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Mazda CX-7 Diesel Sports 2010 review

For those who will drive their CX-7 around the urban battleground, the six-speed manual transmission could prove to be a trial
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  • sedan-like feel
  • equipment list
  • performance (> 1500rpm)
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  • driver side a-pillar blind spot
  • clutch struggle
  • low revs - lack of response

The Mazda CX-7 is a serious contender in an increasingly well-supplied section of the market – comfortable SUVs with just enough ability to let you wander off the road on weekends. But a lack of real ground clearance, coupled with the absence of a locking differential, means that those who want to head into truly rough terrain have to look elsewhere.

Drivetrain

However for the majority who will drive their CX-7 around the urban battleground, the six-speed manual transmission in our test car could prove to be a trial, even if it’s mated to the punchy 2.2-litre intercooled turbodiesel. At 3500 revs the engine spits out 127kw of power, but it’s only once you get through the 1500 mark that you feel any extra gravity, and you are left waiting for the engine to catch up with your intentions on the first two gear changes off the line.

The reported economy of the diesel engine is good at 7.6 litres for every 100kms travelled on the open road, but you can expect around 9 for city driving. You can also expect to put 202 grams of CO2 into the atmosphere for each km you travel.

Styling

The structured curves of the CX-7 front are attractive and flow pleasingly from front to rear, but a walk around the back disappointed a little, even if it did provide an answer to the age-old question of ‘who ate all the pies’. The slender top of the tailgate seems out of place on the wide mid-section and square bottom, and inside reflects this with an almost triangular luggage space. I also found the cargo area cover required two hands to secure it; a hassle if you have a set of golf clubs or a baby under one arm.

In the cabin, the well-configured dash keeps everything important at your fingertips with large-enough buttons on the centre console to keep your eyes on the traffic while you scroll between CD’s in the six-stacker.   I’m not a fan of the Mazda instrumentation and its use of the silver-rimmed tube (deeper on the CX-7 than other models), but having said that, it’s easy to keep an eye on your speed and revs under a wide range of driving conditions.

Fit-out and equipment

A generous goodies list includes climate control aircon, heated front seats with eight-way power adjustment, cruise control, leather trim, power mirrors and windows, Bluetooth and MP3 compatible 240 watt Bose audio system, reversing camera, sat-nav and trip computer among the impressive list of interior features.

The 18-inch alloy wheels are halted by an anti-lock braking system with electronic brake-force distribution and emergency brake assist (EBA), while the safety is upped by dynamic stability control and  six airbags (front / side; driver and passenger, curtain; front and rear).

Without being exceptional, the seats are comfortable for several hours of driving or watching, and the interior layout is pleasingly usable.   While on the small side, the sat-nav and reversing camera were a welcome inclusion and the map seemed up-to-date during our test.

But the glare from the sat-nav to dash to windscreen at night is annoying — and surely something the engineers could have avoided.   Setting up the voice-command Bluetooth connection was intuitive and easy, and it came in handy in situations where both hands were needed to shift and steer.

Driving

The manual transmission and slightly finicky clutch will most likely put off a segment of otherwise interested buyers who spend significant time in start-stop traffic, but the benefits of the high-torque drivetrain outweighed the trouble of regular shifting.

Initially I was surprised to find myself craning around or behind the A-pillar during right-hand turns, but seemed to get used to this the more I drove it.   On the highway it felt sure and slightly caged, with the little 6 on the gear shifter tempting you to push past the speed limit and into a licence-risking range.

It’s on more flowing stretches of sealed roads that the CX-7 really turns up, especially when you find some well-manicured curves to point the unseen bonnet into.  Entering corners with steady power felt comfortable and controlled, while breaking late or entering under power tended to pull the front in slightly, helped along by the grip of the 18-inch alloys.

Despite the reported improvements in cabin isolation from the previous model, on b-grade sealed roads the tyre roar was surprisingly loud — but no match for an extra couple of points added to the nine-speaker Bose sound system.

Off-road driving

It’s off-road that the CX-7 shows that it is a true SUV rather than a 4WD with the low road clearance of 170mm (the Sorento gives 184mm, the Tiguan 195mm, and the Grand Vitara and Captiva are both 200mm) requiring extra care to avoid grounding the car on rocks and in the muddy ruts left behind by bigger trucks. However, on flatter or better groomed sections of dirt it maintained the sureness it displays on tarmac, thanks in part to the traction control system.

It had no trouble with a weather-worn fire track at low speeds, easily coping with some steeper sections where the footing could be unsure, but we didn’t feel confident enough in its balance to test above third gear — even on a road I am reasonably familiar with.   On any surface the driver could be caught short by steeply pitched corners at low revs, and this clutch / gearbox combination certainly wasn’t designed with snap-shifts in mind.

Serious off-roaders would most likely be looking elsewhere for their next ride, but I was pleasantly surprised by the way it handled and the range offered by the miserly diesel (7.6 L / 100km) could help sway the casual camper. Indeed, I would like to re-run this test with 500+kg of people and gear in this car, as my guess is that some of the sharpness would be clipped from the suspension and the available torque would show why it’s really there.

Verdict

While an auto option would increase its saleability, I was impressed with the driver feedback and surety the CX-7 provided on a range of trips, especially on highways and country roads.

Pricing Guides

$11,997
Based on 153 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$6,235
Highest Price
$16,444

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Classic (FWD) 2.5L, ULP, 5 SP AUTO $6,235 – 14,995 2010 Mazda CX-7 2010 Classic (FWD) Pricing and Specs
Classic Sports (4x4) 2.3L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $7,990 – 13,999 2010 Mazda CX-7 2010 Classic Sports (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Diesel Sports (4x4) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $6,352 – 13,990 2010 Mazda CX-7 2010 Diesel Sports (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Luxury Sports (4x4) 2.3L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $8,990 – 16,444 2010 Mazda CX-7 2010 Luxury Sports (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide

$4,990

Lowest price, based on 23 car listings in the last 6 months

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