CX-7 crosses zoom-zoom with practicality



On the move, the 2008 Mazda CX-7 is a capable runner, its suspension just a hair short of being harsh. The steering has a nice, firm weight to it too.


Thanks to the likes of Mazda’s capable CX-7 crossover, minivans have started falling by the roadside over the past year. In fact, some manufacturers are giving up on the segment completely.

General Motors says it will stop producing minivans next year. Ford has discontinued making minivans to focus on three new crossovers — models with SUV proportions and practicality, but smaller-sized and with the advantages of nimbler handling and better fuel economy.

In that respect, Mazda’s CX-7 is a perfect example of this new crossover breed. It’s bigger than a sedan, not as hefty as a conventional SUV and it handles far more like a car than a truck.

A unibody design, the CX-7 is an eclectic mix of components. For the most part it’s based on the Mazda3 and Mazda5’s architecture, with added parts from Japan’s MPV minivan — and even a few bits from the built-in-Oakville Ford Edge. The highlight is the turbo-touting powertrain from the potent Mazdaspeed6, but more on that later.

In the looks department, the CX-7 answers the question of how the company’s RX-8 sports car would look if it were transformed into an SUV. Trademark styling cues include flared fenders, swept headlights, dual exhausts and clear tail lamps. They’re complemented by a rising beltline that’s set to become a recurring theme in future Mazdas.

Departing from the company’s usual diet of multiple engines and transmissions, the CX-7 offers just one combination — a modified version of the Mazdaspeed6’s turbocharged, 2.3-litre, 4-cylinder engine mated to a 6-speed automatic gearbox with manual control. The result is a 244 hp powerhouse that also delivers good low-end and mid-range performance. Power goes to the front wheels, but all-wheel-drive is available as a $2,000 option, which sends as much as 50 per cent of the engine’s power to the rear wheels on demand.

What all this means on the street is an SUV that ably follows Mazda’s reputation for uncommon performance and handling in uncommon vehicles.

On the move, the CX-7 is a capable runner, its suspension just a hair short of being harsh. The steering has a nice, firm weight to it too.

Inside, drivers will find a handsome dashboard (ranging from simple to luxurious depending on the trim level), a large cargo area and a leather-wrapped wheel and shifter.

Inside, the driver and front passenger face a handsome dashboard, which, depending on the trim level, can range from simple to luxurious.

Standard equipment includes six airbags, a/c, keyless entry and a leather-wrapped wheel and shifter.

The cargo area is quite large. Rear seats split 60/40 but, oddly, they don’t fold fully flat. Though Mazda says it can seat three, the second-row seems more suited to two, though leg room is ample.

The CX-7 comes in base GS ($32,095) and up-level GT ($35,295) trim. The main differences between them are the GT’s added bright trim, xenon headlamps, fog lights, automatic climate control, power sunroof, eight-way power drivers’ seat, leather seating and cargo cover. The sunroof can be added to the GS ($1,000) while the GT can be upgraded with $1,000 Luxury package.

2008 Mazda CX-7 GS

Type:Compact 5-pass. Crossover FWD

Price: $32,095

Engine: 2.3-litre L4 DOHC turbo

Horsepower: 244 @ 5000 rpm

Torque (lb-ft): 259 @ 2500 rpm

Highlights: Sporty character, power delivery, handling, super sleek look, stylish interior.