Mazda Readies The CX-7. But Will Anyone Notice?

Mazda North American Operations has revealed pictures and details of its CX-7 crossover SUV. The pictures certainly show that Mazda, which is controlled by Ford, is sticking to its niche strategy. It’s hardly a mainstream, segment busting design. But the CX-7, while a slick looking design, from the outside view anyway, will have trouble finding its place in an increasingly crowded marketplace for crossovers.

Pricing, which will be key to it selling decently, will be released closer to the Spring launch. If I compare it to others on the market right now, I’d point to a broad swath of entries including the Nissan Murano, Hyundai Santa Fe, Toyota Rav4 and even the BMW X3. I add the Bimmer here because the powerplant sounds pretty darn good. It’s got a turbocharged and intercooled 2.3-liter four-cylinder direct-injection gasoline engine that produce s 244-horsepower at 5,000 rpm, and tuned to deliver 258 lb-ft of torque at a low 2,500 rpm. The $36,000 BMW X3 has a 3.0 liter engine producing just 225 horsepower and 215 lbs-ft of torque. And the CX-7 isn’t expected to price anywhere near the BMW.

Mazda reported overall sales off 2% last year. And while the Mazda3 did relatively well, other relatively recent Mazda models didn’t hold up. And that’s concerning. The RX-8, for example, was off 38%, and Mazda6 sales were off from the year before. The somewhat odd Mazda5, a European style microvan/wagon, hasn’t turned many heads, and was a questionable launch in the first place.

At 263,000 sales last year, Mazda isn’t a small player, but it never quite makes it as a first choice buy with enough customers. POart of the problem is a limited ad budget that gives it a small share of voice relative to its goliath rivals Toyota, Honda, Nissan. The iconic Miata roadster, of course, is the exception to that rule. Anyone considering a roadster under $30,000 pretty much starts with a Miata.

The CX-7 will be a welcome addition to a smart, fun-to-drive lineup of models. Heretofore, the only crossover SUV Mazda has had is the Tribute, a twin of the Ford Escape. This car, totally unique to Mazda, makes more sense. But will anyone notice it when it hits dealer lots?

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