From £27,080
Sporty chassis combines with possibly the cleanest diesel ever

Our Verdict

Mazda CX-7 2007-2011
The slightly leftfield Mazda CX-7 has become a serious contender with a diesel engine at last

The slightly leftfield Mazda CX-7 has become a serious contender with a diesel engine at last

  • First Drive

    Mazda CX-7 2.2D

    Sporty chassis combines with possibly the cleanest diesel ever
  • First Drive

    Mazda CX-7

    A brisk, agile compact 4x4 for driving enthusiasts and, as such, a bit of a rarity
12 October 2009

What is it?

This is Mazda’s belated but welcome move to put the CX-7 SUV onto a more level playing field with its European rivals by fitting it with a diesel engine, in place of the potent but thirsty 2.3-litre turbo petrol engine with which it was saddled originally.

At the same time, the CX-7 has been re-engineered for improved torsional rigidity and refinement – claims we’ve now got a chance to put to the test on British roads.

The big news, of course, is the fitment of Mazda’s excellent 2.2-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel engine, in yet another state of tune from the versions found in the likes of the Mazda 3 and Mazda 6.

In the CX-7 it makes 171bhp at 3500rpm and an impressive 295lb ft of torque at 2000rpm, and it’s linked to a six-speed manual gearbox (there’s no auto option). It’s also one of the least polluting diesel engines available in the UK, thanks to its Adblue injection system, which uses urea to break down the nitrogen oxides in the exhaust gases.

As well as being limited on engine and gearbox options, there’s just a single, high spec level, so buying a CX-7 doesn’t involve too much decision making. At £26,340 it’s competitively priced against Japanese rivals such as the Honda CR-V i-DTEC EX and looks like quite good value next to the equivalent Audi Q5 2.0 TDI or Land Rover Freelander TD4.

What’s it like?

The CX-7 has always been one of the more sporting, road-biased SUVs, and this new one is no different. Like the recently arrived Infiniti EX37, the Mazda puts considerable emphasis on handling, which means it’s firmly sprung and feels astonishingly light and agile for a reasonably big SUV – like a jacked-up hot hatch.

The ride can be jittery at low speeds, and road noise is still quite intrusive at motorway speeds, but the trade-off is that you can have some fun in the CX-7 and even chuck it around a bit; it encourages you to do so, in fact.

The new diesel engine may not provide the same level of performance as the old 2.3-litre turbo petrol unit, but it’s a terrific unit and far more appropriate for the CX-7.

Although it sounds like it’s working hard under acceleration and the 0-62mph time (11.3sec) isn’t anything to write home about, there’s plenty of torque on tap which gives the CX-7 strong mid-range shove and easy motorway pace.

The six-speed manual ’box has short throws and a nice snick-snick action like that of any Mazda, although you can’t help but feel that the drivetrain might be even better (and certainly smoother) with a good auto ’box.

Despite its dramatic looks, the CX-7 still has enough space and practicality inside to make a sensible family car. Three adults across the rear seats would be a tight fit, but the CX-7 is a comfortable four-seater, with a good-sized load bay and easy-folding, split rear seats. The driving position is good, but the fascia and steering wheel are littered with a daunting array of buttons and the quality of the materials doesn’t match that of Audi, Land Rover or Infiniti.

Should I buy one?

Now that it’s got the right engine for this market, the CX-7 suddenly becomes a serious contender rather than just a peripheral player. Now you can consider it not just for its striking looks and nimble handling but also because its running costs have dropped to a sensible level.

Not everyone will like the unashamed sportiness of its chassis and its slightly neurotic feel compared with its European rivals, but the flipside is that the CX-7 is more entertaining to drive than most SUVs, while still being comfortable enough for family duties.

Perhaps it’s still not as desirable as a Q5 or Freelander, but at least now it’s capable of competing on level terms.

Join the debate

Comments
20

13 October 2009

Its bizarre to have a mid life make over which results in the car not appealing to the existing owners any more, but actually increases the potential number of buyers by a huge margin.

I am sure Mazda have done the right thing commercially. And given all the kit it comes with, it appears to have Mazda's usual very competative pricing. i am sure it will do well

13 October 2009

Can you imagine yourself pottering along in your Mazda SUV, the greenies looking at you in disgust, not knowing that you drive the cleanest diesel in town? It is a bit confusing. Well I really love this Mazda. I test drove it last year (while shopping for a new 6) and it was rather good except for the engine. With this new powerplant I think I should recommend it. It looks great IMO, it is spacious inside, lots of equipment and the ride was excellent on my test ride.

Mazda as a brand has got now a very good line-up me thinks.

13 October 2009

With emissions of 199g/km, I'd argue about it being "clean"...

13 October 2009

My father had a CX-7 and it was a fantastic car, but it had one important downside: its fuel economy. I'm not convinced if this facelift, which concentrates mainly on sticking some chrome bars, is something this Mazda really needed; quite the contrary, I liked the understated handsome lines of the previous version, a nice change from the bling Q7-style norm. However, the technical changes are exactly what this otherwise excellent car needed.

13 October 2009

Hmmm Honda CR-V is a shade smaller but is lighter, has bigger boot, is quicker despite a large power deficit and its 2.2 diesel is only 173g/km. Sorry Mazda must try harder!

I suspect - (although Honda won't tell me! I did ask though) that the 2010 CR-V in January will be quicker and even cleaner with the i-dtec engine going in. I am hoping they can really squeeze it down to 159g/km making it a fantastically attractive company car.

13 October 2009

[quote The Apprentice]Hmmm Honda CR-V is a shade smaller but is lighter, has bigger boot, is quicker despite a large power deficit and its 2.2 diesel is only 173g/km. Sorry Mazda must try harder[/quote]

People might be put off by the Shrek like looks of the Honda CR-V, The Mazda is a prettier car and the new engine should make it more appealing-Mazda are pretty bad at offering Automatic as an option to thier cars here, I dont think the CX-7 has ever been offered with an auto box on a UK spec car, which is a bit of a shame

13 October 2009

The mazda is certainly is well behind the Freelander 2 which is only 170 co2 for the manual version and not as economical the Freelander is over 20% more economical .

13 October 2009

Hello.

When I wrote this was a 'clean' car, I mean that it will have very low levels of pollution in the exhaust gases. Air pollution can be a big problem with diesel engines.

Efficient or frugal should refer to the fuel economy. 'Clean' should refer to the amount of pollution the car churns out. Co2 is not air pollution, buy the way. There are, though, EU regulations limiting the amount of particulates (or soot) and Nitrogen Oxides (NoX) in the air.

California actually banned diesel car sales in 1990 because it has very strict clean air regulations. The de-pollution kit on the CX-7 may well bring it into line with Californian regulations and it might also meet the EU6 engine regulations not due until 2013 or later.

13 October 2009

[quote fuzzybear]People might be put off by the Shrek like looks of the Honda CR-V, The Mazda is a prettier car and the new engine should make it more appealing-Mazda are pretty bad at offering Automatic as an option to thier cars here, I dont think the CX-7 has ever been offered with an auto box on a UK spec car, which is a bit of a shame
[/quote]

Absolutely, I leave near a Mazda dealership so CX-7's are not a rare sight and I have often admired it, it pulls off the sporty SUV look better than almost anything whilst still looking reasonably hunky. Just whilst they were doing all the work on it some weight saving measures would have made the good power and torque much more fun.

13 October 2009

[quote HiltonH]California actually banned diesel car sales in 1990 because it has very strict clean air regulations. The de-pollution kit on the CX-7 may well bring it into line with Californian regulations and it might also meet the EU6 engine regulations not due until 2013 or later.[/quote]

If I'm not mistaken the only diesel-engined cars so far available in California are Mercs...including the M-Class (which produces around 220g/km of CO2, which is not bad considering it has a 3.0-litre diesel engine and weighs quite a-bit more than the Mazda...).

 

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