2008 Mazda CX-7 Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
July 5, 2008

The 2008 Mazda CX-7 is a good choice for single folks or couples who might not prioritize backseat or cargo space but want sport-sedan performance with a lot more utility.

As the automotive experts at TheCarConnection.com put together this all-encompassing review of the Mazda CX-7, they included a host of different review sources and bring you the best information. The experienced editors at TheCarConnection.com have driven the Mazda CX-7 and also bring their driving insights to this review.

The 2008 Mazda CX-7 is Mazda's five-passenger, mid-size crossover vehicle. The CX-7 was all-new for 2007 and is defined by a steeply raked (66-degree incline) front glass; a curvaceous, aggressively styled exterior; and a sport-tuned drivetrain and suspension.

Power matches the outward image that the 2008 Mazda CX-7 projects; it comes with 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 and more room. For 2008, the CX-7 no longer requires the use of premium fuel, though it is still recommended.

The CX-7's engine can be coarse when you're taking advantage of all its power, and it's not as smooth as rival vehicles' engines. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, but it allows easy manual control of the gears--helpful when driving enthusiastically or on mountain roads. In Drive, the transmission is very responsive, but upshifts can be somewhat harsh. Crisp handling and impressive grip help take advantage of the turbocharged engine's power, and the 2008 Mazda CX-7 corners quite flat, considering it's a rather tall crossover utility vehicle weighing nearly 4,000 pounds. Ride quality is mostly smooth, but larger bumps can be jarring, and coarse road surfaces make the interior uncommonly noisy.

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Inside, the CX-7's interior is styled more like the cockpit of a sports coupe than an SUV. Good front seats allow plenty of space and hold you in place, but behind them, the 2008 Mazda CX-7 has a disappointing expanse. There's no third row, but the second row is smaller than most would expect from a mid-size ute--especially in legroom. Fold down the backseats and there's 70 inches of flat floor space for cargo, although the sloping roofline, rakish hatch, and tall loading height don't make the cargo area tremendously roomy or convenient. The cargo floor can be flipped over to a washable surface for carrying dirty items.

Think of the 2008 Mazda CX-7 as a coupe with a lot of extra utility, and that's closer to the mark. The CX-7 has plenty of storage places in front, including 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.

Three trim levels are available on the 2008 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. Top Grand Touring models include xenon headlamps, fog lamps, heated leather seats, automatic climate control, and electroluminescent gauges. 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.

Safety equipment on the 2008 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, has brought impressive crash-test results, with top 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, though a Marginal rating in the seat-based rear-impact test kept it from getting top marks across the board.

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2008 Mazda CX-7

Styling

With its athletic design inside and out, the 2008 Mazda CX-7 has the looks and style of a true crossover vehicle.

For this Mazda, 2008 CX-7s carry over the same styling from their 2007 introduction: sporty without compromise.

The 2008 Mazda CX-7 is a mid-size, five-passenger CUV that, according to Edmunds, exhibits "edgy, almost sexy styling." Cars.com calls the 2008 Mazda "one of the best-looking crossovers" with "a bold design statement all around." They describe further "a menacing face and blacked-out grille, all pulled together by a very, very large Mazda emblem" and "exaggerated fenders" that remind them of Mazda's RX-8 sportscar. Car and Driver thinks the 2008 Mazda CX-7 is "the best interpretation of the term crossover [they've] seen yet," and it "appeals to people who want something that looks sporty." Sport trims receive 18-inch alloy wheels, according to various reviews read by TheCarConnection.com.

The 2008 Mazda CX-7's sportiness is not skin deep; the interior is a handsome place to work, too. Edmunds writes "the CX-7's radical styling carries inside, where an edgy yet functional cabin design greets drivers." Three pods that contain the speedometer, tachometer, and various gauges dominate the instrument panel. At night, they glow red, which some testers at ConsumerGuide "dislike" and "are divided on whether they're easy to read." They do agree that the gauges are "stylish." With its steep angle, this 2008 Mazda's windshield creates a large dashboard surface. Mazda somewhat mitigates this with what Kelley Blue Book describes as "a hooded crease" that houses "a glowing orange display for the audio and heating readouts."

Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com have little to fault about the design of the interior plastics in the Mazda. 2008 finds "Mazda...focuses on forming the plastics...into a 'sporty' look rather than an elegant one," says Cars.com, while Kelley Blue Book calls "tasteful" the blend of textured black plastic and chrome surrounds of the instrument cluster and center console of the 2008 Mazda.

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2008 Mazda CX-7

Performance

The 2008 Mazda CX-7 won't win stoplight races, but at speed on the road, it’s an enjoyable drive.

Available in front- or all-wheel drive, the 2008 Mazda CX-7 is the only turbocharged crossover in the Mazda 2008 lineup. While it provides fairly good performance, the CX-7's weight limits its potential, which is reflected in its acceleration, fuel efficiency, and handling.

The 2008 Mazda "comes with a turbocharged four-cylinder only...good for 244 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque," according to Edmunds; it puts the CX-7's acceleration "near the top of the class." ConsumerGuide tested a 2008 Mazda CX-7 AWD Grand Touring and finds "[it] did 0-60 mph in 8.5 seconds." Edmunds tested a front-wheel-drive CX-7 and noted the 2008 Mazda CX-7 is "relatively brisk, with zero to sixty taking just 7.7 seconds."

Turbo lag (the time between pressing the accelerator and the turbo spinning up to fully power the engine) is present in the Mazda; 2008 CX-7s, according to ConsumerGuide, "[exhibit] turbo lag [that] is noticeable away from a stop and during around-town passing maneuvers." They add, though, that the 2008 Mazda is "peppy once rolling." Not fond of the engine, Car and Driver remarks, "We quickly grew annoyed with the turbocharged engine, calling it 'thrashy,' 'coarse,' and 'gutless.'"

Mated to the CX-7's engine is the only available transmission: a six-speed automatic. ConsumerGuide finds that "manually shifting the transmission partly offsets the lazy throttle response." In reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, various testers experienced issues with the 2008 Mazda CX-7's transmission behavior. Cars.com's reviewer reports, "When cruising, the transmission would pop down out of sixth gear far too soon, even when I didn't want to pass or accelerate." Car and Driver had an opposite problem in that the transmission "was stingy with downshifts" and "upshifted before we thought necessary (to improve fuel economy, no doubt)."

Most four-cylinder engines return relatively good fuel economy. However, because the 2008 CX-7 is turbocharged and weighs nearly two tons, its fuel economy is "about equal to its V6-powered competitors," says Edmunds. According to fueleconomy.gov, the EPA mileage ratings for the 2008 Mazda CX-7 2WD are 17 mpg city/23 mpg highway; for the AWD model, 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway. In ConsumerGuide testing, "AWD models averaged a disappointing 14.3-14.5 mpg in mostly city driving." There is some good news for those watching their fuel budget (and these days, who isn't?); for the 2008 Mazda CX-7, according to Cars.com, Mazda has "modified the engine to allow it to run on regular gasoline instead of premium without changing performance numbers."

Braking performance is a strong suit of this Mazda. 2008 CX-7s exhibit "fade-free stops from 60 mph of 113 feet," reports Edmunds. "Impressive" is how ConsumerGuide describes it.

Handling and steering on this 2008 Mazda live up to its sporting pretensions. While ConsumerGuide notes the CX-7 "trades some ride comfort for handling," they write it is "agile for an SUV of this size and weight." Edmunds notes the 2008 CX-7 "lives up to the 'soul of a sports car' hype" as its "steering is nicely weighted," and it "feels very stable in turns and changes direction quickly." Car and Driver feels the 2008 CX-7 has "affable road manners," and Edmunds calls it is an "enjoyable drive," even though it "rides a bit firmer than most." ConsumerGuide concurs that the CX-7's ride is "firmer than some might prefer" and points out that "sharp bumps can pound through."

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2008 Mazda CX-7

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Mazda CX-7 seems to have an identity crisis; it purports to be a utility vehicle, but its sporty design compromises rear passenger comfort and cargo capacity.

This 2008 Mazda is best suited for couples who occasionally transport guests or cargo; as a family hauler, its limited legroom and headroom won't win many fans.

Most reviews read by TheCarConnection.com like the Mazda CX-7's front passenger space and comfort but feel the second row is too tight for adults. After a long road trip, Car and Driver finds "everyone appreciated the Mazda's comfortable front seats," but "space in the fixed second row was often tight, particularly for riders over six feet [tall]." Thankfully, for backseat riders of this Mazda, 2008 CX-7s have a wide body that "provides plenty of hiproom...for those times when all five seats need to be occupied," says Edmunds. Not only is legroom tight in back due to the swooping styling, headroom suffers as well. ConsumerGuide warns "taller folks might want more head clearance." Even shorter folks may take issue with the 2008 Mazda CX-7, they note, as the "high-ride stance makes step-in a bit steep" and "disappointingly [the steering wheel] is not telescopic."

One of the reasons for buying a crossover is cargo capability, and yet, according to Edmunds, the 2008 Mazda CX-7's luggage capacity "trails most of its competitors...with more than 10 cubic feet less capacity than the RAV4 and CR-V" at 58.6 cubic feet maximum. Cars.com likes the little touches such as the carpeted cargo floor that can be "flipped over to reveal a hard plastic one instead" and the folding rear seats that "provide a nearly flat load floor when down." Car and Driver states, "It's far easier to get a bike inside the CX-7 than in an Escalade."

Quality of materials and assembly are mostly good in this Mazda; 2008 CX-7s in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com variously exhibited good build quality but poor finishing details. For example, Edmunds calls build quality "very good [with] spot-on ergonomics," but ConsumerGuide is "let down by a few budget-grade plastics and unconvincing silver paint that passes for metal accents" and notes further, "One model tested suffered from a dashboard rattle when going over rippled pavement."

Noise-wise in the 2008 Mazda, Consumer Guide notes that "engine and wind noise are modest in routine cruising," and most of it comes from "coarse-surface tire hum."

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2008 Mazda CX-7

Safety

In an impact, the 2008 Mazda CX-7 is one of the safest crossovers on the market, but its blind spots may put you in harm's way.

With high ratings for impact protection from both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the 2008 Mazda CX-7 is a very safe vehicle for front seat occupants. The NHTSA gives it five stars for crash protection and four for rollover protection. Rear seat occupants in this 2008 Mazda might not fare as well, though, as the IIHS gives it a “marginal” rating for rear crash protection.

Standard safety features are key selling points for many automakers, including Mazda. 2008 CX-7s come with "all-disc antilock brakes, an electronic stability system and traction control, all standard," reports Cars.com. On all trim levels of the 2008 Mazda CX-7, "front side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags come standard," says Edmunds. Also standard are brake assist and a tire pressure monitor.

In reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, there were some issues with the 2008 Mazda CX-7's blind spots that are important to note here in detail, in the interest of safety. Cars.com writes, "Time and time again, over 400 miles of driving, the blind spots forced double- and triple- checks of all the mirrors and a cautionary turn of the head over the shoulder...My wife remarked on how much worse the blind spots were than those in her 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee." The reviewer attributes the "enormous blind spots" to the 2008 Mazda CX-7's narrow side windows, writing that the "reduction in glass means reduction in visibility." However, other reviewers disagree; the CX-7 Mazda 2008, according to ConsumerGuide, has "good all around visibility."

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2008 Mazda CX-7

Features

The base 2008 Mazda CX-7 has plenty of standard features and some high-tech options.

With three trim levels, all available with either front- or all-wheel drive, and a lengthy standard equipment list, the 2008 Mazda CX-7 will meet most buyers' wants and needs.

The Mazda 2008's base trim is called Sport and starts off, according to Edmunds, with "18-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a six-way power driver seat, cruise control, and a CD player." The midlevel Touring trim "adds leather, an eight-way power driver seat and front seat heaters." The top-of-the-line Grand Touring trim "features xenon headlights, heated exterior mirrors, an upgraded gauge cluster, automatic headlights, automatic climate control and distinct leather upholstery." On this 2008 Mazda, all trims feature "a sporty-three spoke steering wheel and a cabin air filter."

ConsumerGuide lists as standard on the 2008 Mazda CX-7 Sport trim in addition to the above: "cruise control, remote keyless entry, variable wipers (front and rear), rear defogger, floormats, theft-deterrent system, rear privacy glass, and a rear spoiler." Touring models also feature "driver seat lumbar support, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a cargo cover." In addition, Grand Touring models are equipped with "an outside temperature indicator and automatic headlights."

Many options exist for the 2008 Mazda CX-7, including "a sunroof and Bose stereo system grouped as a separate package or included in the Technology package which also features a navigation system, keyless ignition and a rear park-assist system with a rearview camera," according to Edmunds, who notes that a popular preferred package on this 2008 Mazda "consists of a cargo net, cargo tray, retracting cargo cover and a rear-bumper step plate." Also optional, according to ConsumerGuide, are "remote engine start, an automatic day/night rearview mirror, and a Class II tow-hitch receiver." Mazda 2008 CX-7s are limited to 2,000 pounds of towing capacity.

Sirius Satellite Radio with a complementary six-month subscription is optional, says Car and Driver, who finds it surprising that their 2008 Mazda CX-7 AWD Touring "didn't display outside temperature or fuel economy." Had they opted for the 2008 Mazda Grand Touring-trimmed CX-7, the temperature display would have been standard.

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Styling 9
Performance 8
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Features 9
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