October part 2

* Mazda CX-7 long-term test * Year-long review * Tested by Andrew Golby...

October part 2

If there was a weak link dynamically, it was the six-speed manual gearbox: it felt ill-suited to the cars character and demanded an accurate throw to guarantee a smooth shift. There was no automatic option, sadly.

More positively, the 2.2-litre diesel engine was respectably economical, averaging 36.2mpg over the course of the year, and a range of around 450 miles per tank. We never cracked the 40mpg barrier, although the optimistic on-board trip computer suggested we had done a few times. Even though the CX-7 sends drive to all wheels only when necessary, the extra weight of its running gear cant be avoided.

During December and Januarys cold snap, the CX-7 made easy meat of the hazardous roads; the Mazdas all-wheel drive, traction control and anti-lock brakes kept everything in check without any fuss.

It also proved to be light on its tyres, which still had plenty of life left after more than 20,000 miles. The wear rate was helped by front/rear rotations, signalled by a reminder on the dashboard.

We got our CX-7 serviced by Twickenhams MKG 3000 (020 8894 7504) at 12,000 miles for 258, and they were always happy to swap the tyres round for free.

We also got them to add some front and rear parking sensors. Oddly, these cant be specified as a factory-fit option, but are an approved dealer-fit extra. They werent cheap at 550 (250 parts/300 labour), but were much more helpful than the reversing camera.

MKG 3000 also replaced a faulty shock absorber that was knocking, but that wasnt the only repair work that was needed. Shortly after the car arrived, its turbo hose became disconnected. I limped into the office and Mazda Assist reattached it in the car park.

While I never grew tired of the CX-7s swoopy lines, I didnt really click with the drivers environment. The basics were fine, with a decent driving position and good forward visibility, but a few things caused irritation. Such as the tiny sat-nav screen and its tortuous menu system. I also struggled with the logic of the CX-7s radio controls, and the plethora of steering wheel buttons (18 in total).

After a year in my care, the only real sign of wear and tear on the car was on the bolsters of the drivers seat. With this in mind, the CX-7 makes most sense as a used purchase. Our valuation for this car on a dealer forecourt stands at 18k, and at that price it makes a great alternative to the mainstream. That its a great-looker makes it even better.