fun as you’ll have in a vehicle built around the concept of utility, though the Tiguan is arguably as engaging. The CX-7 accomplishes everything it sets out to do with minimal compromise, and the only thing we’d change would be the price; but when you consider what you’re getting with even the base model, it’s a no brainer.