Mazda CX-7's positive diesel boost

Turbo diesel power has transformed the appeal of Mazda's CX-7, says ANDY RUSSELL.After extolling the virtues of his Mazda CX-7, the owner said 'but' and I knew what was coming next.

Turbo diesel power has transformed the appeal of Mazda's CX-7, says ANDY RUSSELL.

After extolling the virtues of his Mazda CX-7, the owner said 'but' and I knew what was coming next.

'It's thirsty,' I said.

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He was getting about 20mpg and that went a long way to explaining the sizeable discount off the price he had paid for it new a year earlier.

Originally launched in 2007, the CX-7 never really caught on in the UK despite its success in America. Hardly surprising, for in the UK Mazda decided to offer it with only the 260PS 2.3-litre turbo petrol engine from the Mazda3 and original Mazda6 high-performance models.

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So the CX-7 certainly put the sport into sport utility vehicle but, in a sector where diesel rules, it was never going to catch on.

There had always been talk of a diesel version but it has only just arrived. And, in a complete U-turn, Mazda has such high hopes for it that the new CX-7 is now available only as one high-spec diesel model.

Along with the new diesel engine, Mazda has given the CX-7 a mild makeover including a new 'face', chrome garnish along the bottom of the doors, larger 19in alloy wheels, a new rear bumper incorporating fog lights, upped cabin quality and retuned the suspension.

But the key change is the 2.2-litre 173PS turbo diesel, modified for the CX-7. A new, smaller turbo charger and special intercooler provide better low-rev throttle response with useful urgency from 1,600rpm and a maximum 400 Newton metres of torque from 2,000rpm.

This diesel is an ideal partner for the CX-7 - pulling strongly from little more than tickover in the lower gears with strong mid-range punch, yet is deceptively brisk when you wind it up. Despite extra soundproofing, it can't hide diesel clatter at low revs when cold and it gets vocal at the top end of the rev range, but most of the time it's acceptably smooth and cruises comfortably and quietly at 70mph.

The CX-7 is still available only with a six-speed manual gearbox, with revised ratios for the diesel. It's not the smoothest shifter and needs a precise action but as manual 4x4s go it's not bad.

Even with the diesel engine, the CX-7 is still not going to win prizes for fuel economy with a claimed near 38mpg overall, although I struggled to get more than 34mpg, but it's a big improvement on the petrol version. Carbon dioxide emissions are also higher than many rivals which means company car drivers will pay more tax, although Mazda is confident it will appeal to business-users.

The CX-7's driving dynamics have never been in question and the suspension has been retuned for even better handling. It's a happy balance between ride and roadholding - Mazda maintains the CX-7's styling and handling has a sportscar bias and it definitely feels crisp and responsive, tackling twisty country roads with surprising agility for its size. The ride is smooth and composed, capably dealing with bumps and lumps, even with the standard 19in wheels - and not a lot of tyre noise either. The CX-7 is not a roly-poly off-roader but an SUV that's a lot of fun to drive.

It's also practical family transport with plenty of head and legroom even in the back for six-footers but the rear cushions lack under-thigh support. The 455-litre boot isn't as big as some rivals but is well shaped and offers useful load space. Dropping the 60/40 split rear seat backs flat with the boot floor is a doddle with releases on top of the seats and in the sides of the load bay.

Mazda has enhanced cabin quality with new trim materials for the revised dashboard which also has a sporty edge with recessed dials, chrome highlights for the air vents, door handles and instruments, piano black edging for the centre console and leather seats as standards. But I was disappointed that the plastics for the top of the fascia are still hard to the touch, despite soft padding on the door cappings. That said, it's well finished and should prove durable.

The driver's seat has full electric adjustment to find a comfortable set-up and, despite the array of buttons for the audio system dominating the centre console, it's all pretty driver-friendly but the chunky front windscreen pillars eat into forward visibility.

Just one high-spec model is available, loaded with kit including leather seats, climate control, cruise control, heated front seats, a wealth of safety equipment and electronic driving aids, six-CD autochanger, satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone connection, rear parking camera and a rear vehicle monitoring system which alerts the driver to vehicles in the blind spot via a warning light in the door mirrors.

The diesel engine has transformed the CX-7, but it is never going to be a huge seller and exclusivity could make it even more appealing.


PRICE: �26,340

ENGINE: 2,184cc, 173PS, four-cylinder, turbo diesel

PERFORMANCE: 0-62mph 11.3 seconds; top speed 124mph

MPG: Urban 31; extra urban 42.8; combined 37.7

EMISSIONS: 199g/km



WARRANTY: Three years/60,000 miles

WILL IT FIT IN THE GARAGE? Length 4,700mm; width (with door mirrors) 1,870mm; height 1,645mm

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