The Mazda CX-7 fits neatly into the zoom-zoom mold: sporty but functional; roomy but svelte; snappy but comfortable. It has a surprisingly powerful, and fairly frugal, turbocharged four-cylinder engine, with a state-of-the-art six-speed automatic transmission, motivating a sporty-looking and sporty-handling five-passenger vehicle that will haul nearly as much stuff as it does people.
The Mazda CX-7 offers seating for five people, decent cargo space, a comprehensive set of standard safety features and distinctive looks. We found it fun to drive, with responsive handling and good high-speed stability.
Mazda introduced the CX-7 for 2007 as a totally new crossover utility vehicle to compete against the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, among others. Crossovers, as they're called, have become the hottest segment in the auto industry. They combine the high seating position and cargo capacity of a truck-based sport utility vehicle with the agility, smoothness and fuel economy of a car. And many folks who find a minivan or station wagon just to ego-bruising seem okay with a crossover.
As the CX-7 was all-new for 2007, very little has changed for the 2008 model year. There has been some fiddling with the option list and, thanks to some reprogramming of the engine management, premium fuel is now recommended rather than required, so it will run on regular gas. The CX-7 still starts at less than $24,000 for the front-wheel-drive version. A well-equipped, nicely featured, all-wheel-drive model goes for less than $30,000; and the top model with every option box checked comes in just around $35,000. Though a bit pricier than the prime opposition, the CX-7 excels in ride and handling.
The 2008 Mazda CX-7 comes in three trim levels, all with the same engine, a 244-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder. The transmission is a six-speed automatic with a Sport shift feature. Front-wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive is optional ($1700).
The least expensive CX-7 is the Sport model ($23,750). Air conditioning and cloth upholstery are standard, as are cruise control and the usual complement of power windows, mirrors and locks. A six-way, manually adjustable driver's seat is standard, along with a tilt steering wheel hosting cruise and secondary audio controls, four-speaker stereo, satellite radio pre-wiring, 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks and carpeted floor mats. A power driver's seat with manual lumbar support is available ($350), and must be ordered with most other major options. A Preferred Equipment Package ($315) adds a cargo net, cargo tray, retractable cargo cover, rear bumper guard, and wheel locks.
The Touring model ($25,500) features leather-trimmed seats and steering wheel; an eight-way power driver's seat; heated outside mirrors; and a retractable cargo cover.
The Grand Touring model ($26,300) upgrades with automatic climate control, auto-on/off xenon high-intensity discharge headlights, fog lamps, foldable outside mirrors, specially trimmed seats, and electroluminescent gauges with indirect blue lighting and an outside temperature readout.
Another Preferred Equipment Package ($445) for Touring and Grand Touring adds a cargo net, cargo tray, rear bumper guard, and wheel locks. Two more factory-configured packages are available on all three models: The Moonroof/Bose Audio/6CD Changer Package ($1585) includes a tilt-and-slide power moonroof and a nine-speaker Bose sound system with vehicle speed-sensitive AudioPilot and a six-CD, in-dash changer. The Technology Package ($4005) comprises the moonroof/Bose/CD Changer Package plus a DVD-based navigation system with touch-screen LCD and voice command, Mazda Advanced Keyless Entry and Start System, rearview camera, and perimeter alarm.
Stand-alone options include a six-disc CD changer ($500), Sirius Satellite Radio with six month's pre-paid subscription ($430), cargo net ($50), cargo tray ($50), retractable cargo cover ($125), remote engine start ($350), auto-dim inside mirror with compass and programmable garage-door remote ($275), auto-dim inside mirror with just the compass ($200), moonroof wind deflector ($60), fog lamps ($250), all-weather floor mats ($78), front and rear mudguards ($95), Class II trailer receiver hitch with ($350) or without ($335) wiring harness, wheel locks ($50), and a DVD entertainment system ($1200).
Safety features on all models include frontal airbags, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags (to minimize upper body injuries), front and rear side air curtains (to minimize head injuries) with extended inflation (for added protection in the event of a rollover) and a fold-away brake pedal assembly (to reduce threat of injury to the driver's feet in frontal crashes). All CX-7 models come with three-point seatbelts (so be sure to use them), adjustable head restraints at all outboard seating positions, and rear-seat child safety seat anchors (LATCH). To help drivers avoid accidents, the CX-7 comes standard with four-wheel antilock disc brakes (to permit steering the car under hard braking) with electronic brake-force distribution (to maximize stopping power in emergencies), and electronic stability control (to correct for driver error in evasive maneuvers) with traction control (to improve traction and stability on slippery surfaces).