Monday, June 27, 2011

Expert Review: 2011 Mazda CX-7

Expert Review: 2011 Mazda CX-7 - The Mazda CX-7 is sporty, sleek and distinctive, yet functional, spacious and comfortable, with decent interior space and all the proper safety equipment. It is available with an agile four-cylinder turbo as the Kia Sportage SX or the Acura RDX, or a naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine as the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4.

You will find the Mazda CX-7 is fun to drive, excellent stability at high speed and maneuverability. Mazda CX-7 shines curves, something known as the Mazda.

The Mazda CX-7 is in its fifth year, introduced for 2007 when crossovers (SUVs with the chassis of a car, not truck) were a new idea. They offer the SUV high seating position and cargo capacity, with the more agile steering and smoother ride of a car. Also, fuel mileage is better than with a heavier and boxier truck-based SUV. The CX-7 was revised for 2010, with increased body rigidity, stiffened dampers, and reduced noise, vibration and harshness. Inside, it got a new dashboard with electronic equipment upgrades. The biggest change for 2011 is a new model, the i Touring, which adds equipment to the base model with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder.

Under the hood is 2.5-liter engine making 161 horsepower and using a 5-speed automatic transmission. A 244-horsepower 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is also available, using a 6-speed automatic.

The base 2.5-liter engine is well matched to the Mazda CX-7, providing adequate acceleration from a stop, though it lacks a bit in midrange punch. It's smooth and works well with the 5-speed automatic transmission, well enough that the costlier and more complex 6-speed isn't needed, reserved instead for the sportier turbo.

The turbocharged engine has more midrange power than the base engine, making passing a much easier prospect. Power builds smoothly from a standstill. The 6-speed automatic transmission shifts well and adapts well to different driving situations with impressive torque at low engine speeds.

The base engine is EPA rated at 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway. You pay for the extra power in the 2.3-liter turbo, with fuel mileage of 17/24 mpg with FWD and a lackluster 15/21 mpg with AWD.

Even though it's been around since 2007, the Mazda CX-7 sports the latest version of Mazda's styling theme, and it still looks sleek and fresh. The interior makes no less of a statement than the exterior. Some design features work well, others not so well. Overall, the CX-7 interior seems chunky and a bit complicated, not as friendly and functional as the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4.

In the interior of the Mazda hit the CR-V and RAV4 legroom in the front seat and rear seat headroom, but there is at least the legroom in the rear seats is a substantial two inches with 36.4 inches. Kia Sportage hit the CX-7 also, with 37.9 inches. The cargo space with rear seats folded, the CX-7 is a distant third behind Honda and Toyota, but the Kia wins.

Over rough pavement, the suspension is firm without being rigid, but sharp bumps can be severe. And despite good engine compartment and underbody insulation, transmit tire road noise in the cabin, which is also very quiet. We found the CX-7 AWD worked reasonably well on paved roads.