Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mazda CX-7

The 2.2-litre engine is taken from a Mazda6. On first impressions, it's a bit gravelly around the edges, but improves as you get going. There's a sharp clatter when it first fires, which smoothes as things warm up. It can bog down after upshifts and gearchanges aren't satisfyingly sweet, but stick to third and fourth and it soon feels more energetic.

Like the outgoing version, it drives more like a regular car than an SUV. The high floor and low-ish roof keep you neatly sandwiched so it doesn't feel porky. It also hides its size on the move as the independent (front) and multilink (rear) suspension does its thing. The result it a comfortable ride that isn't lollopy and can handle some pace.

But to chatter on about engines and handling rather avoids the big story here: the options list, or rather, the lack of it. Instead, you get everything as standard - full leather seats (heated and electric), cruise, electric folding mirrors, Bluetooth, a rear-view parking camera and satnav. The Bluetooth's voice recognition system may require your very best accent and the wheel-mounted satnav buttons are trickier than a jumbo's flight deck, but those are the sort of things you'll master as you absorb the car into your life.

More importantly, Mazda will charge you £25,785 for it. To equip rivals in a similar fashion - stuff like the Land Rover Freelander or perhaps the BMW X1 - you'd have to dip into £30k territory. Admittedly the materials aren't as plush as BMW's, but the CX-7 is hardly shoddy. It's like the difference between an M&S pullover and a cashmere sweater - both are quite posh and they definitely beat a cheap shiny one from Primark.

The exterior design changes can be dealt with swiftly as they are barely worth the effort: a bigger grille, a splash more chrome here and there, a bigger spoiler and a new wheel design.

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