A family car that's a bit of a hooligan

21 May 2014 - 16:16 By BRUCE BENNETT

The- Mazda CX-7, launched in South Africa in 2008, was part of the "zoom-zoom" campaign by the Japanese manufacturer to jazz up its image and present a more sporty face.

At the heart of the CX-7's appeal was the powerful 2.3-litre turbo motor also used in the Mazda3 MPS and Mazda6 MPS.

Its handsome SUV looks, height, spacious and comfortable interior, along with Mazda's reputation for outstanding engineering, all added to its appeal.

I recently drove a top-of-the-range 2012 model, the 2.3T Individual, and this reinforced the good impression I had gained of this vehicle at its launch here six years ago.

The CX-7 Individual comes standard with a wide range of luxuries, including heated front seats, a rear-view camera for reversing, electrical power for driver's seat adjustment, spray nozzles to clean the xenon headlights, a Bose sound system with a six-CD player, 18-inch alloy wheels with a steel spare, sliding glass sunroof, height and reach adjustment for the steering wheel, cruise control and climate control.

The styling, in line with the powerful engine, is distinctly sporty, from the front fogs all the way back to the twin exhausts

Unlike other turbocharged motors, the CX-7's engine does not have a noticeable area of lag before the turbo kicks in. Instead, there is a pleasantly steady feeling of increasing power being fed fairly rapidly through the six-speed auto gearbox to the permanent all-wheel-drive system.

It's a family car with a hooligan streak and I found it hard to resist enjoying the rapid acceleration, ease of overtaking and cornering.

The CX-7 would be an exceptionally pleasant long-distance cruiser, with the motor ticking over at a mere 2200rpm at 120km/h.

Beneath a padded cushion under the driver's left elbow is a lockable storage area, deep and wide. There is also a conventional cubbyhole.

Legroom is generous and there is plenty of luggage room behind the back seats.

It is easy to fold the back seats flat and this can be done by reaching through the luggage compartment access or the rear doors.

The steel spare wheel located under the luggage floor is said to protect occupants from an impact from the rear.

The CX-7 has all the safety features one would expect of a vehicle in this class, including six airbags, anti-lock braking, dynamic stability control, emergency brake assist, electronic brake force distribution and traction control.

Although Mazda gives a ground clearance of 206mm for the CX-7, it is not an off- roader in the true sense. Its all-wheel-drive system is useful for extra grip on gravel or dirt and in wet weather on tar roads.

Handling on fast corners is excellent, despite this being a fairly large SUV, and braking is top-class.

A combination of the permanent AWD, auto gearbox and size of the vehicle means the CX-7 will use about 12l/100km. Still, the 69-litre tank should get you from Johannesburg to Durban without refuelling.

It's a pity Mazda has seen fit to discontinue the CX-7 range in South Africa, replacing it with the less-powerful, front-wheel-drive CX-5. The latter does offer a bigger range, including one model with a manual gearbox, and has won widespread praise.

But Mazda fans would have liked a continuation of the turbocharged CX-7, with its big punch and sophisticated street cred.

When the CX-7 was launched here in 2008 it cost R360000. The model that is the subject of this report, the 2012 Individual 2.3T, was priced at R460000 new.

The aluminium silver one I drove has done 42000km and is on sale for R279900 at Casseys Auto in Benoni which is on the corner of Tom Jones and Mowbray.

It comes with a four-year, 120000km warranty and a five-year, 100000km service plan.

Contact Richard Erasmus at 079-875-0520 for details.