By KBB.com Editors
With full-size SUVs falling from public favor, manufacturers are pinning their hopes on crossovers. These crossovers combine the ride and handling of a car with the high seating position and spacious cargo hold of a large SUV, but without the larger vehicle's penalties for fuel economy and maneuverability. One such vehicle is the 2009 Mazda CX-7, a sleek, five-passenger SUV with the heart of a sports car. Designed to evoke the same sporty image as Mazda's flagship performance coupe, the RX-8, the CX-7 may be the sportiest crossover you can buy for around $25,000. Although the CX-7's turbocharged four-cylinder engine may be a radical departure for those accustomed to a big V8, we think consumers will quickly warm up to its powerful performance and reasonable fuel consumption.You'll Like This Car If...
If you're the type who prefers a sport coupe to a station wagon, but the realities of family life mean you need interior space and versatility, the 2009 Mazda CX-7's roomy rear seat, optional all-wheel-drive and seductive good looks present a workable compromise.You May Not Like This Car If...
Those who require seating for seven or the ability to tow more than 2000 pounds won't be enthusiastic about the CX-7. Drivers accustomed to a permanently-engaged four-wheel-drive system may not warm to the CX-7's Active Torque Split all-wheel-drive system that engages only when the front tires slip.What's New for 2009
For 2009, all trims add an auxiliary input jack. The Grand Touring trims receive an auto-dimming rearview mirror and integrated side mirror turn signals, while heated seats with a power driver's seat are made available on the Sport trim.Driving It Driving Impressions
While Mazda's "zoom-zoom" driving experience may be easily blended into a small sports car, doing so with a five-passenger crossover SUV is quite another story. Fortunately, this one has a happy ending as the CX-7 excels in the areas of handling, braking, acceleration and overall ride comfort. The all-aluminum 2.3-liter turbocharged engine is powerful enough to move the CX-7 with ease, delivering 90 percent of its power in the 2000-2500 rpm range. More importantly, the engine's lightweight construction places less weight over the front wheels, helping improve steering response and maneuverability as well as creating a more evenly balanced chassis. From behind the wheel, the CX-7 feels more like the Mazda6 than it does a crossover SUV, displaying level cornering, immediate turn-in response and excellent straight-line stability.Favorite Features
Folding Rear Seats
The CX-7's 60/40-split folding rear seats can be lowered via a spring-loaded release located at the rear of the cargo hold. The seatbacks are designed to fold flat without needing to remove the adjustable headrests.
Advanced Keyless Entry and Start System
With the card-shaped remote securely in one's pocket or purse, the CX-7's doors can be unlocked simply by approaching the vehicle.
Mazda is known for its high-quality interiors and the 2009 CX-7 is no exception. A tasteful blend of textured black plastic and chrome surrounds make up the instrument cluster and center console, while the optional beige leather seating creates a striking contrast. The broad dashboard features a hooded crease that parallels the base of the windshield, beneath which resides a glowing orange display for the audio and heating readouts. A sporty three-spoke steering wheel borrowed from the MX-5 roadster is an unexpected treat, and the comfortable front bucket seats offer excellent support for spirited driving. An easy-to-reach lever located in the cargo area activates the spring-loaded rear-seat backs, allowing them to be folded flat without having to make a long and awkward reach.Exterior
The 2009 Mazda CX-7 is not your father's chunky SUV. With a windshield fixed at a sleek 66-degree angle, front wheels pushed far forward and an RX-8-inspired hood and front fenders, the CX-7 looks almost as though it was built to race rather than commute. Strong character lines sweep from the front A-pillars to the familiar Mazda five-point grille, while bulging wheel flairs combined with a gently rising beltline help accentuate the CX-7's sports car-like nature. Subtle touches, such as the blacked-out lower air intake, chrome door handles and large round dual exhaust tailpipes further separate the CX-7 from more traditionally-styled crossovers. Bolstering the CX-7's "zoom-zoom" attitude are handsome 18-inch wheels, which Mazda includes as standard equipment on all three trim levels.Notable Standard Equipment
The 2009 Mazda CX-7 comes in three trim levels, each fitted with the same 2.3-liter, turbocharged engine and six-speed Sport automatic transmission with manual shift mode. Base models include manual air-conditioning, power windows, power door locks, 18-inch wheels, front side-impact and front and rear head-curtain airbags, cruise control, AM/FM stereo with single MP3-compatible CD player and auxiliary audio input jack, anti-lock brakes, traction control and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC). The Touring model gains leather seating, a power adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats and a retractable cargo cover. The Grand Touring adds high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps, automatic climate control, body-colored mirrors, chrome door handles and fog lamps.Notable Optional Equipment
Most options are bundled into groups, such as the Technology Package that adds DVD-based navigation, a rear backup camera, a Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound System with nine speakers and a six-disc CD/MP3 changer, a power moonroof and Mazda's Advanced Keyless Entry and Start. A less expensive Sun and Sound package includes just the moonroof and Bose audio system. Stand-alone options include a power driver's seat, heated seats, fog lamps, six-disc CD/MP3 changer, remote engine start, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and a retractable cargo cover.Under the Hood
The 2009 Mazda CX-7 is powered by a 244-horsepower, 2.3-liter intercooled and turbocharged Direct Injection Spark Ignition (DISI) engine. Though similar in design to the engine used in the MAZDASPEED3, the CX-7's uses a different turbocharger with a smaller turbine inlet. This design permits more power to be produced at a lower rpm, creating a more linear acceleration curve comparable to one produced by a larger, normally-aspirated V6. In fact, the CX-7's 2.3-liter powerplant displays none of the characteristics inherent with turbocharging, showing no noticeable rush of power as the turbo builds boost with essentially imperceptible turbo lag. Assisting the smooth transfer of power is a six-speed Sport automatic transmission featuring a manual shift mode for a more spirited driving experience.
2.3-liter in-line 4 Turbocharged
244 horsepower @ 5000 rpm
258 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/23 (FWD), 16/22 (AWD)
The front-wheel-drive CX-7 Sport's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts around $24,500, while the all-wheel-drive model bumps the price just over $26,000. The Touring models range from about $26,500 to $28,000 and a fully-loaded Grand Touring all-wheel-drive model tops out around $36,000. A look at the Fair Purchase Price shows real-world transaction prices paid for the CX-7 in your area. The CX-7 is expected to retain a strong resale value that is far better than most larger SUVs in this segment, on par with such rivals as the Ford Edge but well below the Honda CR-V.