2011 Mazda CX-7 i Touring review: 2011 Mazda CX-7 i Touring

The Bose-branded audio system sounded OK for music playback, but talk radio and podcasts took on an odd, hollow quality.

Audio sources on our i Touring trim level were few in number. There's a six-disc CD player, an AM/FM radio, and an analog auxiliary input located deep in the center console. The terrestrial radio is notable in that it possesses a time-shift feature that allows you to temporarily pause live radio broadcasts for brief periods of time and resume with the touch of a button. Also standard is satellite radio, which is a sore spot in Mazda's tech packages. The system seemed to have a hard time maintaining a connection to the satellites. This is an issue that we've seen in many of the previous Mazda vehicles that we've tested, so we're blaming the hardware here, not the service. Even with a clear view of the sky, the signal would intermittently cut out momentarily, much to the annoyance of our passengers. Additionally, we were unable to view station metadata (artist, title, station name), which we're also blaming on the poor satellite connection.

USB and iPod connectivity are not available without a step up to the s Touring or s Grand Touring trim level. You'll also have to step up to an s Grand Touring if you want the keyless entry and start system or navigation. That navigation system, by the way, is the same flash memory-based system that we tested in the current-generation Mazda3. It uses a combination of the small 3.5-inch information display at the top of the dashboard and controls mounted on the steering wheel. Frankly, this seems like a step down from the larger touch-screen-based navigation system of the previous generation, but we liked Mazda's new navigation system in the 3 so we're sure that we could get used to it in the 7. Check out our review of the 2010 Mazda Mazda3 s Grand Touring 5-Door for more details about what to expect there.

Two information displays grace the brow at the top of the CX-7 i Touring's dashboard, but if you want navigation, you'll have to step up a few trim levels.

Even though the i touring trim level isn't available with navigation, it still features the screen for it, which is used to provide fuel economy information, give the driver access to vehicle settings, and, when the vehicle is in reverse, act as a tiny rearview camera display. Considering the size and placement, drivers are not going to want to use this display as their primary rearview window, but the extra view out of the back does help. A secondary monochromatic display just to the left of main information display is where you'll find audio source and climate control information. Without USB connectivity, our audio source information alternated between "No station info" thanks to the wonky satellite radio connection and a blank title screen for the auxiliary audio input or Bluetooth audio stream.

Bluetooth connectivity comes as part of the i Touring trim level (but not on the most basic i SV model) and features basic hands-free calling and A2DP stereo audio streaming. You can pair the system with a compatible handset using an easy-to-understand set of voice commands. True voice recognition is not a part of the system, so you have to stick with the preprogrammed prompts or manually assign voice tags to frequently dialed numbers--no phonebook sync is available. Phone calls were clear enough and easy to understand with audio coming out of the Bose surround system. However, the quality of audio piped over the Bluetooth connection for stereo music playback was just a bit lower than the same source using the analog aux-input.

In sum
Mazda's CX-7 is an oddly packaged vehicle. The i Touring package is the best trim level that you can spec if you want to keep the more efficient 2.5-liter engine, but you are not given USB connectivity or navigation as factory options at this level. In fact, our $27,385 CX-7 i Touring doesn't offer any factory-installed options that we'd recommend; you get what Mazda gives you. So, potential buyers of the smaller of Mazda's two SUVs--no, we don't count the Tribute either--have to choose between high tech and high efficiency. We'd like a bit more choice than that.

Tech specs
Model 2011 Mazda CX-7 i
Trim Touring
Power train 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder
EPA fuel economy 20 city, 28 highway mpg
Observed fuel economy 22.1 mpg
Navigation at s Grand Touring trim only
Bluetooth phone support basic voice command, no phonebook sync
Disc player 6-disc CD/MP3
MP3 player support analog 3.5mm auxiliary input
Other digital audio standard Sirius satellite radio, Bluetooth stereo streaming
Audio system Bose Centerpoint surround
Driver aids rearview camera
Base price $26,350
Price as tested $27,385

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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