David Morley June 23, 2012
Mazda CX-7 price guide.
A sporty alternative, but be prepared for petrol pump pain.
The all-new and eagerly anticipated Mazda CX-5 is now a reality and is already going gangbusters in a marketplace that can’t get enough compact soft-roaders at the moment.
Mazda has poured lots of time and money into its SkyActiv technologies, which aim (among other things) to make the CX-5 a much more efficient and frugal vehicle than the Mazda SUVs that went before it.
The CX-9, for instance, was a big, bold people-mover but one that drank petrol like there was no tomorrow.
The CX-7 was better but not by a whole lot in some circumstances. Yet the CX-7 is the closest thing to a direct predecessor to the new CX-5 so, inevitably, the earlier model will be added to a few used-car shortlists as people who can’t afford to buy a new CX-5 go shopping.
The CX-7 really falls into two categories, with an upgrade in 2009 drawing the line in the sand between the first- and second-generation vehicle.
The first version of the CX-7 landed in 2006 and was available with just one mechanical format.
That amounted to a bitumen-biased all-wheel-drive platform with a turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission.
The engine was a detuned version of the one found in the high-performance Mazda6 variant, the MPS and, thanks to that retuning, in the CX-7 it contributed 175kW of power and a hearty 350Nm of torque.
It certainly had the on-road performance to match buyer expectations but it could also empty its fuel tank pretty quickly.
More owners might have put up with that had the thing offered seven seats but, as a strict five-seater, the otherwise family-friendly specification was at odds with consumer priorities.
Mazda’s solution came with that 2009 facelift and while the turbocharged driveline was continued, it was joined by a turbo-diesel model as well.
This was a handy engine, as most modern turbo diesels are, but its appeal was limited by the fact Mazda could only offer it with a six-speed manual transmission. This wasn’t the first time Mazda hadn’t been able to team its diesel option with an automatic gearbox but it nevertheless turned many buyers off the car.
The other variant to join the CX-7 team in 2009 was a new entry level model that did away with the costly all-wheel-drive system and added a non-turbo petrol engine to boost fuel economy.
To claw back a little of the lost performance, the engine was enlarged to 2.5 litres and while power was OK at 120kW, it couldn’t match the turbo’s pulling power with just 205Nm.
It was, however, more frugal, with an official test figure of 9.4 litres per 100 kilometres – a big improvement on the turbo’s 11.5L/100km. And if fuel consumption was really important and you could live with a manual transmission, the diesel was a real fuel miser with an official figure of just 7.6L/100km.
Pulling even more cost out of the Classic (as the new base model was known) was a five-speed automatic transmission in place of the six-speed.
The upshot of all this is that you need to know precisely what CX-7 Classic you’re buying and don’t pay the turbocharged, all-wheel-drive price for a non-turbo front-wheel-drive example.
Generally speaking, the CX-7 is a pretty tough customer with a good reputation for going the distance.
One area to check, however, is the state of the interior. Those dark, shiny plastics that gave the CX-7 its classy-feeling interior can scratch easily and look rather second-hand if the car’s been treated carelessly.
On all-wheel-drive versions, watch out for oil leaks at either the front or rear differential.
If there’s any evidence of oil around either differential, you’re looking at a leak that will need to be fixed. The front differential has been known to weep oil from its centre seal, while the problem at the rear end seems to be caused by leaking axle seals.
Noisy brakes are another complaint, most notably when the vehicle is pulling up to a standstill.
This doesn’t seem to be anything to worry about and some mechanics we spoke to think the noise stems from the car’s anti-lock braking system and should be ignored.
Those who have chased the issue report that re-shimming the ABS sensors can cure the problem, as can a change of brake pads.
Tyre wear can be a problem, too, although mostly in the case of the super-grunty turbocharged model.
Either way, these tyres can be expensive to replace and one piece of advice is to increase the inflation pressures from, say, 32 to 36 psi as a means of extending tyre life.
You don’t want to buy a CX-7 that’s been used on any surface more demanding than a gravel car park. It might have had the softroader looks, but the ground clearance, tyre specification and driveline of the Mazda were all about the bitumen, not the bush