With acronyms abound for sports utility vehicles (SUVs), and car-based SUVs becoming CUVs, the Mazda CX-7 should be a RUV (rocket utility vehicle.)
The CX-7 is really a sporty car with a long, long roof. The front fenders have sports car-like bulges, the windshield is steeply angled, and that long roofline sweeps gracefully.
It's nimble and agile in traffic. The turbo-charged 2.3L four cylinder kicks out 244 spunky horsepower, which gets the four-door to 60 mph in around the 8 second mark. That's only part of the acceleration story.
The turbocharger kicks in a lot of startup boost so the Mazda feels lively off the line. CX-7 starts to fade a bit, however, when approaching the 60 mph mark.
Curves are taken quickly with a fair amount of understeer (the car wants to go straight) and the line around the curve is held tightly with even a hint of eagerness.
•Engines: 2.3L Turbo I-4
•Dimensions: 108.3" wheelbase; 184" length
•Base price: $26,300; As tested $28,015
•Fuel economy: 17/22 mpg
The driving position is good and there's plenty of legroom – seats are comfortably bolstered and move to a nice height via an eight-way power adjustment. There are bun warmers, too.
Side mirrors are nice and big – a necessity in these CUVs where outside vision is sometimes minimized.
The ride is very firm. It's great for a fan of road surfaces. The CX-7 allows occupants to experience various surface textures, pebbles, paint stripes and gum wrappers.
That same suspension is why there's so little body lean on tough turns. Even better handling comes with the addition of all-wheel drive to this front-wheel driven CX-7.
There are some quirks. The "0" for the start of the speedometer readings is at the bottom of the dial in the 6 o'clock position instead of 7 or 8 o'clock. Thus, 60 mph isn't where it is on most speedometers. And, why is the radio's tuner on the left-hand knob instead of the more usual right knob?
Aside from its few diversions, the six-speed automatic transmission goes through the gears flawlessly. The current gear is repeated in an instrument panel readout and sometimes that's the only way to know what gear the transmission has selected. Manual automatic shifting can be performed as well, but why?
The three-spoke racing style steering wheel is a gem. It's thick enough to hold onto easily and the surface has the right feel – neither too slick nor too sticky.
The tested 2008 CX-7 demonstrated what the new fuel economy refiguring means. The 2007 CX-7 is essentially similar and it got 18 mpg in the city and 24 on the road according to that year. The 2008 version checks in with 17 city and 22 on the road.
Now let's start that engine.