Mazda CX-7 Classic & CX-7 Diesel Sports

22 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Mazda CX-7 Classic & CX-7 Diesel Sports
Mazda CX-7

Mazda CX-7

Classic CX-7 Diesel Sports

Stylish and practical, the upgraded CX-7 range offers a model to suit almost everyone

Mazda CX-7 Classic and CX-7 Diesel Sports

Price Guide (recommended price before statutory and delivery charges): $33,990 (Classic, short-term offer only); $43,640 (Diesel Sports)

CX-7 Diesel Sports

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0

Engine/Drivetrain/Chassis: 3.5/5.0

Price, Packaging and Practicality: 2.5/5.0

Safety: 4.0/5.0

Behind the wheel: 3.5/5.0

X-factor: 4.0/5.0

The marketing ‘reach’ of Mazda’s stylish CX-7 has just grown, following the introduction of an upgraded model range. As outlined in our launch review for the car. the base CX-7 Classic is a new front-wheel drive variant — as opposed to the four-wheel drive offerings in the range. It’s Mazda’s first SUV without all-wheel drive.

In that, it takes its cue from the Hyundai Tucson and a host of midsize SUVs such as the Kia Sorento, Ford Territory and Toyota Kluger — all vehicles that are marketed in both two- and four-wheel drive forms.

Mazda has also addressed earlier criticism of the CX-7’s thirst for unleaded with a new diesel-engined variant, the CX-7 Diesel Sports. The two additions expand the range and broaden the scope of the compact SUV.

However, by comparing the two variants back to back over a couple of weeks, it was clear to us here at The Carsales Network that both cars have their respective merits, but neither car is flawless.

Beginning with the CX-7 Classic, there’s just the one engine and transmission combination available, a 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine driving through a five-speed automatic to the front wheels.

Though it lacks the extra ratio in the automatic transmission of the turbo petrol 2.0-litre models, the CX-7 Classic’s five-speed box operates in a reasonably smooth style and is responsive enough for a vehicle that’s not a sports car, but the ratios are very high and this inhibits the vehicle’s straightline performance — on the move at least.

Contrary to our launch review, we found in day-to-day conditions the front-drive CX-7 actually has reasonable grunt for a fast start. Since the engine is redlining at about 60km/h in first gear, plainly ‘1’ is quite a low ratio. But then it’s a jump to second and the other gears.

Full-throttle acceleration in second takes a long time to reach the redline, from just under 3000rpm. It’s literally a wait of several seconds and this contributes to the impression that the 2.5-litre petrol engine is light on get-up-and-go in a straight line.

It’s not like there are major fuel savings to offset the performance either. Admittedly with very little time spent on the open road, the CX-7’s fuel consumption figure for the week was 11.6L/100km. The soundtrack for the engine varies from quiet, through blandly pleasant in the midrange, to protracted screaming in the upper end of the rev range.

It’s not really an engine that enjoys working hard, by the usual high standard we’ve come to expect of Mazda.

With the 2.2-litre diesel engine under the bonnet, the manual-only all-wheel-drive CX-7 Diesel Sports’ open road performance is better, although the front-drive model still provided the better launch (thanks to that combination of petrol engine, reduced grip and relatively low-ratio first gear). That said, the powerplant is ‘peakier’ than we’ve come to expect of diesels, revving as high as 5000rpm and labouring a little between 1000 and 1500rpm. This pointed to both the engine’s Japanese heritage and its ‘sporting’ aspirations.

To its credit, it was a frugal engine and didn’t offend the ear the way some diesels do. While it was a little noisier when cold, once at normal operating temperature it was quieter at standstill than Subaru’s (also very quiet) new diesel boxer engine that powers the Outback.

Over the course of the time the CX-7 Diesel Sports was in our possession, it averaged figures as low as 6.8L/100km on the open road and occasionally reached as high as 9.6L/100km in town — but the fuel consumption average rarely rose above 7.5L/100km. More impressive still, those figures were frequently achieved with four passengers, luggage for a week away and the aircon set to max to combat the summer heat.

Left to operate below the point where maximum torque occurs, the diesel could be caught out by hills and higher gears. This is a diesel that gives its best with a few revs in hand. Lacking nothing in power and torque once it had reached at least 2000rpm, the engine propelled the CX-7 up a moderately steep offroad track in first gear (the CX-7 doesn’t offer dual-range transfer).

The gear shift in the diesel was a little heavy and the shifting could be slow, pointing to the transmission’s heavy-duty nature as a match to the high torque of the engine, but the selection remained relatively easy and the gate was precise.

With the mismatch of transmission ratios and power delivery from the engine, the CX-7 Classic didn’t convince the driver that it would be remotely quick, point-to-point. But it was in the corners where the front-drive CX-7 made up some lost ground: The quasi-offroader retained excellent steering (with feedback approaching that of Volkswagen’s Tiguan and responsive turn-in to match) allied with well-sorted suspension. Entering the corner with power off, the Mazda wants to steer towards the inside, but even applying power, it maintains a measured line through the corner, like it’s tethered to an anchorage point at the apex.

Roadholding was neat and tidy for the most part, although you could provoke oversteer with brakes and excessive speed into the corner. If we have any criticism of the suspension, it felt a little too compliant, but this didn’t translate to an especially good ride. At a secondary level it was good enough, but it had an offroad character about it over larger bumps and imperfections — which seemed a bit pointless when the car was only driven by two wheels and doesn’t go offroad.

Turn-in for the diesel CX-7 seemed slightly slower than for the front-wheel drive version, but steering feedback was on a par. From memory, the turbocharged petrol CX-7 (pre-upgrade) was a little more responsive than the diesel too and perhaps the added weight of the powerplant played a part in the oiler’s slower change of direction. Overall Mazda appears to have tuned the suspension to complement the slightly different steering and handling of the diesel.

Power assistance for the CX-7 Diesel’s steering dropped progressively as the speed rose, but the load never became unacceptable. The car remained quite stable in crosswinds and was never demanding of driver input through the wheel.

Out on the road, tyre noise was annoying on coarse-grade bitumen, even the type used on rural freeways. Like the CX-7 Classic, the diesel rode firmer at open-road speeds and those noisy tyres soaked up the smaller bumps.

Inside the car, the parking brake was a foot-operated affair, which could affront some drivers, but it freed up room in the centre console and there was plenty of room for it, since the CX-7 Classic was automatic-only — no clutch pedal, in other words.

Unlike the Classic, the diesel used a lever-type handbrake. The placement of the handbrake lever left room for two cupholders adjacent the front-passenger’s seat and front-seat heating switches located aft of the cupholders and handbrake lever, but the armrest was shorter as a consequence. There was also less room in the storage bin under the centre armrest.

Also observed from the driving position, the CX-7 provided fairly comfortable and accommodating seating. The backrest in particular did a sterling job of wrapping around the torso and holding the occupant in place. The squab was not quite as effective, being shorter than ideal for this reviewer, but it provided good support otherwise and was a little firmer and flatter, as in the conventional mode for SUVs.

In the diesel model, the seats were much as for the base model, other than the leather trim and power adjustment. On longer journeys, the seat left the driver with lower-back discomfort, not leavened much at all by the adjustable lumbar support.

Instruments provided a clear, attractive and easily read display through the steering wheel and the relationship between seat, wheel and pedals was comfortable and commanding.

Local mapping data for the satnav was well out of date. On a number of occasions the system attempted to direct us along exits that no longer existed since the construction of new sections of freeway. The voice prompts were also occasionally misleading, using instructions like “keep left”, when “turn left” would have been more appropriate.

Mazda CX-7

For the sake of comprehension, the driver frequently needed to take eyes of the road to assess the instruction as displayed graphically in the centre fascia.

There was no iPod connection for the BOSE audio system, which wouldn’t read a CD-ROM disc with MP3 files either. We connected an iPod to the audio via the car’s conventional auxiliary input jack, but an iPod connection would have kept the external music source charged over the seven days.

On a 39-degree day, the air conditioning was too cold when set at 20 degrees. In other words more than capable despite having its work cut out for it courtesy of the oppressive dark grey trim of the test vehicle.

For ease of entry and exit, the CX-7 ticks most boxes, although the A pillars were raked at such a shallow angle that it was necessary to duck your head on entry. That aside, there was basically enough room for adults, front and rear, although the vestigial transmission tunnel left this writer’s nine-year old daughter unable to stretch out when she sat in the centre. The outboard seats left the way clear for plenty of head- and legroom however, whether for older kids or adults.

Cupholders in the rear seat centre armrest were pretty handy too.

There was but one (possible) build quality issue in the CX-7 Diesel: a frequent vibration emanating from the dashboard on the passenger side over a range of surfaces.

Luggage capacity was adequate for a week away for two adults, two kids, some ‘token’ food and Christmas presents for not only the two kids, but also three cousins and two grandparents. ‘Adequate’ then is possibly something of an understatement.

Mazda is setting itself up as the industry’s leading ergonomics expert where folding rear seats is concerned. The pull-handles in the luggage compartment to flip the rear seats flat were easy to use, from the tailgate, and the loading floor was genuinely flat without the seat squabs fouling things. Delivered with a full-size spare, the front-wheel drive CX-7 had a high boot floor, which likely impinged on the vehicle’s luggage capacity a little.

We did attempt some limited offroading in the diesel variant. There are those who will write off the CX-7 as a pretend offroader, but it is an SUV — with four-wheel drive and a torquey diesel — so it was ready to be tried.

Wheel articulation proved to be significantly better than that of the Mitsubishi Outlander tested a couple of months ago — the Mazda lifting just one wheel off the ground, not two. Approach and departure angles were surprisingly good for a ‘softroad’ compact SUV. Certainly the approach angle provided no cause for concern over the same terrain that led to a couple of anxious moments in a VW Tiguan.

As mentioned already, the Mazda’s engine made up for the car’s lack of dual-range transfer and the CX-7’s grip offroad was not bad. All the same, courage failed us at a long water-filled boghole that an XC60 had (just barely) negotiated in the past.

We dipped a toe (or the Mazda’s front left wheel to be precise) in the water. The wheel dropped into a deep section of wheel rut, concealed under the muddy water, the vehicle grounded lightly at the front and this was beginning to look like a test beyond the Mazda’s mettle without a support vehicle to assist.

In reverse gear and with three of the four wheels on fairly firm ground, the Mazda spun the left front wheel, but did back out of trouble. Draw what conclusions you will from this. If you do a lot of mud-plugging, the CX-7 is best left behind in the garage in favour of something with lockable diffs and more ride height, at the very worst.

But traditional 4WD’ing is not really what the CX-7 is designed to do. It will happily track around corners on rally-style roads safely and securely. The traction control system disable button to the right of the steering wheel only disables the system for speeds up to 30km/h.

A Scandinavian flick in the CX-7 will succeed in hanging the tail out momentarily — before the stability control reasserts its authority.

That wowser element aside, Mazda is to be commended for the stability control’s response — both in timeliness and progression. It is a little like the larger CX-9’s system, which has been criticised for being too intrusive, although the parameters for the CX-7’s system appears to have been moderated better.

So how do the two different strains of CX-7 figure in the wash-up? For around-town dropping off/picking up kids and shopping, the CX-7 Classic is perfectly capable and easy to drive, instilling confidence in those looking for a safe and stylish package that provides a commanding view of the road ahead. For the money, it’s a fairly good value equation.

But if you can afford the extra for the diesel — and you can cope without a self-shifting transmission option — that’s the one to get.

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Published. Wednesday, 20 January 2010

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