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car review

2011 Mazda CX-7

Available with either front- or all-wheel-drive, the 2011 Mazda CX-7 was a steady, if not spectacular, performer for the company.

The CX-7 had received a facelift in 2009 and the 2011 model is essentially a carryover from 2010.

While the CX-7 didn't share its platform with any Ford products – the Mazda-Ford partnership ended in 2010 – it did feature an interesting assortment of components from other Mazda products; the MPV, Mazda6 and Mazda5 all contributed to the CX-7 and in 2011 it was offered with either a normally aspirated 2.5-litre four-cylinder or a turbocharged 2.3-litre four-banger. Two transmissions were available: five-speed and six-speed automatic with manual shift mode, and there were three trim levels: GX, GS and GT. It did not benefit from Mazda's SkyActiv fuel-saving technology.

The CX-7's level of refinement was a cut above the Ford-based Mazda Tribute, but it had less cargo space and was not available with either a V-6 engine or manual transmission. As well, the turbo models were considerably thirstier than their normally-aspirated stablemates – 12.2 litres/100 km in town versus 10.4 litres/100 km.

High standard equipment level, with 17-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, tire-pressure monitoring system, heated mirrors, rear privacy glass, rain-sensing wipers, intermittent rear wiper, automatic headlights, cruise control, tilt and telescopic steering wheel with audio controls, trip computer with fuel consumption gauge, keyless entry, cloth seats, 60/40-split/folding rear seat, floor mats and CD/MP3 stereo all coming with the base GX. You could also get extras such as larger 18-inch wheels and tires, climate control system, leather interior, heated front seats and a blind-spot monitoring system.

The CX-7 wasn't the roomiest SUV out there. Fold down all the seats, and you had 1,658 litres of storage room, which is more than the Mitsubishi RVR but less than the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 or Chevrolet Equinox. Five adults could fit, but it was snug, and the back floor was not completely flat with the seats folded down.

No safety recalls are on file for this year of the CX-7, but the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a dozen technical service bulletins on file. These include a headlight lens-fogging problem, a wiring issue with the airbag system resulting in random illumination of the airbag warning light, a "clunk/bang" noise when the car is moved after sitting for a lengthy period of time, and a "rattling" noise coming from the engine due to a possibly loose timing chain. Seven complaints from owners are registered with NHTSA. A sampling: "four headlamps and a battery within two years of owning the vehicle is just not right," "air conditioner made loud banging noises and does not get cold" and "the windshield makes a cracking noise as the vehicle warms up."

Pretty good marks from Consumer Reports: aside from a problematic climate control system, the 2011 CX-7 gets top marks right across the board, earning a "better-than-average" grade. Some comments from owners: "cheap touches throughout the cabin, especially the headliner," "perfect for a family of four" and "definitely not a Subaru."

Market research firm J.D. Power says this vintage of the CX-7 is "better than most" when it comes to overall quality and predicted reliability, but is just average in terms of its overall performance and design. More comments from owners: "I like the smooth ride – better than my last car, the Honda CR-V," "paint quality chips easily" and "rear seats are cramped with no legroom."

From a base price of about $26,500 in 2011, the CX-7 has held its value well. Depending upon the model and equipment level, prices range from the high teens to the mid-$20,000 neighbourhood. The non-turbo GX is $4,000-$5,000 cheaper than the turbo models, and the top-of-the-range GT has dropped in value by $5,000-$6,000 from new.

The year 2011 was the penultimate year for the CX-7. After 2012, it was history, replaced in Mazda's lineup by the CX-5.

Tech specs

2011 Mazda CX-7

Original Base Price: $26,495; Black Book: $22,200-$24,950; Red Book: $17,500-$23,650

Engine: 2.5-litre normally aspirated four-cylinder and 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder

Horsepower/Torque: 161 hp/161 lb-ft for 2.5-litre; 244 hp/258 lb-ft for turbo 2.3-litre

Transmission: Five- and six-speed automatic with optional manual shift mode

Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 10.4 city/7.2 highway (non-turbo model); regular gas

Alternatives: Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Chevrolet Equinox, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Mitsubishi RVR, Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute, Nissan Rogue, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Dodge Journey, Acura RDX, Subaru Forester