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To assemble this cohesive review covering the entire 2010 Mazda CX-7 line—including the new 2.5-liter models—TheCarConnection.com incorporated its firsthand driving impressions in a Bottom Line, then looked outward to other review sources to include a host of other perspectives and insights.
When the CX-7 was first introduced for 2007, it was one of the only small crossover utility vehicles with more rakish styling and an emphasis on sport-sedan-like road performance. Now for 2010 Mazda has expanded the CX-7 line to include a more economical base engine, spruced up the interior, and worked on making the cabin quieter.
The CX-7 retains its aggressive profile, including a 66-degree windshield incline that’s the steepest for any vehicle of its type. Mazda touches up the CX-7’s front and rear details for 2010—including a larger grille and Mazda logo—but the creased sheetmetal, bulging fenders and wheel wells, and low, sleek hoodline remain mostly unchanged. Inside, the CX-7’s interior continues the feel of part sport sedan, part utility vehicle. The instrument panel has a thin upper shelf that hosts audio and climate-control displays up in the driver’s line of vision. Next to it, there’s a new monochromatic trip computer or color nav screen. Hooded gauges and a new steering wheel design with controls for audio and Bluetooth calling functions complete the performance feel, while subtle new brightwork around the vents adds more visual panache.
The 2010 CX-7 lineup is now split into "i" and "s" models. The "i" models feature a new 161-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, with a five-speed automatic transmission. Standard on "s" models is a 244-horsepower, turbocharged direct-injected 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine. The "i" comes in front-wheel drive only, while the "s" models can be had with either front- or all-wheel drive.
Overall, shoppers will find the 2.5 adequate for most needs, but for those who buy the 2010 Mazda CX-7 with its sporty image in mind, the turbo engine better fits the appearance. During normal driving, the 2.3-liter turbo engine accelerates the CX-7 almost effortlessly; downshifts aren't always necessary as 90 percent of peak torque is achieved from 2,000 rpm all the way up to 5,000 rpm. However, the trade-off is a slightly coarser sound versus the 2.5. Both engines are reasonably fuel-efficient. The base engine returns 20 mpg city, 28 highway; the turbocharged engine has improved fuel economy for 2010—up to 18 mpg city, 25 highway—and it’s been retuned to accept regular gas.
Across the board, the CX-7 isn’t going to disappoint those who enjoy driving, and most will be surprised at how well such a tall vehicle can handle. The CX-7 is hard to fluster, even around tight corners, and although its steering feel isn’t quite as nicely weighted and direct as the Mazda5 (a minivan!), it’s a joy to hustle through the curves.
Limited legroom for backseat passengers and a rather small cargo area (compared to other utility vehicles) are the downsides of an otherwise pleasant and functional interior. Front seats are wide yet quite firm and supportive in the 2010 Mazda CX-7, and the driving position affords a good view ahead (although there’s a substantial blind spot and difficult rear vision when parking). There are several smaller cubbies, and center console compartments have been reconfigured to be more useful. The story is less delightful in back, where there’s barely enough width to fit three across; adults will find plenty of headroom, but the low position leaves knees elevated and a general shortage of legroom. Folding the backseats forward yields 70 inches of flat cargo floor; it’s not very tall, but enough to move a coffee table or love seat.
For 2010, all Mazda CX-7 models get improved sound insulation. New lower-door insulation is included throughout the CX-7 line, while models with the turbocharged engine have additional hood padding and strut-tower insulation to help keep both engine and road noise under wraps. We used to call the CX-7 one of the noisiest vehicles in its class; it’s still not the quietest, but this aspect is no longer a deal-breaker. The CX-7 feels well put-together, and Mazda upgrades seat materials for 2010 and moves to a different plastic for the instrument panel and door panels that’s less likely to attract dust.
Safety features on the 2010 Mazda CX-7 include standard electronic stability control on all models, plus anti-lock brakes, front side airbags, and side-curtain bags covering both rows. The underlying structure is carried over, and the 2009 CX-7 gets top five-star ratings in federal NCAP tests along with mostly "good" results from the IIHS, except for a "marginal" rating in the rear-impact category. TheCarConnection.com plans to update you on ratings for 2010.
The lower-priced 2010 Mazda CX-7 models don't look much different from the turbocharged ones; the base SV and Sport get 17-inch alloy wheels instead of 18- and 19-inch designs, and turbocharged Touring and Grand Touring models pick up other detail extras like turn-signal-integrated mirrors and chrome-finish door handles. Inside, Touring models add leather upholstery, which isn’t available in "i" models. Top Grand Touring trims include automatic climate control, a SmartKey entry system, a moonroof, heated mirrors, the nav system, rain-sensing wipers, and xenon HID headlamps. All models but the base SV come with a Bluetooth hands-free interface—Bluetooth streaming audio is also offered—and for the first time, the top-of-the-line Grand Touring picks up a Blind Spot Monitoring System. Bose Centerpoint audio is optional.