2009 Mazda CX-7

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The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
November 4, 2008

Buying tip

If you're intrigued by the idea of even more power in the 2009 Mazda CX-7, you might want to hold off for a little while. A Mazdaspeed-tuned version of the CX-7 has been teased for a while and is reportedly on the way to production.

features & specs

AWD 4-Door Grand Touring
AWD 4-Door Sport
AWD 4-Door Touring
16 city / 22 hwy
16 city / 22 hwy
16 city / 22 hwy

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.

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 brought you the best information. The experienced editors at TheCarConnection.com have driven the Mazda CX-7 and imparted their driving insights in this review.

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.

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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.


2009 Mazda CX-7


The 2009 Mazda CX-7 stands out in the crowded crossover category with its athletic design inside and out.

Mazda 2009 CX-7s continue the familiar styling from their 2007 introduction: sporty without compromise.

The 2009 Mazda CX-7 is a mid-size, five-passenger CUV that, according to Edmunds, exhibits "sleek lines and [a] radically sloping front end." Car and Driver thinks the 2009 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. New for 2009 Mazda CX-7s are side turn signals integrated into the exterior mirror housings on the Grand Touring Model and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob on Sport models. Edmunds says the 2009 Mazda "lends some sporty style to the small and midsize crossover SUV segments." They note a newly available Aero Package that includes a front wind splitter and a color-keyed rear roof spoiler.

As Edmunds notes, "the radical styling carries inside, where an edgy yet functional cabin design greets drivers." Pods that contain the speedometer, tachometer, and various gauges dominate the instrument panel. At night, they glow red, which some testers at ConsumerGuide dislike, explaining that they "are divided on whether they're easy to read." They do agree that the "standard steering-wheel audio switches are a plus because the main array takes time to learn." With its steep angle, this 2009 Mazda's windshield creates a large dashboard surface. Perhaps to break up the 2009 CX-7s expansive dash, "a dashtop display puts audio and climate readouts away from controls," concludes ConsumerGuide. Cars.com reports, "Mazda instead focuses on forming the plastics and interior design into a ‘sporty’ look rather than an elegant one."

There are some quibbles about the design of the interior plastics in the Mazda; 2009 finds "cabin decor matches CX-7 pricing, but it's let down by a few budget-grade plastics and unconvincing silver paint that passes for metal accents," says ConsumerGuide, while Edmunds notes that "the steering wheel and instrument cluster look like they're straight from the RX-8."

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2009 Mazda CX-7


The 2009 Mazda CX-7's engine and transmission could use refinement, and you might have to fill up more often, but at speed, it's an enjoyable drive.

Available in front- or all-wheel drive, the 2009 Mazda CX-7 is one of three crossovers in the Mazda 2009 lineup. While it provides fairly good performance, the CX-7's weight and shape limit its potential, reflected in its acceleration, fuel efficiency, and utility.

ConsumerGuide tests a 2009 Mazda CX-7 AWD Grand Touring and "[it] did 0-60 mph in 8.5 seconds." The 2009 Mazda "comes with a turbocharged four-cylinder only...good for 244 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque," reports Edmunds; and it puts the CX-7's acceleration "near the top of the class." Turbo lag (the time between pressing the accelerator and the turbo spinning up to fully power the engine) is present in the Mazda; 2009 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 2009 Mazda is "peppy once rolling." Car and Driver is less impressed: "Left in automatic mode, acceleration is uneven as the power trails off well before an upshift, and the CX-7 bucks and bobs its way to 60 mph a half-second slower." Edmunds tests a CX-7 and notes the 2009 Mazda CX-7s "acceleration is brisk, with a 0-60 time better than just about any rival." They note, however, "some may also find the engine's power delivery to be less smooth than that of a V-6."

Mated to the CX-7's engine is the only available transmission: a six-speed automatic. In reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, various testers experienced issues with the 2009 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)." ConsumerGuide finds that "manually shifting the transmission partly offsets the lazy throttle response."

"The CX-7 is something of a gas guzzler, particularly on the highway," says Edmunds. According to fueleconomy.gov, the EPA mileage ratings for the front-wheel-drive version of the 2009 Mazda CX-7 are 17 mpg in the city, 23 mpg highway, and 1 mpg lower for the AWD model. In ConsumerGuide testing, "AWD models averaged a disappointing 14.3-14.5 mpg in mostly city driving." There is some bad news for those watching their fuel budget (and these days, who isn't?); according to ConsumerGuide, 2009 Mazda CX-7s "require premium-grade gas."

In normal driving situations, the AWD system routes 100 percent of the engine's power to the front wheels. If there is a loss of traction, up to 50 percent of engine power is automatically and quickly applied to the rear wheels. Mazda 2009 CX-7s are limited to 2,000 pounds of towing capacity. Handling and steering on this 2009 Mazda live up to its sporting pretensions. Edmunds notes that the 2009 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." While ConsumerGuide thinks that the CX-7 "trades some ride comfort for handling," they describe it as "agile for an SUV of this size and weight." ConsumerGuide remarks that the 2009 CX-7s "standard antiskid control is laudable, though it activated on one test CX-7 even in fairly low-effort cornering," and Edmunds calls it is an "enjoyable drive," even though it "rides a bit firmer than most." ConsumerGuide feels that the CX-7's ride is "firmer than some might prefer" and points out that "sharp bumps can pound through." And "impressive" is how Edmunds characterizes braking performance—"fade-free stops from 60 mph of 113 feet," they report.

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2009 Mazda CX-7

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Mazda CX-7 offers average comfort with below-average finish.

This 2009 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 react positively to the Mazda CX-7’s front passenger space and comfort but not so much to the second row, which is too tight for long trips. Edmunds relates: "Previously not as roomy as the Mazda, this year's Forester slightly edges out the CX-7 when it comes to legroom and cargo capacity." 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 2009 Mazda CX-7, they note, as the "high-ride stance makes step-in a bit steep" and "disappointingly [the steering wheel] is not telescopic." But, Car and Driver states, "It's far easier to get a bike inside the CX-7 than in an Escalade." One bright spot is that 2009 Mazda CX-7 Sports are now available with dual heated front seats with power driver seat, as well as a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

The CX-7 has "below-average interior utility," according to Edmunds, of the reasons for buying a crossover is cargo capability, and yet, according to them, the 2009 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. Worse, as ConsumerGuide notes, "total space is small by class standards. Loading is hampered by a high deck." While the center console bin is laptop-sized, there is a dearth of smaller storage spaces in the 2009 CX-7s cabin.

The top-line Grand Touring has distinctive leather from lower models. Quality of materials and assembly are mostly good in this Mazda; 2009 CX-7s in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com variously exhibit solid 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."

ConsumerGuide notes that "engine and wind noise [in the 2009 Mazda CX-7] are more than acceptable." One model they tested "suffered from a dashboard rattle when going over rippled pavement."

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2009 Mazda CX-7


Outward visibility is something to note on the test drive; otherwise, the 2009 Mazda CX-7 is one of the safest crossovers.

With high ratings for impact protection from both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the 2009 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 2009 Mazda might not fare as well, though, as the IIHS gives the 2008 CX-7 a "marginal" rating for rear crash protection.

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. Standard safety features are key selling points for many automakers, including Mazda. 2009 CX-7s come with "all-disc antilock brakes, an electronic stability system and traction control, all standard," reports Cars.com.

In reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, there are some issues with the 2009 Mazda CX-7's blind spots. Cars.com reports, "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 2009 Mazda CX-7's narrow side windows, commenting that the "reduction in glass means reduction in visibility." However, other reviewers disagree; in the CX-7 Mazda 2009, according to ConsumerGuide, "visibility is quite good all around." Regardless, if you opt for the Grand Touring model, standard turn signal indicators in the side mirrors (new for 2009) will help alert other drivers as to your intentions.


2009 Mazda CX-7


Although it keeps a low sticker price, the base 2009 Mazda CX-7 (Sport) isn’t as well equipped as last year's model, and you’ll probably want to browse the options list.

With three trim levels, all available with either front- or all-wheel drive, and a lengthy standard equipment list, the 2009 Mazda CX-7 is competitive in its class.

On this 2009 Mazda, all trims feature a sporty-three spoke steering wheel and a cabin air filter. Sport is the Mazda 2009's base trim and starts off, according to Edmunds, with "18-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, full power accessories, cruise control, a six-way manual adjustment driver's seat, and a CD player with MP3 capability and an auxiliary audio jack." 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," notes ConsumerGuide.

In addition to the above, states ConsumerGuide, standard on the 2009 Mazda CX-7 Sport trim are "cruise control, remote keyless entry, variable wipers (front and rear), rear defogger, floor mats, 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."

For the 2009 Mazda CX-7, a package called 1MC including a sunroof and Bose stereo is available; the Technology package adds a voice-controlled touch-screen navigation system, keyless ignition, and a rear park-assist system with a rearview camera, according to Edmunds, who note that "the Sport trim can be upgraded with a power seat option that adds power and heated front seats." Also optional, according to ConsumerGuide, are "remote engine start, an automatic day/night rearview mirror, and a Class II tow-hitch receiver." ConsumerGuide notes that Sport models can only be equipped with a hitch with the power/heated seat package.

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