2012 Mazda CX-7 Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Earlier this year a Mazda CX-7 arrived on the company doorstep and, having driven and reviewed it a number of times myself, I handed the keys to a journalist who had recently returned to our fold after a long sojourn. Regrettably the review, along with the photos he'd taken, never materialized, as he chose to refocus on his day job. Fortunately, while I never shot any photos, I at least gave it a good run over a couple of days and then once again when it was returned, reminding me of what a fabulous little crossover the CX-7 is.

While Mazda has upgraded the CX-9 to near-premium interior detailing and features in recent years, when it came out the smaller CX-7 had the nicer interior. To this day it remains one of the class leaders for quality and refinement, looking relatively fresh inside and out even when put up against its more recently updated competitors. After five years in a crossover market that literally changes monthly, this is a testament to the original CX-7 design.

Having no original photos to pull from, I headed to Mazda's press site to download some media shots, and seeing no 2013 CX-7 material available I was reminded that my review would be less of a useful tool for would-be shoppers and more of a eulogy, a swansong to remember one of Mazda's best vehicles ever. Unfortunately, after what's been an extremely short lifespan of just five years the CX-7 will soon be discontinued due to the arrival of the superb 2013 CX-5, which replaces both the CX-7 and Tribute.

For a car that's so good, its loss is a shame. Yes, the CX-5 is good too, but it's a totally different machine than the CX-7. The 7 is a bit larger and more sporting. It has always been a crossover for enthusiasts, a rare commodity in today's comfort and fuel-economy oriented compact CUV market. Even its base 2.5-litre four is an energetic entry-level engine at 161-horsepower and 161 lb-ft of torque. The CX-5's 2.0-litre four only puts out 155-horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque, although I'm not complaining as that lighter vehicle feels pretty swift on its feet and returns a claimed 7.7 L/100km city and 5.7 highway in its thriftiest front-wheel drive configuration, and 8.0 and 6.4 in all-wheel drive trim, compared to 10.4 and 7.2 with CX-7's base 2.5-litre or 12.2 and 8.7 with the 2.3-litre turbo that I tested.

And this my friends is the real reason behind the CX-7's departure, or at least a major factor in allowing Mazda to let go of an otherwise brilliant little SUV. Of course, the fuel economy penalty is not without reason. There are 244 reasons, actually, and 258 other factors by the way of all-wheel thrust. That torque comes on as low as 2,500 rpm, so the engine's entire get up and go comes on quickly, while an upgraded 6-speed automatic delivers smooth yet spirited shifts with a taller more efficient final drive ratio than the lesser model's 5-speed autobox, helping to keep mileage within reason.

Incidentally, the 2.3 turbo comes in GS and GT trims, while the 2.5 is standard with the base GX. A few noteworthy features include standard automatic headlights, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, rain-sensing wipers, and the usual powered convenience items and safety features that come with a vehicle starting near $30k ($28,390 including freight and PDI to be exact). The GS adds the 2.3-litre turbocharged engine and ups the wheels an inch in diameter to 18s, for $31,890. You can get a Luxury package for each that adds heated leather seats with eight-way driver and four-way front passenger powered adjustment, automatic climate control, a powered glass sunroof, and Bluetooth connectivity with Audio Profile for $31,385 atop GX trim or $34,885 when added to the GS.

Or you can just opt for a $38,585 CX-7 GT that includes all of the above plus proximity sensing keyless entry with pushbutton start, sweet looking electroluminescent gauges, xenon headlamps, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera, driver's side memory, blind spot monitoring, a six-CD and Sirius satellite radio, 19-inch alloy wheels, and more. Lastly, you can top off the GT with a Navigation package that brings the total to $41,185 including destination.

Of course, all of the detail that I've written into this review might be moot this time of year, as you probably won't be able to pick and choose from a dealer's lot full of CX-7s. In fact, if you've got your heart set on this sporty little ute you may just have to take whatever they have. And really, there would be no bad choice. I've driven them all, from basic LX models to full-load CX-7 GTs with navigation, like my tester, and each delivers the type of spirited performance a practical enthusiast wants. With lots of power on tap, a fully independent suspension that really feels good when pushed through the corners thanks to an all-wheel system boasting active torque split for up to 50/50 power distribution, you won't be left wanting. And you can enjoy sport sedan-like performance while hauling up to 848 litres of cargo behind the rear seatbacks and 1,658 litres if you lay the back row flat.

Yes, the CX-7 does everything a compact crossover should while still looking fabulous despite its years. Snatch a new one up while you can.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, Mazda, 2012, CX-7, $30,000 - $39,999, Compact,

Organizations: Mazda

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