What's New for 2012
The 2012 Mazda CX-7 is unchanged.
In case you hadn't noticed, the small crossover SUV segment is wildly popular. By our count, there are close to 30 new vehicles available in this class. This makes for fierce competition, which is why the Mazda CX-7, introduced five model years ago, is increasingly outclassed in most respects.
The 2012 Mazda CX-7 continues to have some nice attributes. It's still pretty sporty looking and there's substance behind that sheet metal, as the CX-7 drives quite well. Steering and handling are exceptionally good, and its track test numbers still hold up to those of more recently introduced compact SUVs. Mazda has a reputation for building vehicles with this dynamic edge. Despite its road-holding prowess, the ride is quite good as well: controlled but never nervous and by no means numb or vague. It manages to find that fine line between sport and comfort often missed by others.
Where the CX-7 finds itself out of date is under the hood. The base engine is comparatively underpowered by today's standards, and the CX-7 itself is a little heavy, too. A CX-7 with front-wheel drive weighs about the same as a Honda CR-V with all-wheel drive. For these reasons, it's slow and not particularly fuel-efficient. Upgrading to the far more powerful turbocharged engine leaves the four-cylinder competition in the dust and provides the CX-7 with the same acceleration as a V6. However, this comes at the expense of even worse fuel economy -- the worst in its class, in fact.
Then there's the 2012 Mazda CX-7's interior which, while quite attractive, is starting to feel a little down-market. The materials used don't really impress, the features certainly need updating and the CX-7 lacks any of the newer SUV's more creative and accommodating seating solutions for the second row. Sure, there's a navigation system available, but it has an unusually small screen and quirky interface. You can make calls and stream music from your smartphone through Bluetooth, but there's no factory-installed USB port.
Considering all this, we think most small crossover SUV shoppers will do better with one of the newer choices available. Vehicles like the Kia Sportage and Volkswagen Tiguan are also fun to drive yet more efficient, while models like the Chevrolet Equinox and Subaru Forester are more versatile and practical. It's worth noting, however, that Mazda will be replacing the CX-7 with the all-new 2013 CX-5, a crossover that keeps much of the 7's personality but with a fully modern design. Along with other top crossovers, the CX-5 is one you'll want to check out.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Mazda CX-7 is a five-passenger compact crossover SUV. There are two engines available: a base four-cylinder indicated with an "i" and a turbocharged four-cylinder designated as an "s." Each is available in different trim levels.
The base i SV comes equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, keyless entry, full power accessories, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and auxiliary audio jack. The i Sport adds privacy glass, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and Bluetooth (with audio streaming).
The i Sport's Convenience package adds a sunroof, automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat with manual lumbar adjustment, heated front seats, a color trip computer and a rearview camera. The i Touring includes all Convenience package items plus leather upholstery and a nine-speaker Bose sound system with a six-CD changer and satellite radio.
In addition to its turbocharged engine, the s Touring gains the i Sport's equipment plus 18-inch wheels, leather upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat with manual lumbar adjustment, heated front seats and a cargo cover. The Touring Technology package adds the rest of the i Touring's extra equipment. The s Grand Touring includes all previously mentioned items but adds 19-inch wheels, automatic xenon headlights, foglamps, heated mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic rain-sensing wipers, keyless ignition/entry, a compact navigation system, a blind-spot warning system, driver seat memory functions, a four-way power passenger seat and upgraded gauges.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Mazda CX-7 i models are powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 161 horsepower and 161 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive and a five-speed automatic are standard. In Edmunds testing, this engine took the CX-7 from zero to 60 mph in 9.8 seconds -- slow, but not much worse than the class average. EPA estimated fuel economy is 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined.
The CX-7 s gets a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder that produces 244 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic and front-wheel drive are standard, and all-wheel drive is optional. In our tests, an all-wheel-drive CX-7 s accelerated from zero to 60 in 7.7 seconds -- a swift time for the class. EPA-estimated fuel economy is poor at 18/24/20 with front-wheel drive and 17/21/19 with AWD.
Every 2012 Mazda CX-7 comes standard with traction and stability control, antilock brakes, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. In Edmunds brake testing, a CX-7 i Sport came to a stop from 60 mph in 131 feet -- a bit longer than average. In contrast, the CX-7 s Grand Touring stopped in an excellent 113 feet. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the CX-7 its highest rating of "Good" for both frontal-offset and side-impact crashworthiness, but the second-worst "Marginal" in the roof strength test.
Interior Design and Special Features
The CX-7's athletic styling carries over to the interior of the cabin, where the edgy yet functional design provides a more visually interesting environment than one might expect from a crossover SUV. A sporty three-spoke steering wheel with audio controls 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 radio controls a bit complicated compared to other vehicles. Hard plastic surfaces are evident, but the attractive graining makes them less objectionable. The available navigation system is less expensive than those in most other cars, but the small display makes certain information hard to see.
Ample hiproom and headroom keep CX-7 passengers comfortable, even with all five seats occupied. However, rear legroom doesn't measure up to that of chief competitors, notably the Equinox. There are about 30 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second-row seat, while maximum capacity stands at about 59 cubes. The latter number is more than 10 cubes fewer than in models like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, but on par with crossovers like the Hyundai Tucson and Sportage.
When it comes to handling and braking performance, the 2012 Mazda CX-7 lives up to Mazda's sporty reputation. 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 performance of the base engine is merely adequate, with acceleration that's on the slow side even in a class of pokey performers. The turbocharged engine is much more spirited, but to those used to cruising around in crossovers with V6 engines, the CX-7's combination of turbo lag and the transmission calibration sometimes makes the power delivery feel somewhat abrupt. Fuel economy is also pretty poor.