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Review of: 2012 Mazda CX-7 FWD 4dr GX


2012 Mazda CX-7: Soon it'll be all ours

By Jil McIntosh

Apr. 24, 2012

Americans are taking their last look at the Mazda CX-7 for 2012, but next year should be more of the same for us.

Canada and the U.S. may be close neighbours, but there are several areas where we differ considerably, and one of those is in our vehicle preferences. Our shopping habits aren’t always on the same page. That’s why Americans are taking their last look at the Mazda CX-7 for 2012, while next year should be more of the same for us.

The introduction of the all-new CX-5 has been the death knell for the CX-7 south of the border. The size difference isn’t all that much – the CX-5 is a mere 127 mm shorter – and while its SkyActiv technology dampens its enthusiasm for quick acceleration, it provides a considerable improvement in the all-important category of published fuel economy.

Rather than crowd the showroom, the U.S. side of the business will pull the plug on the CX-7 at the end of the 2012 model year. However, Mazda Canada says that it has target customers for both models and will continue to offer both, along with the largest of the family, the three-row CX-9.

In addition to the relatively small variation in size, pricing for the 5 and 7 can overlap, depending on what trim lines you choose. But I suspect that if anyone takes the CX-7 over the newcomer, it may be because it has more of the company’s sporty feel when you hit the accelerator.

Pros & Cons

  • + Styling
  • + Acceleration
  • - Fuel economy
  • - Interior design
Read the full review
  • Interior

    At 848 litres of cargo space, the CX-7 actually has less than its baby brother: the CX-5 boasts 966 litres. In terms of the tape measure, the cargo area is 100 cm long when the rear seats are upright, and it extends to 175 cm in length when they’re down, although they don’t fall quite flat.

    I do like how the system works, though. You can drop them down conventionally via the buttons in the rear seatbacks. However, if you’re already filling the hold and you need more space, you don’t have to walk to the back doors. Instead, there are two handles in the cargo area. Pull them, and the spring-loaded seats fall forward. The seatbelt is in the rear seatback, rather than attached to the side of the body, so you don’t have to work around it when you’re loading, or push it out of the way when you return the seat to its upright position.

    8.5Very good
  • Tech

    My tester was enhanced with a Luxury Package, for an additional $2,995, which added heated, power-adjustable leather seats, sunroof, Bluetooth and automatic climate control. That’s on top of the GX’s list of standard elements, which includes 17-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, and automatic headlamps.

    The interior design is still handsome, and it was quite the layout when it first appeared, but it’s started to look dated, especially with its swaths of hard plastic. It needs better backlighting on the doors, since only the driver’s window button can be quickly spotted at night. It could use a little less illumination on the centre stack, though. The stereo contains 23 buttons and three dials, and when they all light up red at night, it can seem a bit overwhelming.

    The climate control buttons are a blissfully simple arrangement, and the heated seats are operated by buttons on the console. The temperature and mode show up in a small screen on top of the centre stack, which also houses the trip computer and its various functions.

    The seats don’t have as much bolstering as you might expect for a sportier model, but they still do the job as far as comfort goes. Some competitors have more rear legroom, but there’s still enough back there that those not quick enough to call “shotgun” shouldn’t have any complaints – at least, those on the outboard chairs. I’m still not sure why automakers call their vehicles “five-passenger” and then throw in that middle seat as a truncated, rock-hard afterthought.

  • Driving

    Two engines are available in the CX-7. My tester was the naturally-aspirated GX trim, which uses a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine that delivers both 161 horsepower (at 6,000 rpm) and 161 lb-ft of torque (at 3,500 rpm). It starts at $26,595 and comes only in front-wheel-drive. The GS and GT trims, which are exclusively all-wheel and start at $29,995 and $36,690 respectively, use a turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder that makes 244 horses and 258 lb-ft. The GX uses a five-speed automatic, while the GS and GT employ a six-speed autobox.

    By comparison, the CX-5 uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder that churns out 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque, but the front-wheel model with automatic transmission weighs 100 kilograms less than my tester.

    I haven’t driven a turbocharged CX-7 in quite a while, but the last time I did, my impression was that it was too quick on the draw, with a twitchy throttle that was hard to modulate. While nowhere near as powerful, the 2.5-litre provides linear acceleration, and goes about its business very smoothly. It’s not the most powerful in its class – the Honda CR-V coaxes 185 horses out of its 2.4-litre four-cylinder, for example – but it never seemed to bog down, and didn’t have any problems when asked for passing power on the highway. The published fuel figures are 10.4 L/100 km in the city and 7.2 on the highway. In combined driving, I averaged 10.2.

    Handling isn’t as perky as on the CX-5, and it seems much bigger and heavier, but that’s a relative thing. The CX-7 still feels like a sports model against most of its competition (the Volkswagen Tiguan can give it a run for its money, but that’s about all). It carves cleanly around corners without body roll, responds immediately to steering wheel input, provides decent feedback, and has a ride that’s firm but not unpleasant.

    8.5Very good
  • Conclusion

    Cars can be a brain-and-heart decision, and the CX-7 certainly is. On the brain side – the one that’s supposed to be all about the facts and figures – the CX-5 is the better of the two. It has far better fuel economy (I averaged 8.9 L/100 km in it, versus the 10.2 in the CX-7), improved construction, and sharper handling.

    But my heart really likes its bigger brother, even the non-turbo version, thanks to that linear throttle feel and overall smoothness. Maybe Mazda Canada is right: there could be room for both.

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