Alfa Romeo
Land Rover
Mazda CX-7
Soul crossover
May 2007

YOU know the ad. The two guys and a girl hiking and one guy puts his ear to the ground like an American Indian and declares "sportscar" before the Mazda CX-7 SUV comes hurtling past.

Not a bad ad but it would have been far better had the other bloke then said something like: "Nah-nah nah-nah-nah, sucked in poser boy. Now I'm a shoe-in with this Scandinavian goddess now." Or even funnier if he'd nudged the poser's backside with his grubby hiking boot and the bloke fell flat on his face in the mud... Or something like that.

But, you know, the CX-7 really does break the mould of a typical SUV and, although it's going too far to call it a sportscar, it does have a hefty does of sporting soul.

The all-wheel-drive CX-7 is powered by Mazda’s turbocharged and intercooled 2.3-liter four-cylinder direct-injection engine (MZR 2.3 DISI) that also powers the Mazda6 MPS and Mazda3 MPS.

It's got 175kW of power and stump-pulling 350Nm of torque at just 2500rpm so it's no slouch when you ask it to perform and reaches the 100km/h from rest in 8.5 seconds. In fact, it is even better than that stat would have you believe as the off-the-line turbo lag would account for a good half second I'd reckon.

The car's design also breaks the stereotypical boxy SUV mould. For example, its 66-degree windshield angle is sleeker than many sportscars. Distinct character lines run through the A-pillars and along the edges of the bonnet to the front fascia. An aggressive, rising belt line, curved roof and prominent fender arches and tapered cabin rests all add up to something totally different.

At 4680mm is 280mm longer than Tribute, 47mm wider, but 125mm lower. The wheelbase is also 130mm longer at 2750mm. The cargo space isn't all that spectacular for this class, but what is there is all usable due to it its shape. The rear seat splits and folds 60:40 to increase cargo capacity.

The CX-7 offers a wide range of seating adjustment to ensure tall and short drivers can get comfortable behind the wheel with the seat sliding through 260mm, the steering offering 45mm of adjustment and the seat lifter providing 55mm of travel.

The CX-7 comes complete with two specification levels.

Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), traction control and ABS anti-lock brakes are all part of the base level $39,910 package, as are 18-wheels, air-conditioning, power windows and mirrors, trip computer, ambient temperature display, automatic headlamps on/off, wheel-mounted audio and cruise control, six-disc CD player (MP3 compatible), fog lamps and remote central locking with dual stage unlock.

It also comes standard with dual front, front side and head protecting curtain airbags (six in total).

Priced at $45,560 the CX-7 Luxury adds leather trim, a glass sunroof, a power-operated driver’s seat with eight-way adjustment, heated front seats, a nine speaker 240 watt BOSE sound system, heated side mirrors and climate controlled air-conditioning.

You aren't going to be convinced (despite the TV ad) that the CX-7 drives like a sports car, but it does do a better than average job of it for this class.

Arguably the best feature is the nicely balanced feedback through the steering wheel which gives a feeling of confidence and hides the size of the vehicle to a large extent.

Overall the CX-7 is a great looker and performer, but it's up against some pretty tough "value for money" competition in this class with the likes of Holden's Captiva, especially when it can be a seven-seater for similar money.



ENGINE: 2.3-litre four-cylinder direct-injection engine (MZR 2.3 DISI)

POWER: 175kW @ 5000rpm

TORQUE: 350Nm @ 2500rpm

TRANSMISSION: Six-speed Activematic transmission with Active Torque Split all-wheel drive system

FUEL CONSUMPTION: 11.5l/100km average


PROS: Impressive performance when stirrred; it looks different to most SUVs; steering feedback

CONS: Interior room and cargo room is smallish for this class, but usable all the same

THE BOTTOM LINE: $39,910; CX-7 Luxury $45,560