New car report; Put on a happy face.
Mazda's new CX-7 crossover/SUV is not all that new really, but the remoulded front bumper and grille arrangement does bring the CX-7 more in line with the rest of the range, with that smiley face look we've seen recently on the new Mazda saloons.
The interior has come in for some enhancements too, with a reversing camera now standard and an upgraded information display screen, along with some subtle changes to interior finishes.
Still a sporty drive with a high level of grip, power is delivered to the tarmac via Mazda's Active Torque Split (ATS) all-wheel drive setup which automatically adjusts front/rear drive distribution.
The driveline remains unchanged, with a 175kW 2.3 litre turbocharged 4 cylinder powerplant churning out 350Nm of torque through a 6 speed Activematic transmission.
High levels of equipment, but a little thirsty.
Although Mazda tells us that the engine management system has been tweaked to improve fuel efficiency, we were still less than impressed with the CX-7's thirst. The quoted combined figure of 11.5 litres of premium unleaded per 100km would be barely acceptable today, but we found even that figure hard to achieve without adopting a feather-foot driving style.
A diesel powered model that is offered in other markets remains off the pricelist here due to the absence of a 2 pedal diesel version.
Like the pre-facelift CX-7, the upgraded model is loaded with equipment, and the styling still looks fresh, although perhaps not as startlingly contemporary as when it was launched back in 2006.
Leather upholstery, heated front seats, electrically adjustable driver's seat, steering wheel mounted cruise control and audio functions, climate control air-conditioning and a 240 watt, 9 speaker Bose sound system, all make for a well equipped interior environment.
New alloy wheels, now up from 18 inch to 19inch, a tilt and telescopically adjustable steering column and the addition of an auxiliary audio input are all welcome additions, but gone is the sunroof from the earlier model.
Active safety systems include the expected list of ABS, EBD, Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and Traction Control System (TCS). Driver, passenger, side and curtain SRS airbags take care of passive safety.
So, who will it appeal to?
Priced at $47,595 and with a braked towing capacity of 1,600 kg, the CX-7 is a difficult vehicle to pigeon-hole. It's not really a tough off-roader, but it's more than just a soft-roader.
It's pleasing to the eye, comfortable and well-equipped. It is fitted with roofrack mounting points and has a decent amount of rear cargo space, so it will be somewhat suited to the Kiwi outdoor lifestylers.
But times have changed since 2006 and at the top of the list for many buyers are priorities such as fuel consumption, emissions, environment and economy.
With a devil may care approach, it handles more like a sports car than an SUV and it performs much like one too, so the sporty theme and driving characteristics will attract enthusiastic drivers.
But if you let your head rule your heart, in 2009 it's hard to get past the CX-7's gas-guzzling appetite, and so with no thrifty diesel on offer or the option of 7 seats, appeal to the family buyer may be restricted.