Mazda has certainly gotten its corporate swoopy look down to a science at this point. With a gaping lower grill and swept back HID Xenon headlamps, the CX-7 definitely looks sporty.
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With its swept-back body lines and bulging fender blisters, the CX-7 looks a bit like a tubby Mazda RX-8.
Caption by / Photo by Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
Caption by / Photo by Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive
The CX-7's interior feels very high quality, if not a little boring. Black as far as the eye can see, leather seats, and attractive silver trim make the Mazda's interior feel very German.
Caption by / Photo by Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive
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.
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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.
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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.
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Though the CX-7's interior is of a generally high quality, the center console seems to be the exception to the rule, with cheap, hard plastics surrounding the shifter.
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The dated interface of the touch-screen navigation is in desperate need of an update. While fonts and graphics are easy enough to read, they aren't (by any stretch) aesthetically pleasing.
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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.
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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.
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The 240-watt, nine-speaker Bose surround system is another must-choose option. Sound quality is clear and balanced, with strong--but not overpowering--bass.
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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.
Caption by / Photo by Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive
Once the POI categories have been displayed on the map, the user can choose the appropriate destination by touching the icon.
Caption by / Photo by Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive
A smaller, secondary display above the touch screen shows HVAC and audio playback information when the primary display is in navigation mode.
Caption by / Photo by Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive
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.
Caption by / Photo by Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive
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