Mazda takes aim at the high-end SUV market

I’m not sure the Mazda CX-7 knows exactly what it’s supposed to be. It may be pegged as an SUV, but there’s more to it than that.

Mazda seems to have focused rather more on performance and comfort than is usual for a 4x4 SUV. With a turbocharged, 2,3-litre petrol engine (the same one that powers the Mazda3 and Mazda6 MPS vehicles), the CX-7 is almost more “sport” than “utility”.

Almost.

Yes, it’s a biggish car that can seat five adults in relative comfort (provided they’re below the six-foot mark), but the boot isn’t exactly cavernous—it’s a good job that the 60:40 split back seat folds down to create a decent-sized stowage area.
It’s also one of the easiest fold-down mechanisms I’ve used.

However, the six-speed Activematic transmission is more “utility” than “sport”, and I think I’d prefer the six-speed manual gearbox. It’s ironic; we get the petrol-powered automatic gearbox version, and on another continent they get the diesel engine with a manual gearbox. We each want what the other has. Does nobody conduct market studies any more?

This automatic gearbox isn’t quite as smooth as I had expected, but it’s not something that would put me off buying the car.

No, that honour goes to the cost of running the damn thing. Apart from a price tag a bit on the hefty side—you’d get R10 change from R360 000 and you’d have to pay another R1 150 if you want metallic paint—the service intervals are only 10 000km apart.

It’s also a thirsty bugger. I set the information display to tell me how many kilometres I could drive before I ran out of fuel, and watched in dismay as it counted down pretty fast considering the cruise control was maintaining a conservative speed. Today’s petrol prices put a car like this way out of my league.

From a safety perspective, the on-board computer seems to monitor, assess and auto-correct a multitude of sins—be they road conditions or driver error.

DSC (dynamic stability control) and ETC (electronic traction control) help you stick to the road irrespective of slippery surfaces or tight bends, and electronic ABS (anti-lock braking system), EBD (electronic brake-force distribution) and EBA (emergency brake assist) help you stop safely.

If push comes to shove, the CX-7 has dual front, side and curtain airbags, and Isofix child-seat anchorages in the back.

The impact safety performance of the Mazda CX-7 has achieved a five-star rating with the United States New Car Assessment Programme for both the front and sides. It’ll be interesting to see how it fares when it’s rated by the European equivalent, Euro NCAP.

When all’s said and done, what you get for your money is a stylish yet practical crossover car that’s rather fun to drive. It can not only cope with the school run, a camping trip or a long-haul family holiday, but you can also park it in the driveway of the poshest of properties and not feel like a poor relation.

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