|2010 Mazda CX-7
|2010 Mazda CX-7
i Sport Specs
By Bill Clark
- Easy on the eyes
- Easy to Operate
- Easy on the wallet
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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