- Racy exterior
- Nicely detailed interior
- Steering and handling
- Affordable base model
- Cramped back seat
- Not much cargo space (seats up)
- Bluetooth not available on base SV
If you'd rather not be seen in a minivan and think most crossovers are a snooze to drive, the 2012 Mazda CX-7 is a great alternative.
The Mazda CX-7 was a bit ahead of its time back when it was first introduced, for 2007. At that time, most automakers still felt compelled to include rugged design cues, or some claim of off-road ability in their crossover vehicles, even though everyone knew that they were seldom if ever taken off the pavement. But the Mazda CX-7 has always focused on the pavement--and curvy roads, in particular--offering a little more excitement than most in this class, both behind the wheel and in its design.
A couple of years ago the CX-7 received a mild refresh, as well as a more economical engine choice and more affordable models. But its sporty, rakish appearance continued mostly unchanged. The 2012 Mazda CX-7 continues with a swept-back, high-shouldered look that still appears contemporary, including a steep 66-degree windshield incline. Inside, the CX-7's design is different than other crossovers, with a simple, sporty look, dressed up with just a bit of bright trim.
The 2012 CX-7 is offered in two different models: The 'i' trims get a 161-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and five-speed automatic transmission, while 's' models come with 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, the turbo engine in 's' models is still the better match for the racy look and feel of the CX-7, but most drivers will find the 2.5-liter to be just fine. The turbo engine makes its peak torque starting at 2,000 rpm, so acceleration with the automatic feels strong and almost seamless, but the tradeoff is a slightly coarser sound. Handling on either model is excellent, and it's a joy to drive on backroads even if the steering isn't quite as nicely weighted as the smaller Mazda3 (or even Mazda5 minivan).
Inside, the Mazda CX-7 has a nice, upright driving position, with firm, supportive seats that are good for a wide range of sizes. In back, the CX-7 isn't quite up to the standard of rival models; it's barely wide enough for three adults--which is to be expected--but the low position leaves knees elevated and a general shortage of legroom. If you fold the seatbacks forward you'll find 70 inches of flat cargo floor--good enough for moving small pieces of furniture, but not all that large, due to the rather high cargo floor and downward-sloping roofline.
Safety ratings for the 2012 Mazda CX-7 remain mixed. Even though the CX-7 has all the safety features you'd expect in this class, it gets worrisome 'marginal' ratings in both rear impact (whiplash-related) and roof strength (rollover-related).
Base SV and Sport models are reserved for the 'i' powertrain, but both powertrains can be had in Touring or Grand Touring trims. The Touring models essentially step up to leather upholstery, while Grand Touring models get automatic climate control, a SmartKey entry system, a moonroof, heated mirrors, the nav system, rain-sensing wipers, blind-spot monitoring, and xenon HID headlamps. Bose Centerpoint audio is optional, as well as a touch-screen, voice-activated navigation system. A Bluetooth interface is included on most of the lineup but missing from the base SV.