Vital Stats

Engine:
2.3L Turbo DI I4
Power:
244 HP / 258 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Auto
0-60 Time:
7.5 Sec (est.)
Drivetrain:
All-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
4,001 LBS
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
58.6 CU-FT
MPG:
17 City / 21 HWY
Is Zoom-Zoom More Important Than Room-Room?


2011 Mazda CX-7 - Click above for high-res image gallery

When we think of mid-size crossovers, words like "comfort," "convenience" and "roominess" are the first things to spring to mind. For some CUVs, those are accurate descriptions, but the Mazda CX-7 also has to fulfill a Zoom-Zoom promise. For the past 11 years, Mazda's mantra has meant that driving excitement must be injected into every vehicle it builds, whether it's a roadster like the MX-5 Miata or a minivan like the Mazda5.

Athletic handling is a no-brainer for sports cars like the RX-8, but crossover owners typically expect creature comforts, utility and a smooth ride. We've been won over by the CX-7's sporty genes before, but the crossover field is far thicker and more talented than it was back in 2007 when the CX-7 first hit the scene. Does this Mazda softroader still strike the right balance? We spent a week getting reacquainted with 2011 CX-7 Grand Touring to find out.

When ordering a CX-7, Mazda makes the choices simple enough. There are four CX-7 models available, ranging from the $21,990 I SV model to our Grand Touring tester. The two lower-end trims can only be had in front-wheel-drive form and each model sports a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 161 horsepower and a standard five-speed automatic transmission. The Touring and Grand Touring models can be had with either front- or all-wheel drive and the engine of choice is Mazda's turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder mated to a six-speed paddleshift automatic.

Our Liquid Silver Metallic Grand Touring tester sported AWD and carried an MSRP of $33,340. That price tag includes just about every accoutrement in the options box, save for a few accessory-type add-ons and second-row DVD navigation, which can be had for an additional $1,200. That means USB and auxiliary inputs, leather seats, moonroof and navigation are all part of the package, leaving exterior and interior color combinations as the only choices to make.

2011 Mazda CX-7 side view2011 Mazda CX-7 front view2011 Mazda CX-7 rear view

We may have ended up with the top CX-7, but every example of Mazda's mid-size CUV starts with the same sharp-looking sheetmetal. Think of it as a Mazda3 on HGH, except instead of growing brows and a massive neck, the CX-7 wears the muscle necessary to pull off the happy face aesthetic better than its smaller sibling. The CX-7 also scores high marks for managing to successfully strut the aggressive wheel arches of sportier fare like the RX-8, giving this CUV a purposeful stance. It helps that those wheel wells are filled with 19-inch alloys wrapped in P235/55R19 rubber.

In short, the CX-7 looks like a 65-inch-tall sporty hatchback. And that's not a bad thing. Step inside the CX-7's cabin and that same athletic aesthetic carries forward. The dash is cockpit-like, while the leather-wrapped steering wheel has a race-inspired feel. To fit everything in the dash, Mazda's designers opted for a dual cowl approach, with the top section housing LCD screens that display vehicle information and navigation. Below the data is a dizzying array of buttons on the center stack that makes it difficult to spot what you're looking for. The same problem presents itself on the CX-7's steering wheel, which features far too many controls for its own good.

2011 Mazda CX-7 interior2011 Mazda CX-7 steering wheel2011 Mazda CX-7 speedometer2011 Mazda CX-7 navigation system

Even more depressing is the fact that Mazda's button problem isn't the worst of this crossover's interior issues. Despite being updated for 2010, the CX-7 still makes use of low-rent plastic all over the cabin. And since the CX-7 features an incredibly cab-forward design, the windshield seemingly goes on for miles, as does the cheap plastic dash. While the front thrones are comfortable and well-bolstered, the second row lacks thigh support and leg room struggles to compete with some hatchbacks. Not good.

Mazda's mid-size crossover also comes up a bit short dimensionally when compared to its competition. The Ford Edge offers another nine cubic feet of overall passenger room (108 cubic feet versus 99 cubes) and another 10 cubic feet of maximum luggage volume (58.6 versus 68.9 cu. ft.). The story is similar when comparing the Honda CR-V or Chevrolet Equinox; the CX-7 falls short each time. It does help its case thanks to the ease with which its backseat space is accessible. Click on the Short Cut video below to see what we mean.




While the competition has a leg up on the CX-7 when it comes to interior utility and refinement, Mazda engineers fight back with a terrific driving experience. This CUV packs a four-wheel independent suspension with MacPherson struts and a stabilizer bar up front and a multi-link setup in the rear. That's some high-end chassis hardware, but it's what Mazda engineers have done with the bits that make the CX-7 a more entertaining steer than any mass-market CUV has the right to be. The CX-7 handles more like a sports sedan than a typical crossover, as the driver is rewarded with crisp and agile handling without much of the sloppiness and body roll we've had to endure in other jacked-up wagons. We're talking about a 4,001-pound ox here, so this level of composure is particularly impressive. Steering is excellent as well, with a speed-sensitive setup that progressively adds weight as you push harder into the bend. Don't stretch the limits of the CX-7 too hard, though, as the 11.7-inch vented disc brakes go spongy after repeated hard stops.

It would be a tremendous waste to engineer such a capable chassis if the powertrain weren't capable of delivering the goods. Most competitors offer a powerful V6 as their top engine choice, but the CX-7 opts for a turbocharged four-cylinder. The direct-injected 2.3-liter engine packs 244 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and an impressive 258 pound-feet of torque at a low 2,500 revs. As a result of all that torque, the CX-7 packs most of its punch straight off the line. 0-60 figures to be right around 7.5 seconds, which is hardly enough to frighten the competition, but the CX-7's confidence-inspiring dynamics mean that it feels much quicker and you're comfortable maintaining momentum into turns that might see you scrubbing off speed in other CUVs. The Grand Touring model's six-speed automatic transmission is a smooth shifter as well, and we were especially pleased with its impressively quick shifts when using manual mode.

2011 Mazda CX-7 engine

If we had one complaint to level at the CX-7's powertrain, it would be turbo lag. Power delivery isn't particularly linear, especially off the line. And if you're expecting the uninterrupted shove of a traditional V6, the turbo'd sensation will take time to get used to.

The CX-7 also disappoints a bit when it comes to fuel economy. While the normally aspirated two-wheel-drive base model CX-7 can hit up to 28 miles per gallon, our AWD tester with the more powerful engines manages only 17 miles per gallon in city driving and 21 mpg on the highway. We managed an average of only 18.4 mpg during a week, which places the CX-7 behind most mid-size (and even many full-size) crossovers. Some full-size pickup trucks are more efficient – and they don't ask for premium fuel. While the small-displacement-four-banger-plus-turbocharger seems to be today's fuel-efficient alternative to V6 engines, the CX-7's powerplant just doesn't have the same magic sauce as newer, more high-tech alternatives. We expect Mazda's SkyActiv engines to correct this oversight when the CX-7 is replaced, but for now, this Mazda feels unusually thirsty.

2011 Mazda CX-7 rear 3/4 view2011 Mazda CX-7 headlight2011 Mazda CX-7 wheel2011 Mazda CX-7 badge

As an enthusiast, it's hard to argue with the CX-7 as the mass-market crossover of choice for drivers. But it leaves us wanting when it comes to things like interior quality and fuel economy – attributes that most buyers prize in crossovers. That disconnect bears itself out when looking at the aging CX-7's sales numbers. Mazda managed to sell only 2,873 units in April while much of the competition moved five or six times as much metal.

Does the CX-7 live up to Mazda's Zoom-Zoom mantra? Absolutely. But it's also abundantly clear that crossover buyers still prioritize comfort and utility – and that's precisely where the CX-7 comes up short.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 47 Comments
      Master Austin
      • 3 Years Ago
      I do like the styling but when I test drove it, it left me cold. The 2.3L does offer "decent" power, but has quite a bit of lag and real world fuel economy is abismal. I believe the frontal structure was Euro Focus derived, while the rear was Mazda specific, so it's not an Edge copy by any means. Since the Tribute will be killed and a cousin to the next Escape/Kuga will be phased in as CX5, leaves me wonder what the relevance of the CX7 will be since it'll offer just about everything the CX5.
        SheldonRoss
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Master Austin
        I disagree, I believe the engine in this probably just asks to be wrung out. After all an auto mag getting above city ratings while testing is actually kind of rare. C&D typically gets the most horrible mileage imaginable. If you drive normally, it probably gets decent/good mileage. I drive a 2010 Mazdaspeed3 rated at 18/25. And I average about 22-23 around town and 27-29 on the highway. If you goto fueleconomy.gov, the current combined reported average is 25.4 mpg - above the highway rating! For some reason these cars are very underrated at mileage.
          NightFlight
          • 3 Years Ago
          @SheldonRoss
          I've got a '10 MS3 as well, I average, AVERAGE 25.6 and I don't drive easy at all. I can get over 31MPG on the highway and I calculate it the old fashioned way with the same gas pump every time, not using the built in computer. I honestly have no idea how the EPA rates Mazdas so poorly.
          Matt
          • 3 Years Ago
          @SheldonRoss
          I dunno. Honestly it is a bit soft on power and especially torque for a 2.3L turbo 4. Would be interesting to know what size turbo and what intake temps are on the CX7. I wonder if it has too little intercooling and too much fuel enrichment.
        epilonious
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Master Austin
        I feel like the CX-7 was the experiment to see if a beefy direct injected turbocharged 4-cylinder could do better than a V6 and make a super speedy, sporty, nifty CUV that got 4-cylinder mileage and 6-cylinder power. It seemed so promising that Acura got on the bandwagon with the RDX at the same time. Alas, it seems that they get small v8 mileage for small v6 power... as the turbo is specialized to cram that much more gas into the engine. So now I see it for what it really was: a way to move the CX-7's added heft around spryly-enough but keep development costs down by using the motor that was already being used in the Mazdaspeed3 and Mazdaspeed6
      Jeremy Pennini
      • 3 Years Ago
      I really like the ABShorts, thank you for doing them!
      CarCrazy24
      • 3 Years Ago
      This car needs to be updated badly. Those Sky engines can't join the lineup soon enough! Hope Mazda has the balls to put a diesel under the hood of the next generation model. Also, why did they decide to call this car the CX-7? Wouldn't it make more sense to call the CX-9 the 7, and this the CX-5? Just a thought.
      mitchman06
      • 3 Years Ago
      This is still hands down my favorite vehicle in its segment. If you are an enthusiast who needs a CUV, look no futher, honestly. The space is just fine, and the rear seat space is fine as well. If you are looking for a million cubbies and storage places like in a CR-V, then get a CR-V. Mazda wasn't going for 100% utility when they designed the CX-7 and I'm happy for that. I don't agree with the cheap interior plastics at all, in fact I'd even go as far to say that they are nicer than most. At least Mazda used soft touch materials on the doors where you rest your elbow. Most of the competition doesn't do that. Also, what in the hell are you talking about with the steering wheel being too complicated? Did you not spend even 5 minutes with the vehicle? It has cruise, radio controls, and bluetooth, thats IT. Just like all other vehicles now have, it isn't complicated at all unless you are a geriatric. "Some full-size pickup trucks are more efficient – and they don't ask for premium fuel. " The Mazda doesn't ask for premium either, it can run on regular just fine. Typical Autoblog mistakes, do you not even proof your articles?
        arcum
        • 3 Years Ago
        @mitchman06
        I believe the Turbo model requires premium.
        peter1dav
        • 3 Years Ago
        @mitchman06
        2.4 Turbo version requires Premium unleaded (91 octane) http://www.mazdausa.com/MusaWeb/displayPage.action?pageParameter=modelsSpecs&vehicleCode=CX7
          SheldonRoss
          • 3 Years Ago
          @peter1dav
          Where do I get a 2.4 Turbo???? My car only has the 2.3 MZR DISI Turbo.... :) but yeah it does recommend premium, but I believe it will run on standard just way down on power. I'll have to look in my manual again.
        Making11s
        • 3 Years Ago
        @mitchman06
        I test drove the turbo and the dealer told me it required premium too.
      ccweems
      • 3 Years Ago
      AOL Short Cuts? "Flip these levers and the seats fold flat" From the video it is obvious that they don't fold flat. They remain slanted at what looks like 20 degrees. If you want flat go look at the Honda Fit. The seats not only fold flat they establish a loading level far below most other vehicles and far below this poser. This feature of a truly flat load floor was once a standard feature on station wagons. There was a time when intermediate sized wagons (Grand Torino) could transport a 4'x8' sheet of plywood fully supported (tailgate down). Today I expect that there is not any passenger vehicle capable of carrying a half of that sheet flat. Suburbans and their ilk are truck based and don't qualify for consideration. The design of crossovers in general is becoming a Bermuda Triangle. As such the only consistent feature crossovers have is a unitized body. In practice crossovers are becoming a bloated and overweight version of a sedan without the utility once found in station wagons. Perhaps the draconian fuel mileage requirements will force designers that seek vehicular utility will rediscover the station wagon and all of its advantages.
        BG
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ccweems
        Also, for station wagons from the 1980s and before, including the Volvo 144, 244, and 940, you could sleep in them when you went camping, thanks to the long flat floor. Most or all new crossovers are useless for this. Bloated overweight body, limited utility; are the car companies cleverly positioning their crossovers to need to be massively replaced when suburbanites finally decide to buy some new form of car/truck/thing?
        MLuddyJr
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ccweems
        I share your disdain for crossover SUVs, but you're wrong about the flat floor in the CX-7. With the 2nd row seats folded forward they will sit up at a slight angle because they are resting on the seat cushions, but when a small load is applied the seats will compress and lay completely flat. Also, your comparison to the Fit is absurd. It's a completely different class of vehicle with less interior space than the CX-7. The entire Fit is lower than the CX-7, so it would be unreasonable for the CX-7 to have a loading level equal to that of the Fit. About that sheet of plywood- it will fit in any modern minivan.
          ccweems
          • 3 Years Ago
          @MLuddyJr
          I hadn't really put minivans on the list for consideration. The focus was on vehicles derived from sedans. Yes, I know the first Caravan was based on a K car but that was a long time ago and it now has its own chassis. The Fit was offered as an example of a model with a flat load floor as folded and uniquely the Fit load floor is nearly at the level of the door threshold. On the Mazda the load floor is nearly a foot above the door threshold. The consequence of Honda's design decisions allows the Fit to handle taller cargo by several inches than many far larger SUV's including the MB ML350 (W163 and W164 chassis). While its obvious these vehicles are lie in very different market segments it shows that a bit of cleverness will allow you to fight far above your weight. it is unfortunate that the increased height on CUV's and SUV's does not translate into much greater cargo handling. As it is the sloppily designed load floor squanders the opportunity the raised roof presented leaving us with an inverse TARDIS - it looks bigger on the outside than it is on the inside.
      Andrew P
      • 3 Years Ago
      Hooray, yet another 4,000-pound car that offers as much interior space as a 3,000-pound car.
        onewayroll
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Andrew P
        What 3,000 pound car are you talking about?
          Andrew P
          • 3 Years Ago
          @onewayroll
          Jetta Wagon. Elantra Touring. Basically, any wagon in that size class will weigh about 3000 lbs and fit the same amount of people + stuff as this Mazda.
      epilonious
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm just so sick of the "interior cheapness" complaint with Mazda's. Mazda went for the apparently damnable choices of durable and inexpensive. It doesn't actually look bad, it just seems that if it's not made of pricier soft-touch nonsense, people have been trained to hate it. It's not like the soft touch holds up better to kids, squeaks, dings, and scratches (in fact, the soft touch plastics seem far worse) but like stainless steel on fridges and dishwashers, everyone goes "wah, they cheaped out" if it doesn't have it. At least Volkswagen used to be there for folks obsessed with interior niceness and good driveability (and assuming they could get over the expensive maintenance needs, they'd love 'em). Now that VW has started to cheap out their interiors as well, I guess everyone will have to actually pony up the cash for luxury trims or just get the plastic interior and realize it''s not actually that bad.
        B
        • 3 Years Ago
        @epilonious
        Except the CX-7 isn't inexpensive. You get a smaller, less fuel-efficient, lower-quality-interior vehicle for the same or larger price than most other SUVs. Unless you need sporty driving dynamics, the CX-7 is pretty far behind others in its class.
      Rotation
      • 3 Years Ago
      You sure buy into the Mazda marketing-speak a lot. Does the Tribute have a lot of zoom-zoom?
      arcum
      • 3 Years Ago
      That NAV screen looks terrible. Mazda is a step behind in interior design. I've driven this and while it is fun, it gets poor mileage and has a lot of turbo lag.
      wat
      • 3 Years Ago
      This is disgraceful. Comparing real world average MPG's with sticker EPA MPG's on other crossovers?! Yeah lets see a Traverse or Edge get what the sticker says it's supposed to get when driven normally.. it WON'T. The interior is a vast improvement over the 2007-09MY. There are many more soft touch areas like the door inlays and the windshield is so steeply raked because of the design of the car. You can't get the same look without such a steep rake. If you want far too many controls step into a Honda/Acura product. What I see here is far LESS and better controls than what could be found in some other vehicles ala Ford Edge, Honda-anything these days and the list goes on. Disappointing review. I certainly won't be coming back here for any reviews because this reviewers slant is horrible as is the commenting system. U ever heard of Disqus?
      Making11s
      • 3 Years Ago
      I test drove one of these when they came out. The A-pillar placement really annoyed me and always felt in my way. The interior looked both cheap and like it was trying too hard at the same time. At least now it only looks cheap. Even it's pep and good handling couldn't make up for the fact that the part of the car where I had to sit was unpleasant. It's one thing to trade a comfortable interior for performance in a sports car, but this is a CUV and should be comfortable.
      Bscar
      • 3 Years Ago
      I have to laugh when anyone complains about the "cheapness" of the interior plastic or trim on any vehicle, especially the low budget ones like the Yaris or Aveo that cost 10 grand new. What are they expecting? Rolls Royce quality interior?
        WillieD
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Bscar
        There's reason to complain when cheaper cars manage to have nicer interiors than this one.
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