Yep, in these tree-hugging planet worrying times Mazda has added another SUV choice to the market. And why shouldn’t they, SUV sales aren’t in quite the freefall some people would have you believe with plenty of customers still out there looking for chunkily–styled off-roaders. Even so nobody at Mazda is too sure where it’s going to fit, particularly as at launch it’s only available with the same 256bhp MZR 2.3-litre DISI turbocharged four that powers the 3 and 6 MPS models. No diesel alternative yet, so it’s hardly surprising when Mazda talks of sales in the region of 1000-1500 a year – hardly numbers to trouble Land Rover’s Freelander.
CX-7? That’ll be a seven-seater?
Err, nope you’re mistaken. The 7 doesn’t refer to the number of seats – if that where the case this would be the CX-5. Though when did you last see people in the furthermost row of seats in an SUV? The CX-7 isn’t really aimed at the family-hauling market, even if the rear legroom is generous and boot huge. Instead, it’s aimed at those drivers the marketing people describe as having multi-activity lifestyles.
So people with unused expensive mountain bikes then?
Exactly, and really there’s nothing wrong with that. Mazda realises the CX-7 isn’t likely to get any muddier than a regular car, so despite the Active Torque-Split four-wheel-drive system you can forget getting it axle deep in muck. Mazda claims the CX-7 is a sporting SUV with its dynamics tuned specifically for enjoyable ‘Zoom Zoom’ driving characteristics.
Lame tag, but does it deliver?
The CX-7 feels surprisingly agile. Roll control is good unless you get really adventurous in the bends yet the ride is compliant enough to take the edge off nastier road surfaces. Overall it’s pretty impressive for such a chunky machine. Mazda claims it’s tuned the CX-7 for European drivers' tastes which means a firmer suspension set up and many weeks testing the CX-7 around the Nurburgring and on Germany’s Autobahns. Seriously, Mazda has made some major revisions to the CX-7 to better suit our driving style. Along with alterations to the rear bush structure and location to improve on toe change and camber control Mazda has used thicker grade steel on the front cross member and transmission tunnel members.
So we’ll all be taking our CX-7’s to track days then?
Not quite, better leave that to the RX-8s and MX-5s. However, if you’re after a SUV and don’t want to sacrifice all your driving pleasure for that lofty stance and practicality then it’s worth a look. Certainly it feels brisk enough, the 2.3-litre turbo engine hauling the CX-7 up to 62mph in 8 seconds dead and feeling lively through the gears. Thankfully Mazda has given the CX-7 a manual too, which shifts nicely and allows you to further enjoy the driving experience.
So it’s okay to drive, how about the looks?
It’s hardly stand-out in the styling stakes, but neither is it offensive. It’s not so large that you’re going to block the sun out for your neighbour's house when you park it on the drive, either - which is no bad thing in these anti-SUV times. Inside it’s all a bit Mazda, which means 80’s hifi-style red graphics housed in a neatly designed and quality looking fascia. All good then, if fairly unremarkable.
Mazda’s sporting claims for the CX-7 aren’t too far off the mark. It’s actually quite an enjoyable steer with surprising agility and pace. Where it fits exactly is more difficult to place, particularly as it’s only available with a petrol engine for now. And a performance orientated one at that. Certainly it’s quick, but fuel economy will be punishing is you use it’s power, certainly way off the claimed 27.6mpg official combined consumption. Mazda realises its reach will be limited, which explains the single, heavily specified £23,960 model it’ll be bringing to the UK. If you want a big toy count, standard equipment includes leather seats, 18" alloy wheels, Xenon headlights, climate control air-conditioning, cruise control, and a BOSE® premium audio system, in a fairly individual package then you could do a lot worse.