Mazda's CX-7 soldiers on despite new CX-5
When Mazda introduced the CX-5 last year, it raised the question: does this mean the CX-7 is history? After all, the two are aimed at similar buyers, and are very much alike in some respects, despite the fact that the CX-5 has Mazda’s new fuel-sipping, energy-conserving SKYACTIV technology and the CX-7 does not. Yet.
In a word: no. The CX-7 soldiers on, for the time being, at least, and is available in two basic variations: turbo and normally aspirated.
But before we get into it, a few comparisons with the new CX-5. Similar in concept and purpose, the CX-7 and CX-5 have approximately the same dimensions. For example, the wheelbase is close—2,750 millimetres versus 2,700 millimetres—and interior cargo room is similar—1,658 litres versus 1,835 litres. Surprisingly, perhaps, the CX-5 has the edge here.
Both vehicles also feel similar behind the wheel, although the CX-7 is considerably more powerful. Even the normally aspirated version is livelier, and the turbo model has almost 90 more horsepower. The CX-5 is, in fact, kind of a dog when it comes to performance. Much better fuel economy, though, and better handling. It’s also some $3,700 cheaper than a base CX-7, and starts at some $13,600 less than the CX-7 GT.
Still, with one or two qualifiers, the CX-7 is an appealing package. It can be had with front- or all-wheel-drive. My tester, the turbo GT version, comes well equipped, with things like leather interior, power sunroof, climate control, a blind-spot monitoring system, and power adjustable driver’s seat all standard. It feels less utilitarian than the CX-5 and, for an extra $2,600, you can also order a navi system that features a touchscreen set-up. I wouldn’t describe the interior of the CX-7 as lavish, but it’s very much in keeping with this market and there’s nothing in there to get riled up about. For what it’s worth, the CX-7 is also quieter in operation than its major rival, the Honda CR-V.
Power for the GT is delivered via a turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Power output is 244 horsepower and it has 258 foot-pounds of torque. This is the only drivetrain choice for this model, and it’s a nice fit, with lots of reserve power and almost nothing in the way of turbo lag or torque steer.
The CX-7 GT also features full-time all-wheel-drive, with traction control and Mazda’s “torque-split” AWD system. In a nutshell, a forward-mounted coupling monitors road conditions and electronically transfers engine power to the front or rear driving wheels as needed. While the CX-7 is far from being a bush beast, this set-up will get you home in a snowstorm, provides better traction in gravel or sand, and makes the CX-7 a little more sure-footed if road conditions deteriorate. You’ll also find four-wheel disc brakes and 19-inch wheels and tires on the GT, compared to 17- or 18-inchers on the GS models.
One note here: the GT version of the CX-7 requires 91-octane or better fuel, which is not the case for either the CX-5 or non-turbo CX-7. The last time I filled up, premium gas was over $1.55 a litre, so, food for thought.
Like most of the offerings in this segment of the market—CR-V, RAV4, Escape, Rogue, Equinox, et cetera—the CX-7 is not the kind of vehicle that makes you jump up in the air and click your heels together. The emphasis here is on practicality and usefulness, and on that score, the CX-7 is pretty much in lock-step with all its competitors. That said, it might have the edge in refinement and practicality over some of its rivals. It certainly feels more tightly assembled than the Dodge Journey or Chevy Equinox, for example.
As well as a 64/40 folding rear seat, the CX-7 features an upward-opening rear door that gives complete and handy access to the rear storage area. Fold the back seat down and you can stash a bicycle in there; for most items that you can carry by yourself, it’s got plenty of room. Again, no surprises here.
But what is kind of surprising is the fuel consumption of this little puppy. In a word, it’s lousy. Virtually every one of its rivals gets better fuel economy. For example, the Acura RDX, which is also turbocharged, is considerably thriftier in town, and even a V-6 Kia Sorento is better on gas both in town and on the highway. Ditto with the Toyota RAV4 V-6. Factor in the CX-7’s need for premium-grade gas and you can understand why buyers might turn to the CX-5.
But nothing stays still in the car business. Mazda’s SKYACTIV technology is working its way through the company’s lineup and we may see it on the CX-7 before long
And one last note. I drove the 2012 version of the CX-7 GT, but there are virtually no differences between it and the 2013 model.