Used Vehicle Review: Mazda CX-7, 2007-2012

History/Description

The Mazda CX-7 is gone now – though we miss it, largely because its turbocharged four-cylinder engine was torquey as all snot, the AWD system knew what it was doing, and the cabin, relative to its price, was all fancy. So, this now-retired machine appealed to Canadian shoppers after a sporty and sophisticated crossover ute that was big on fun-to-drive factor, all-season confidence and performance enjoyed from a nice-looking cabin.

Numerous sporty touches could be had here, including alloy wheels, chrome accents, fog lamps, dual exhaust and an integrated tailgate spoiler with LED brake light. Clear tail lamps and a sleek and sculpted fascia helped round out the package. Look for high-end covetables including premium Bose audio, a sunroof, heated leather seats, automatic climate control and plenty more, depending on the model selected. Navigation, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, full multimedia connectivity and a lengthy list of safety equipment were also standard or available, depending on the trim grade.

Do you have things, people and pets? If so, they’ll mostly fit into the CX-7, thanks to nearly 1,660 L of cargo space and a set of split-folding rear seats.

Engines/Trim

After maximum mileage? The CX-7’s late-availability 2.5L four-cylinder engine is for you. It generated 161 horsepower and used an electronically controlled five-speed automatic transmission.

Do they find traces of blood in your adrenaline stream? Do straight stretches of road leave the desire to apply full throttle burning in your guts like a Spicy Big Rig Burrito from Lonestar Grille? You’re looking for the award-winning 2.3L turbocharged four-cylinder DISI engine instead, with 244 horsepower backed by by nearly 260 lb-ft of torque. You’ll get heaps of sauce for passing, merging and blowing away CR-Vs at stoplights if that’s your deal.

Trim grades were numerous—if you’re after a Maude Flanders–grade unit with no goodies, search for a GX. The GS was the mid-grade model with most of the good stuff bundled into a delicious package, and the GT got all the toys. Plus, if you have a trailer and stuff, the CX-7 can tow up to 907 kg (2,000 lb). Thanks Mazda!

What Owners Like

Owners of the CX-7 typically rate fuel mileage on non-turbo units as being pretty decent, and a nice blend of handling, sportiness, comfort and long-haul readiness is typically reported. Good outward visibility all around was commonly reported by blind-spot aficionados, and performance from the wooshy turbo engine is reported to be pretty badass. The owner reviews on autoTRADER.ca show numerous repeat owners raving about their machines, and especially the BOSE stereo system, when fitted.

What Owners Dislike

Gripes typically centre around fuel consumption with the turbo engine, coupled with that engine’s requirement to be fed premium-grade fuel, which is pricier. Pricier gas makes people angry, so we get it. Also, wind and road noise tend to enter the cabin at more generous volumes than drivers typically expect.

The Test Drive

Visit your potential CX-7 candidates planning to make several important checks, especially on turbocharged models.
A turbocharger is a part, and like all parts, it has maintenance requirements and will ultimately wear out and fail. Typically, a turbocharger can last the life of the vehicle if it’s cared for properly. How do you care properly for a turbocharger? By ensuring that it’s always got fresh, high-quality oil pumping through it, mainly. So, be sure the seller of a used CX-7 with turbo power was fond of keeping up on oil changes.

Call the seller before you head over for a test-drive and ensure that they don’t start or drive the vehicle before you show up. Carefully touch the muffler to see if it’s cold to make sure. You want to start the engine from dead cold, and let it idle up to operating temperature. Then, with the coolant temperature gauge showing about halfway up the dial, move to the tailpipes and have a look for thick white smoke, which could indicate a problem with excessive turbocharger wear, and / or an issue with the engine’s PCV system. These two issues go hand in hand—and in any case, the presence of this smoke likely means you’ll want to move to another unit.

Note that this problem wasn’t rampant, but it is worth being aware of. Here’s some more reading. And some more.

Early turbocharged units that exhibit a knocking or rattling sound coming on and off of the throttle moderately, may be experiencing engine knock. Here’s some more info. It’s likely that if the seller experienced this issue, it’s already been remedied with a reprogrammed ECU that handles lower-octane fuel more effectively.
While you’re starting the engine cold, pop the hood and head up front for a listen. Some owners have reported issues, up to and including engine failure, caused by a bad timing chain. The telltale sound is a diesel-like clattering that sounds like a fast-moving chain smacking around inside of a metal housing. As with any unusual sound on any used car you’re considering, if you’re not comfortable with a noise coming from under the hood, visit a mechanic for a closer look or move to another unit.

A handful of owners have reported strange harmonic vibration issues, particularly in units with AWD. A mild to moderate vibration at certain speeds and throttle loads could be the result of a bad motor or transmission mount, or a bad wheel-bearing. Have a Mazda mechanic investigate if you have any worries.

Other checks are more minor. Confirm that the air conditioner is working, be sure there are no oil leaks apparent beneath the vehicle, have the ECU scanned for trouble codes relating to bad crankshaft position sensors, engine misfire or throttle position sensors, and note that a clacking or clunking sound when turning at low speeds likely means the front suspension is in need of some good ole TLC.

The Verdict

For maximum peace of mind, a non-turbo, front-drive Mazda CX-7 will be the best bet—not to mention cheaper to run, repair, and insure. A turbo model steps up the entertainment value considerably, though shoppers are advised to make the above checks as a bare minimum, and visit a Mazda dealer for a pre-purchase inspection for greater confidence, just to be safe.

The Mazda CX-7 is gone now – though we miss it, largely because its turbocharged four-cylinder engine was torquey as all snot, the AWD... 12/11/2014 11:26:54 AM