Mazda CX-7

Bosses at Mazda are describing the CX-7 as a ‘sports crossover’, and it’s certainly sleeker than most 4x4 rivals.

  • Sharp handling and decent body control, first-class cabin quality, punchy and refined performance
  • Large transmission tunnel restricts rear legroom, no steering wheel reach adjustment

Bosses at Mazda are describing the CX-7 as a ‘sports crossover’, and it’s certainly sleeker than most 4x4 rivals. There are hints of the maker’s racy RX-8 in the pronounced wheelarches, steeply raked windscreen, narrow lights and prominent grille, and overall the car has an upmarket feel.

That theme continues inside, with cowled instruments which, again, take inspiration from the RX-8. Everything is smart and well built, with ebony trim on the centre console and a three-spoke multifunction steering wheel.

The driving position is comfortable, and the view forward excellent, although a lack of reach adjustment on the column means that tall drivers will find their legs brushing against the dashboard. In the back, legroom is adequate, but there’s less space than in the longer Murano. The transmission tunnel is bigger, too, and this restricts the floor area for the middle seat occupant.

The Mazda’s 455-litre boot is 21 litres behind the Nissan’s, and with the seats in place, the load space is 2mm shorter. But that’s not to say it’s not versatile; as with its rival, a handy one-touch seat folding mechanism makes lowering the rear chairs easy.

If you believe the marketing hype, what really sets the Mazda apart is its driving experience. Once you’re on the move, the 4x4 doesn’t disappoint. It immediately feels much more involving and alive than most SUVs. The ride is firm, but the damping does a good job of absorbing bumps, while excellent body control means the car is solid and sure-footed in corners. The steering offers plenty of feedback, too.

In fact, it’s only the raised view of the road ahead which reminds you that the Mazda isn’t an ordinary saloon. Stability at speed is very reassuring, and there’s no suspension dive under heavy braking. The six-speed manual transmission, meanwhile, is slick and precise. Mazda’s four-wheel-drive system automatically shifts power between the front and rear axles, so traction is never compromised. In normal driving conditions, up to 90 per cent of drive is through the front wheels.

Mazda is keen to stress that the newcomer is not designed for off-road use – there is no low-ratio transfer box or locking differential. As a result, the firm has managed to get around the dynamic compromises that some class competitors have been saddled with in an effort to offer genuine mud-plugging ability.

Performance is also a strong point. The 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine, which is borrowed from the high-performance 6 MPS saloon, generates a surge of acceleration when the turbo kicks in at around 2,500rpm, and the 7.9-second 0-60mph time is a full second ahead of the Nissan’s. However, this performance means economy isn’t a strong point. But with a manual gearbox, lighter kerbweight and a more efficient engine, the CX-7 should have better fuel returns than the Murano.

The Mazda is refined, too. While the unit isn’t as tuneful as the V6 Nissan’s, even at high revs it doesn’t become strained, while both road and engine noise are suppressed at speed.

At £23,960, the CX-7 costs more than £6,000 less than the Murano, and gets heated leather seats, cruise control, parking and rain sensors, xenon lights and climate control all as standard.

In fact, the only option is metallic paint at £375. And Mazda estimates that fewer than 2,000 cars will be sold in the UK annually, so exclusivity is sure to be guaranteed.

Details

  • Price: £23,960
  • Model tested: Mazda CX-7
  • Chart position: 1
  • WHY: All-new CX-7 is being touted as a practical SUV packed with all Mazda’s sports car expertise.

Economy

Our test route didn’t allow enough motorway driving to get a realistic average for the CX-7. Yet the official combined figure of 27.7mpg is 4.7mpg better than the Nissan’s.

Residuals

Predictions for the CX-7 have yet to be released, and with no other SUVs in the range, it’s hard to know how it will fare. Mazda is hoping for similar figures to the RX-8 – it holds 43 per cent.

Servicing

Prices are still being finalised, but we were quoted an estimated £491 for three services on the CX-7 – over £200 less than for the Murano. Both models can run for 9,000 miles between checks.

Tax

Choosing a petrol SUV as a company car is an expensive move. Both models have emissions in the top tax bracket, but the Mazda’s lower price means it will cost higher-band users nearly £1,000 less a year.

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