- Competitive price
- Attention-grabbing design
- Zoom-zoom steering and handling
- Backseat riders won't be happy for long trips
- Cargo space lacking when rear seats are up
- Lack of sound damping
The 2009 Mazda CX-7 is a good choice for singles or couples who really want a sport sedan but need a little more versatility.
The mid-size Mazda CX-7 was completely new for 2007, one of a growing segment of performance-flavored utility vehicles. The 2009 Mazda CX-7 stands out from the crowd of carlike crossover SUVs with its steeply raked (66-degree incline) windshield; its curvaceous, aggressively styled exterior; and a sport-tuned drivetrain and suspension.
Powering the 2009 Mazda CX-7 is a standard 2.3-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder direct-injection (DISI) engine developing 244 horsepower, driving through the front wheels or a full-time all-wheel-drive system. It is very similar to the engine used in the now-defunct MazdaSpeed6 sport sedan, and it's intended to provide a similar high-performance driving experience in a vehicle with greater versatility. For 2009, the CX-7 requires the use of premium fuel.
The CX-7's engine doesn't feel refined when you're taking advantage of all its power, and it's not as fuel-efficient as rival vehicles. While the six-speed automatic transmission is standard, it does allow easy manual control of the gears—helpful when driving enthusiastically or on mountain roads. In Drive, we find the transmission to be nicely responsive; however, upshifts can be somewhat harsh. Crisp handling and impressive grip help take advantage of the turbocharged engine's power, and the 2009 Mazda CX-7 corners quite flat, considering its nearly two-ton weight and tall stance. Ride quality is mostly smooth, but larger bumps can be jarring, and coarse road surfaces make the interior uncommonly noisy. Steering feel is nice and tight, and the 2009 CX-7 changes direction quickly and securely.
Inside, the sportscar theme continues; the CX-7's interior is styled more like the cockpit of a sports coupe than an SUV, except for the vast dashboard required by the steeply raked windshield. Front-row accommodation in the 2009 Mazda CX-7 is good; the seats allow plenty of space and hold you in place. The story is not so good farther back; there's no third row, and the second row is smaller than most would expect from a mid-size ute—especially in legroom—and there’s barely space to fit three across. Folding the backseats down allows 70 inches of flat floor space for cargo, although it's not particularly roomy or convenient given the sloping roofline, rakish hatch, and tall loading height. The cargo floor can, however, be flipped over to a washable surface for carrying dirty items. Mazda could learn a thing or two in packaging from its Asian rivals as there are few storage spaces for small items.
Consider the 2009 Mazda CX-7 a jacked-up hatchback with a lot of extra utility, and you'll understand its role. The CX-7 has an oversize center console storage area that can take a laptop computer. The wide console area may interfere with knee room for some taller drivers, though. Overall, ergonomics are quite good.
Three trim levels are available on the 2009 Mazda CX-7: Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring. Air conditioning, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, and cruise control are standard across the line. CX-7 Sports lose their standard power driver's seat this year. Topline Grand Touring models include xenon headlights, heated exterior mirrors, an upgraded gauge cluster, automatic headlights, automatic climate control, and distinct leather upholstery. The options list is extensive, including a touch-screen DVD-based navigation system, a premium Centerpoint surround-sound audio system, remote engine start, a moonroof, and Sirius Satellite Radio. No Bluetooth hands-free interface is available, though, which is a disadvantage, considering more states are mandating hands-free devices for cell phones while driving.
Five-star ratings in frontal and side impact protection from the federal government, along with top "good" ratings from the IIHS in frontal and side impact tests demonstrate Mazda's attention to safety. Safety equipment on the 2009 Mazda CX-7 includes front side airbags, side curtain bags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control—all par for the course in the CX-7's class of vehicles. A well-designed structure, along with these features, brings impressive crash-test results, though a "marginal" rating in the seat-based rear-impact test keeps it from getting top marks across the board.