2010 Mazda CX7 i SV
The CX-7 offers quite a bit of comfort and utility, not-to-mention style, for just $25,000. From afar, it's easy to mistake the CX-7 for Mazda's larger, more expensive CX-9 - not a bad thing at all. It's even somewhat enjoyable to drive, thanks to reasonably direct steering with good feedback.
Most four-cylinder-powered small crossovers are very slow, and the CX-7 is no exception. The 2.5-liter engine does well enough around town, but runs out of breath at highway speeds to the point that merging and passing require a bit of forethought. No issue once at speed though, as the CX-7 is commendably stable, even without the optional all-wheel drive. I drove through some heavy storms on my way home from Chicago late at night, and had no trouble keeping in my lane. The same can't be said for all vehicles, especially smaller ones.
Inside, the CX-7 seems to share a lot with the Mazda 3, which means a stylish dash, easy-to-read gauges, and an absolutely silly information display. Our CX-7 was not equipped with navigation, which made the colorful, yet tiny screen even more pointless. As in the 3, I enjoyed the ability to pause the radio, as it allowed me to answer my phone without missing a beat of Lynard Skynard's "Free Bird" (why do people always seem to call right before the awesome guitar solo?)
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
The CX-7 is impressively sporty for being a small, affordable crossover. Body motions are kept in check through turns, but the ride is also comfortable. Steering is light, but predictable and communicative. Power, however, is downright dismal with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder. Of course, performance isn't that different than in a four-cylinder Chevy Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, or Toyota RAV4, but of those cars, this Mazda feels like it's the car that would make the best use of extra power. Those who want more thrust can opt for the 244-hp turbocharged four with a starting price of $26,550.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
I didn't put in much time behind the wheel of the CX-7, but during the abbreviated time I spent there I was greatly preoccupied by the fact that, no matter how much I adjusted it, I couldn't find a comfortable position for the driver's seat. That may sound like a superficial complaint, but when you test drive a car, you'd never consider one that felt as uncomfortable as this CX-7 did to me.
The CX-7 is attractively styled, with a close resemblance to the CX-9 but with road manners that aren't quite as pleasing. The CX-7's 161-hp four-cylinder is fine for sedate around-town driving, but if you need a quick blast of acceleration it falls short - a stomp on the accelerator produces lots of noise but not as much forward propulsion as you might expect. I guess that's the price you pay for the fuel mileage (18/28 cty/hwy, 23 combined) which is fairly impressive for a crossover. Road manners are fine, but imperfections in the pavements aren't as well-suppressed as they are in the longer-wheelbase CX-9.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
Mazda's torque-filled 2.5-liter I-4 impresses me in the likes of the 3 and 6, but as my colleagues have noted, it simply runs out of steam in the heavier CX7. I was also a little disappointed with the five-speed automatic in this application -- I was impressed with how quickly other Mazda gearboxes responded to throttle input, but this one required a good stomp before instigating a downshift. In typical Mazda fashion, the suspension is tuned to quash most body roll, but it can be slightly stiff on larger expansion joints on Michigan freeways.
Although it may not have the "zoom-zoom" thrust of the turbocharged model, the base CX-7 is still an intriguing crossover -- it is remarkably stylish, feels larger inside than most of its competitors, and offers impressive fuel economy.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
2010 Mazda CX-7 i SV
Base price (with destination): $23,090
Price as tested: $25,990
Cloth trimmed seats
60/40 split rear seat
6-way manual adjust driver's seat
Tilt and telescoping column
Power locks and windows
Advanced dual front airbags
Rear privacy glass
Options on this vehicle:
Cargo net - $50
Fog lights - $400
Retractable cargo cover - $125
Sirius satellite radio - $430
Scuff plates - $145
Convenience package - $1750
-Heated front seats
-Power driver seat
-Automatic climate control
Key options not on vehicle:
DVD entertainment system - $1200
Remote engine start - $350
Towing hitch and wiring harness - $350
Auto-dim mirror with compass and Homelink - $275
20 / 28 / 23 mpg
Size: 2.5L DOHC four-cylinder
Horsepower: 161 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 161 lb-ft of torque @ 3500 rpm
17 in. aluminum wheels
215/70 all season tires
Look for: ride, transmission, handling, interior, infotainment system