The new Mazda CX-7 GSX is aimed at those who want the look, plush ride and economy benefits of a two wheel drive
Mazda hasn't tried to battle for top spot on the NZ sales charts - instead quietly getting on with the job of selling vehicles that add strong, modern looks to competency at a reasonable price. It's thus done better than most in a plunging market and aims to come up swinging, with the help of a refreshed Mazda6 and an addition to its CX-7 range.
I'm not the target market for a two-wheel-drive variant of a soft-roader. I like a dynamic drive, and would choose a nicely sorted wagon over a high-riding wagon-style body that doesn't come with the benefits of extra grip.
But there are folk who do want the look and the often plush ride along with the economy benefits of two wheel drive.
This CX-7 GSX is aimed at them. The four-paw car is now tagged the Limited - and gets the turbo-charged 2.3-litre engine. It's strong unit, but it does like a drop to drink.
The front-drive car instead has the 2.5-litre normally aspirated engine shared with Mazda3 and Mazda6, tucked into the same CX-7 body albeit with a unique front bumper, a single rather than dual pipe muffler, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The unit delivers 120kW at 6000rpm and 250Nm via a five-speed auto transmission. That's not a lot for a biggish car; fortunately it's working less hard. Removing the four-wheel-drive components like the rear axle and transfer case has shed 209kg, a decent amount. As a result the CX-7 GSX is only 64kg heavier than a Mazda6 wagon - naturally the springs and dampers have been altered to reflect that, though given the car's SUV proportions you will still experience body roll.
But you won't notice the lack of a turbo, in part thanks to altered gearing; at 100kmh you're sitting just under the relaxed 2000rpm at which torque peaks, so she feels strong at any real world speed without the need to work the revs.
That makes for relaxed cruising - and better economy. Mazda claims a 9.4l/100km thirst for the front-drive car compared to 11.5 for the four-paw; I saw close to that at launch (while my recent 4WD Limited drive saw well over the claim).
Meanwhile I appreciated the familiar CX-7 cabin, albeit with cloth, not leather trim like the Limited. It's a handsome, clean layout in dark colours leavened by touches of chrome. However, shorter folk may find some controls a stretch; fortunately several are duplicated on the steering wheel.
CX-7 GSX is a credible and well-priced competitor in a packed bracket, delivering good looks, reasonable everyday performance, much improved thirst and a decent price reduction - to under 40 grand - in exchange for those extra two driving wheels and the leather.
Still, we can't wait for the incoming Sky-D diesel with its better torque and economy.
As for the Mazda6, its redesigned bumpers and lights impart a stronger look, while small changes to the transmission, wheels and suspension are aimed at straighter tracking, better transition into bends and a smoother ride.
See used Mazda CX-7 for sale here and used Mazda BT-50.