Full 2009 Mazda CX-7 Review
What's New for 2009
For 2009, the Mazda CX-7 remains unchanged except for a few option and package modifications. All trim levels get an auxiliary audio jack, and the Technology Package now includes Bluetooth phone capability and satellite radio. The base Sport trim level, however, has lost its standard power driver seat.
With its sleek lines and radically sloping front end, the 2009 Mazda CX-7 lends some sporty style to the small and midsize crossover SUV segments. Influenced by the company's RX-8 and MX-5 Miata sports cars, the CX-7's performance and handling abilities make it the most rewarding choice in its class to drive. But those looking for utility over performance might be disappointed to know the CX-7 lags behind some of its competitors when it comes to practicality.
Unlike other crossovers (which typically include six-cylinder offerings), the 2009 CX-7 comes equipped with a single engine choice: a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder. It's pretty much the same engine that Mazda uses in its Mazdaspeed 3 sport hatchback, and in this application, it's good for a potent 244 horsepower. Acceleration, as you might expect, is brisk, with a 0-60 time better than just about any rival. But all that power has its price. The CX-7 is something of a gas guzzler, particularly on the highway. Some may also find the engine's power delivery to be less smooth than that of a V6.
This might be a significant issue for some people. As such, more mainstream offerings such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 V6 would be better choices. But none of these can match the Mazda's high level of athleticism. And in this regard, the Mazda's closest competitors are the Mitsubishi Outlander, Pontiac Torrent GXP, redesigned Subaru Forester XT and the new VW Tiguan.
Previously not as roomy as the Mazda, this year's Forester slightly edges out the CX-7 when it comes to legroom and cargo capacity, but it's not as sporty as it once was. The Torrent and Outlander offer superior utility, but they can't match the Mazda when it comes to styling and build quality. Volkwagen's Tiguan, meanwhile, has sharp handling but comes up short in terms of power and can get expensive. Overall, the 2009 Mazda CX-7 is a very good choice for those who want the practicality of a five-passenger crossover that also has the looks and performance to make everyday driving fun.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Mazda CX-7 is a midsize five-passenger crossover SUV available in three trim levels -- Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. The well-equipped base Sport trim includes 18-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, full power accessories, cruise control, a six-way manual adjustable driver seat and a stereo system with a CD player and MP3 capability. The midlevel Touring model adds leather upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat, heated front seats and a retractable cargo cover. The top-of-the-line Grand Touring model features xenon headlights, heated exterior mirrors, an upgraded gauge cluster, automatic headlights, automatic climate control and distinct leather upholstery.
All trim levels can be further equipped with an optional package (the not-so-descriptively named 1MC Package) that includes a sunroof and an upgraded nine-speaker stereo system with Bose surround-sound, an in-dash six-CD changer, Bluetooth and satellite radio. The Sport trim can be upgraded with a power seat option that adds power and heated front seats. Also available is a Technology Package that adds the equipment from the 1MC Package plus a voice-activated touchscreen navigation system, a back-up camera and a keyless start/entry system. Other stand-alone choices include an Aero Package and a back-up camera (in the rearview mirror).
Powertrains and Performance
Either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive is available on the 2009 Mazda CX-7. A turbocharged direct-injection 2.3-liter four-cylinder is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability. This sole powertrain is good for 244 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque. Since the CX-7 isn't designed to go off road, there is no low-range gearing. In normal driving situations, the AWD system routes 100 percent of the engine's power to the front wheels. If there is a loss of traction, up to 50 percent of engine power is automatically and quickly applied to the rear wheels.
Despite the fact that a loaded Grand Touring AWD model weighs in at nearly 2 tons, the CX-7's performance is still relatively brisk -- acceleration from zero to 60 mph takes just 7.7 seconds. Braking performance is impressive, with fade-free stops from 60 mph in just 113 feet. Fuel economy estimates from the EPA rate the 2009 CX-7 AWD at 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway (or 18 mpg combined), while the two-wheel-drive version gets 17 mpg city/23 mpg highway (20 mpg combined). As a comparison, the AWD Subaru Forester gets 20 mpg city/26 mpg highway.
Antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags come standard on all trim levels. In crash testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 2008 Mazda CX-7 performed very well, garnering a top five-star rating in both front and side collisions. Similarly, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the CX-7 its highest rating of "Good" for both frontal-offset and side-impact crashworthiness.
Interior Design and Special Features
The CX-7's radical styling carries over to the inside, where the edgy yet functional cabin provides a more visually stimulating environment than one might expect from a crossover SUV. A sporty three-spoke steering wheel is reminiscent of the one found in the Miata, while the gauge cluster is similar to the RX-8's. Build quality and ergonomics are both very good, although some might find the location of the radio and climate displays annoying, since their locations atop the dash are separated from their respective controls.
Ample hip- and headroom keeps CX-7 passengers comfortable, even with all five seats occupied. However, rear legroom doesn't measure up to that of competitors -- especially the new Forester. And luggage capacity trails most of its rivals by about 6 cubic feet, with about 30 cubes of space behind the second row. Maximum capacity is 58.6 cubic feet, which is on par with the Nissan Rogue but more than 10 cubes fewer than the RAV4 and CR-V.
When it comes to handling and braking performance, the 2009 Mazda CX-7 lives up to Mazda's "zoom-zoom" slogan. The steering is nicely weighted, and the effort increases in direct proportion to cornering forces. This crossover SUV feels stable in turns and changes direction quickly. The CX-7 rides a bit firmer than most competitors, but that's a livable trade-off for such performance. The engine does suffer from some turbo lag, which, combined with the CX-7's surprising amount of torque, can make the power delivery feel abrupt to those used to cruising around in V6-powered crossovers.