The CX-7's size is less easily disguised from the side. However, the blacked-out B and C pillars help move the visual weight of the car below the belt line, making the CX-7 appear closer to the ground.
The CX-7's sporty theme is continued at the rear, with clear tail lamps and dual exhaust tips. The high belt line makes for a smallish rear window, which makes the rear-view backup camera a worthwhile option.
Mazda says the CX-7 has a sport-tuned suspension, which, in our driving experience, translates to harsh driving over bumps. While the firm suspension setup did make for accurate handling at low-to-moderate speeds, the CX-7 doesn't soak up the potholes like an SUV to do.
Unlike the Mazda5 we recently reviewed, the CX-7 has plenty of rear-storage space, although it does so with two fewer seats. The rear seats of the CX-7 fold down to make even more room for hauling, but they don't get perfectly flat.
The CX-7's four-cylinder 2.3-liter turbocharged and direct-injected engine feels very much like a small V-6, thanks to minimal turbo lag and a decent amount of low-end torque. Unfortunately, Mazda seems to have forgotten that the whole point of a four-cylinder engine is better fuel economy, and the CX-7 suffers from a meager 16 city and 22 highway mpg.
The CX-7's steering wheel falls nicely into the hand, with controls that are easy to actuate with the thumbs. The steering offers a good feel of the road, but the power-steering system seems a bit overboosted.
The instrument cluster is one of the most attractive parts of the interior. Blank black bezels with blue led front-lighting greet you when you first enter the CX-7's cockpit. Turn the key and electroluminescent red numerals and markings appear.
The CX-7 comes standard with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual sport-shift mode. Though we left our tester in 'Auto' for most of the testing, we occasionally used the manual shifter to preselect a lower gear in preparation for a highway merge.
Mazda's navigation allows points of interest to be chosen in two ways. The first is by searching a database for a name or category. The second method involves choosing categories of POIs to display on the map.
Audiopilot is a feature that adjusts music volume in proportion to vehicle speed to overcome road noise. Centerpoint is a Bose technology that expands stereo sound to multichannel sound to better take advantage of the 5.1 surround speaker set up. Oddly, we thought the system sounded better with Centerpoint deactivated.
The Bose system doesn't offer any MP3 player integration beyond an Aux-In hidden in the center console, but it does decode MP3-encoded CDs. The system displays ID3 tag information on the display and allows the sequential navigation of folders.
Mazda's keyless entry system allows drivers to enter and start the car without removing the smart card key from their pocket. As the driver exits and moves away from the vehicle, the doors lock themselves.