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SUV Disguised As A “Sports Crossover”
Swoopy, Racy Looks May Temporarily Fool Environmental Wackoes
It’s not often that Mazda makes a marketing mistake.
Its vehicles always exude quality and elegance. The engineering is always spot on and Mazdas seem more like premium cars than mass market exercises. I’ve even got to the point when I no longer get annoyed by its aggravating advertising slogan “Zoom-Zoom”. As a two-time buyer of Mazdas - 2 MX-6 coupes over six years - I can attest to the quality of Mazda construction, and the long-term appeal of its products.
But Mazda has misread the market with its new CX-7. There’s no diesel, although there will be one next year. And Mazda has produced an SUV designed to be different from the crowd because of its superior performance.
Superior performance and a dollar will get you on the subway in the SUV market. This market doesn’t want better performance, it wants adequate poke and above all - economy. The lack of an automatic probably won’t inhibit sales in Europe, but would put me off.
Mazda calls its new CX-7 SUV a “Sports Crossover”, and maybe there’s method in their madness because I suppose on the face of it the car won’t be an easy target for the environmental movement. The CX-7 looks more like a racy saloon car than a load lugger and a fuel squanderer.
The CX-7 certainly looks like no other SUV on the road today, with its swoopy lines. Some of the body’s design cues are borrowed from Mazda’s experience of producing sports cars like the high-speed, rotary engine RX-8, and the little MX-5 roadster. The windscreen, angled at a steep 66 degrees, exaggerates the sleek look. The roof line dips early towards the rear, while the body moves upwards to give it an athletic impression.
Inducing the “wow” factor
The four-wheel drive CX-7 is powered by a 2.3 litre, 260 bhp 4-cylinder direct-injection turbo petrol engine. Direct injection engines borrow technology from modern diesels, and produce more economical power at lower engine revolutions than regular petrol motors. This engine, coupled to a six speed manual gearbox, propels the CX-7 from rest to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 8.0 seconds. But who would want an SUV to have sports-car performance like this?
Inside, the design also takes ideas from Mazda’s sports cars, with a big rev counter and leather, three-spoke steering wheel and instrument cluster echoing the MX-5. The cockpit is designed to feel as though it wraps around the driver.
As this is really a practical, rather than a sporty vehicle, the five-passenger seat interior can quickly be turned into a load carrying area.
Ford Motor Co of the U.S. owns a controlling, approximately one third, interest in Mazda. Ford borrows heavily from Mazda for some of its most important cars. The little Fiesta is closely related to the Mazda 2. The Ford Mondeo and Mazda 6 have much in common under the skin. The CX-7 and the Ford Edge SUV, only on sale in America, are also siblings.
Mazda and Ford are not the only manufacturers to call their cars “crossovers”. This simply means that old, heavy gas-guzzling products which were based on pickup truck designs are being replaced by vehicles using car technology. “Crossovers” are lighter, relatively more fuel efficient, and handle more nimbly.
If the green movement is fooled, momentarily, by this SUV in disguise, the CX-7’s fuel efficiency will quickly tip it off. Mazda claims the car manages an average 34.9 miles per gallon (8.1 litres per 100 kilometres), and spews out 243 grammes of carbon dioxide every kilometre (g/km). Currently the average European car emits about 160 g/km, and the European Union wants to cut this to 130 g/km by 2012.
Build quality is terrific. Mazda performs well in the latest “Which?” Best and Worst Brands survey, coming 6th in the overall manufacturer’s category. The MX-5 wins the sports car and coupes section. The Mazda 2 is 3rd in the supermini section behind the winning Honda Jazz, and Hyundai Getz.
The CX-7 goes on sale across Europe from the autumn. There’s no automatic version available either, although that is an option on the U.S. version so could in theory be available here. I would expect that sales will stagnate until the promised economical diesel version appears next year.
Neil Winton August 5, 2007
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