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2010 Mazda CX-7 Review – the "Easy" Button of the Crossover World

Tuesday February 2nd, 2010 at 2:22 PM
Posted by: bclark

2010 Mazda CX-7
By Bill Clark

Pros:

  • Easy on the eyes
  • Easy to Operate
  • Easy on the wallet

Cons:

  • Forward A-pillar and large side view mirrors create nasty blindspots
  • Tire size/type cripples the handling
  • Useless coat hangers
  • Zoom-zoom completely undetectable

The 2010 Mazda CX-7 looks like a promising package – sharp design, great cargo capacity and it says “Always the Soul of a Sports Car” right there on the window sticker. Sounds like a recipe for success to me.

I have never driven a Mazda before this review so I really didn’t know what to expect, but I was looking forward to experiencing the zoom-zoom. We tested the i Sport model, dressed in Liquid Silver Metallic, and outfitted with a new economical and efficient 2.5L, 161 hp, 4-cylinder engine option. Upon my first entry into the driver’s seat I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to operate; I felt like I’d owned it for years.  Some cars take a concerted effort to figure out. You know the ones in which you have to pull over and study the owner’s manual just to figure out how to operate the HVAC controls. Then there’s the CX-7.  So intuitive, so easy. Maybe it’s the Japanese ergonomics that made it seem so familiar.

2010 Mazda CX-7 CX-7-1006-thumb

Styling
Mazda decided to give their entire vehicle line a dose of styling DNA that they could call their own.  Audi started the visual branding campaign and arguably they have some of the best looking cars on the road. But Audi started with a great looking design and went from there.  Mazda uses a lot of styling cues that started with the RX-8 and those features never sat well with me in the first place.

Mazda took a fairly large vehicle here and made it look not-so-big.  One optical illusion is its massive, radically raked windshield. It definitely adds to the aggressive, sleek look but one of my passengers hit their head on the sloping A-pillar while trying to get up into the front seat – those crossover seats are much higher off the ground than a regular sedan so watch your head as you step up into the high-perched seats.

The CX-7 has to be the happiest looking vehicle I have come across, but that gaping front grille is borderline cheesy. It leans towards über-trendy, maybe even edgy, which means in a decade we’ll be asking, “What were they thinking?” I never liked the lumpy fenders and swoopy, smiley grill of the RX-8 and I certainly don’t like them on the CX-7. But overall I’d have to say the styling is distinctly Mazda.

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics
I took delivery of the CX-7 at night courtesy of the winter solstice and the resulting depressingly-short daylight hours.  This is actually a good test of a car’s ergonomics. Can I operate it in the dark? Seat adjustments – check. Side mirrors and steering wheel adjustments – check. Making myself comfortable and preparing for the drive – mission accomplished.

The HVAC and radio controls are all laid out in a logical fashion and everything was where I expected it to be. The larger knobs/buttons are used for the more commonly used functions such as temperature and fan control.  A tweak of the climate-control knob results in an immediate change to the multi-information display which made the system feel well-connected.

2010 Mazda CX-7 Interior View from backup camera Night Illumination

The double-decker dash is a bit odd looking. The nice part about it is that the Mazda engineers placed both multi-information displays under that first dash deck.  It was nice having the visual feedback at eye-level and a couple feet forward. Your eyes can get the information while barely taking them off the road and with minimal refocusing. One of those displays doubles as a back-up camera display, which I like to see on all cars.

Overall the interior seating legroom seemed decent in front, but quite small in the rear for its class size.  Rear seat passengers were cramped even with the front seat moved forward for my 5’5” frame.  I was never able to get completely comfortable in the seats – they were just not my shape – even with adjustment they just didn’t feel right.

Cargo capacity is great and even better with the rear seats folded down, yielding a grand total of 58.6 cubic feet.  The rear seats fold down from the trunk by pulling what looks like an interior door handle on the side walls. The seatbacks just plop down under spring-pressure – that was really convenient. I experimented with filling the rear cargo area just to see how much this compact crossover SUV can fit. I was able to load my road bike with room to spare.  On another occasion I was able to easily fit two snowboards and luggage with room to spare. Nifty.

Mazda CX-7 driver's seat CX-7 cargo area has 58.6 cubic feet of cargo space Mazda CX-7 - lots of room for my snowboarding gear

Minor quibble: I spent 20 minutes looking for the brightness setting for the left information display screen and the dimmer for the gauges before giving up and consulting the manual. Once I consulted the manual I was able to operate it, but I would have NEVER found it on my own. Normally not a big deal, but when switching on the headlights during the day, the left display screen dimmed out of sight.

Not so minor quibble: That radically-sloped windshield and massive side rear-view mirrors sure make some massive blind spots. It’s really bad.  Be extra observant when making a left from any intersection.

Driving Impressions
This car is very easy to drive.  The power steering is heavily assisted and requires very little effort. The brakes can be operated forcefully with fairly light pedal pressure, yet they still modulate very well.

Within 5 minutes, I noticed the binary seat heaters. I call them binary because they have only two settings – off and HOT.  They are great for knocking the morning chill off quickly, but after 5 minutes they are unbearably hot and must be switched off – unless you like your buns well-done.

2010 Mazda CX-7

Wind-noise is kept at bay, even at highway speeds, but road-noise was ever-present. This could be due to insufficient sound damping on the floorboards, but I think the light-truck tires are not helping here.  I even checked the tire tread for feathering or uneven wear – they were wearing just fine – they’re just loud.

Mazda did a nice job with engine counterbalancing.  The 2.5 liter 4-cylinder engine is very smooth throughout the RPM range. You hardly feel it running.  However, the sounds that the engine makes are not pleasant at all. It sounds like a muted, gas-powered leaf blower when you step on it.

Going down the highway, the suspension seems well-damped and it handles medium-to-large bumps well, but the impact from small bumps is somehow transmitted to the cabin. You’d think that with 70-series tires, this would be well muted, but maybe this is a side-effect of the light-truck tires.

Handling
The CX-7 is pretty well composed when driven conservatively; but its handling is completely numb.  Body-roll feels tamed for gradual sweeping corners and it feels good until the skinny tires give up the ghost. Around sharp, low-speed corners, the car just feels like it rolls over on the front tire. The  P215/70 R17 are on the small side for any meaningful grip and the 70-series tires allow the car to lean considerably in the corners even though small bumps are transmitted through to the cabin.  Those tire widths and compounds don’t provide much ultimate grip for a 3,600 lb vehicle with a high center of gravity. I’m still wondering where that sports-car soul is.

(Continued on page 2)

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11 Responses to 2010 Mazda CX-7 Review – the "Easy" Button of the Crossover World

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  3. Debra says:

    I recently test drove a CX-7 Sport. I experienced the same strong, burning smell mentioned in earlier posts. The salesman told me the smell is the coating on the brakes and will go away once the coating burns off. After reading some of the posts above, I’m not so sure the salesman was being honest with me…..just how long does it take to burn off?????

  4. Mazda Cx7 says:

    I see what your saying about the Mazda Cx7 having big blindspots, but Mazda more than compensates for that. Some of their new technology for detecting if a car is in your blindspot is really amazing. Plus, if that fails, you could always just turn your head a look back to see if anyone’s there.

  5. Mike says:

    I also have 2010 CX-7 2.3 DISI Turbo and I was so angry when I got it from the dealer and I could feel a strong burning smell like oil/rubber/circuit mix! It has just 100km on it and i think the smell is less and less noticeable. I hope it will go away entirely with next 100km. Dealer said I was the first to report such problem.

  6. Stan says:

    I have a 2010 CX-7,, I agree with James. The Road-Noise is way to loud. There are some points when I’ve actually had to check to see if there is an Eighteen Wheeler beside me. I also have the odor issue when running the A/C in recirculation mode, it’s almost like a burnt rubber smell. I smell it on my cloths when I get out. I had the dealer check this when I went for my first oil change. They couldn’t smell it.

  7. James Worthington says:

    Road-Noise is really too high. It gets worst when you turn the stereo on and realize that that noise is still there. It’s a very bad feeling, and I had to take my other cars and drive them on the same high-way/same speed to confirm it. The tires are Bridgestone, made in Japan, and yes, I wonder if a different style/brand would make a difference. Overall, the car is fantastic for the price, though I’m returning it to the dealer, because I can’t stand that noise.

  8. David CY Xiao says:

    I am interested in CX-7 and also did a test drive. Very good feeling of it. However, while I was doing the test drive, a strong smell of circuit burning burning came out. after stop by gas station to pump gas, the sales consultant told me that first drive of new car always gives this kind of burning smell. Is it true? I worry about the potential safety bug.

    • Derek says:

      Coming from a salesperson, the explanation sounds bogus to me. Any smell of something burnt is not a good thing. Sometimes oil is accidentally spilled on hot parts of the engine or exhaust, and that will burn away without any problems.

      I don’t think the smell you detected is indicative of any real problems with the CX-7 in general, but I would have the problem thoroughly inspected on the specific car you test drove. Or just pick another CX-7 from their inventory.

  9. Mike M says:

    I also disagree with most of this review–although I own the 2010 CX-7 Touring model, which has the turbo engine and AWD–so maybe there is a big difference between mine and the i Sport. Mine is a blast to drive. I’ve received many comments from friends on the styling as well. I was looking for a better, bigger but not gigantic vehicle to haul around my kid and I had to trade in an Audi A3 to do it, begrudgingly, so I was pretty picky and did a lot of research. For it’s class, compared to the Ford Edge or the Honda CRV and others, the CX-7, imo, had more style, more punch and a much more reasonable price tag. I highly recommend this car.

  10. John PH says:

    Not sure what this reviewer is talking about. I tested every CUV available and the Mazda stood out like a sore thumb. The others were cheap, boxy and not very memorable. The first time we saw the CX-7 – it was so far above the others in styling and internal quality – that there was no contest.

    I’m not a soccer Mom and have driven very nice sedans in the past. This CUV is certainly one of the nicest vehicles I have driven – especially for the very reasonable price tag.





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