More stylish and refined than the all-but-forgotten Tribute SUV, the CX-7 crossover will be an attractive choice for small families (it seats only five) thanks to available all-wheel drive, six standard air bags, and standard stability control. But with no U.S.-market replacement for the MPV minivan in the works and limited passenger capacity in the CX-7 and Tribute SUVs, the most capacious people hauler in the company's lineup will be the economically and ecologically friendly Mazda 5 minivan, which has six seats. Market analysts might call this strategy crazy, but we say Mazda deserves kudos for resisting the urge to offer a vehicle in every market niche.
When the CX-7 arrives here in a few months, Mazda's first crossover SUV will join the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX in a new onslaught of Ford family utes. The CX-7's engine is a derivation of the turbocharged 2.3-liter four in the Mazdaspeed 6, producing 244 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission routes power to the front or all wheels while helping to achieve fuel economy of approximately 23 mpg combined city/highway. The CX-7 will start at $23,750 and slot above the smaller Mazda Tribute in price, even though both are strictly five-seat SUVs. Given Mazda's recent history of fun-to-drive vehicles, we're eager to get behind the wheel of a CX-7, because if anyone can pull off a truly sporty crossover, it's Mazda. About 50,000 CX-7s will be built annually at Mazda's factory in Hiroshima, Japan. The CX-7 should go on sale in May.