Mazda puts value for money to the fore in the bat­tle to woo buy­ers from BMW

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - FEATURES - Fred­eric Manby

MAZDA launched its CX-7 sports es­tate in Bri­tain in 2006 with a high­per­for­mance petrol en­gine and all-wheel-drive, which came just as buy­ers were turn­ing tail to high fuel costs and soar­ing car­bon emis­sions.

Its mpg in the mid-20s and high road tax weak­ened the al­lure of sharp han­dling and a 0-62mph time of 6.8 sec­onds. The na­tion was mov­ing to econ­omy motoring.

What it needed then was a diesel, and that model is at last on sale, re­plac­ing the feisty petrol model.

The Ja­panese-built car re­tains all-wheel-drive, though I am far from sure it is nec­es­sary on any­thing other than grass, mud or snow. Econ­omy is dis­ap­point­ing.

Still, with up to half the power go­ing to the back wheels, the CX-7 has good com­po­sure, and with 295 lb ft of torque, it shares the ef­fort be­tween all four wheels. A front-drive only chas­sis would be prone to steer­ing squirm on damp roads.

The 2.2 turbo mo­tor peaks at 170.6 bhp (173ps) which sounds a lot but the feel of the car is far from quick. It weighs more than 1,800kg with a driver on board. The of­fi­cial 0-62mph time en­dorses this rel­a­tive sloth, at 11.3 sec­onds, with a top of 124mph.

Gears are a man­ual six in a sin­gle Sport Tech Diesel model which comes with ev­ery­thing from a mini sat nav dis­play to Bose au­dio, for £26,550.

This take-it, leave-it deal brings the CX-7 in at a high price and means that the CX7 is never go­ing to be highly vis­i­ble in the street. My fac­tory demo car at­tracted at­ten­tion on that ba­sis, I think: also, it has that Mazda “zoom-zoom” styling which may suit your tastes.

My view is that it is slightly brash and vul­gar, but th­ese things are per­sonal, and be­hind the z-z body is a car that should serve re­li­ably for many years.

What about econ­omy? Well, Mazda’s show­room fig­ures are 42.6 mpg ex­tra ur­ban, 31mpg ur­ban and 37.7mpg over­all, so my week’s av­er­age of 34mpg was not far off the of­fi­cial mark and on longer trips, driv­ers may well be nudg­ing 40mpg with a bit of care.

The CO2 rat­ing is dis­ap­point­ingly high, at 199g/km, which means high an­nual road tax for all and lofty busi­ness tax on com­pany-owned cars.

The other thing is this. Its CX-7 name may sug­gest

The CO2 rat­ing is dis­ap­point­ingly high, at 199g/km, which means high an­nual road tax.

seven seats but it is a con­ven­tional five-seater, al­beit with Mazda’s dead easy one-touch fold sys­tem for the back seats.

As such, then, it pitches up against not only the seven-seater S-Max but var­i­ous French and Ger­man high-econ­omy diesel fiveseaters, some of them with 4x4 drive.

Para­mount in this pack is the new BMW X1, sold with ei­ther front or all-wheel drive, and with higher mileage and lower emis­sions than the CX-7. BMW’s ef­fi­cient dy­nam­ics give it a big gain.

The Mazda will have to rely on its value-for-money pack­age, which is un­doubt­edly strong if you want a fully out­fit­ted Mazda in­stead of a mod­estly at­tired BMW. Pri­vate buy­ers may also take up a zero-de­posit pur­chase scheme over 24 months (at 3.9 per cent APR) or 36 months (5.9pc).

High­lights from the stan­dard spec­i­fi­ca­tion in­clude heated front seats, leather, the pre­mium au­dio unit, a rev­ers­ing cam­era, cli­mate con­trol, cruise con­trol, auto wipers and auto xenon lights, 19in al­loys with 235/55 all-weather tyres, metal­lic or solid paint, plenty of airbags, a full sta­bil­ity and trac­tion con­trol sys­tem and warn­ing of over­tak­ing ve­hi­cles for lanechang­ing.

I got on well enough with the CX-7, though with the caveat that the rev­ers­ing cam­era, while a boon and very ac­cu­rate, does not mon­i­tor the cor­ners of the ve­hi­cle in the same way that an au­di­ble sen­sor pad does.

As a “driver’s car” it han­dles nicely, with less roll than the typ­i­cal MPV. But here’s the thing. The CX-7 is not an MPV. It is a vari­a­tion on noth­ing more adapt­able than a five-seater es­tate car with 4x4 trac­tion.

Its everyday econ­omy was lower than I would ac­cept. On a gen­tle 30-mile ru­ral/ur­ban route it recorded 33.6mpg.

The big­ger, seven-seat Peu­geot 5008, with just front-drive and a weaker diesel en­gine, bet­tered that by 10 miles a gal­lon.

BMW’s xDrive, with a 143bhp/236 lb ft 2-litre diesel en­gine, records 49.6mpg over­all, with just 150g/km of CO2 and a 062mph time of 10.1 sec­onds. It costs from £24,640 but is 10 inches shorter.

A straight size match is the S-Max and, dis­re­gard­ing the lower spec­i­fi­ca­tion, the en­try model with a 2-litre petrol en­gine costs £20,645 and re­turns a 34.9mpg av­er­age and 189g/km CO2.

The Mazda would have been more at­trac­tive at a lower price with a more eco­nom­i­cal drive train, but, pre­sum­ably, Mazda con­sid­ered all that.

I do not ex­pect to see many CX-7s.

This is what Mazda’s UK chief, Mark Cameron, thinks about the lat­est CX-7: “To­gether with the five per cent stiffer bodyshell, re-tuned sus­pen­sion, re­vised gear ra­tios and lower cabin noise, the lat­est CX-7 is a re­mark­ably re­fined and sporty driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“It has great dy­nam­ics that out-per­form the class.

“It’s the ul­ti­mate ex­pres­sion of ‘Zoom-Zoom’ driv­ing ex­cite­ment in a so­phis­ti­cated Sports Cross­over.”

RARE BREED: Mazda’s CX-7 is un­likely to be a fa­mil­iar sight on Bri­tain’s roads.

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