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

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.

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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

Add a comment…
Mr£4worth 5 February 2010

Re: Mazda CX-7 2.2D

Autocar wrote:

What is it?

This is thoroughly refreshed, redesigned and re-engined version of Mazda's well-regarded CX-7 crossover. The CX-7 has been a pretty successful car for Mazda, with 190,000 sold globally since it was launched in late 2006.

The exterior of the car has been given a makeover, with a new RX-8 style front bumper design, re-designed rear bumper and a spattering of chrome highlights. The result is a success, giving the car a more upmarket appearance than the out-going mod...Read the full article

BUT LOOK AT ALL THAT BLACK AND GREY INSIDE! Refreshed? Titter ye not! BLAND is what I'd call it.[quote

Uncle Mellow 4 February 2010

Re: Mazda CX-7 2.2D

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

Don't understand how anyone can find this less desirable than a Freelander or Q5. The only glitch is the manual box - I think most punters would prefer auto.

theonlydt 4 February 2010

Re: Mazda CX-7 2.2D

2xtrouble wrote:
Possibly the cleanest diesel ever??? Not at 199g CO2. The Honda CRV and Toyota RAV4 beat it by a long way (Toyota at 154g). Even BMW's X3 with the diesel engine comes in at 165g (and lots more money). Unless there is some mistake in the article even the cars mentioned, Landrover Freelander and Audi Q5 come in a 179 and 175 respectively. Either poor reporting or poor proof-reading!
They have already clarified this that they are referring to NOx emissions, rather than CO2. Indeed, it is stated in the article: " thanks to its Adblue injection system, which uses urea to break down the nitrogen oxides in the exhaust gases." and also in the forum thread.