2007-2012 Mazda CX-7: problems, reliability, models to avoid

Updated: December 5, 2022
2012 Mazda CX-7 2012 Mazda CX-7. Photo: Mazda.
One of the few sporty SUVs on the market, the CX-7 is affordable and practical. Larger than the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, but smaller than the Ford Explorer or Honda Pilot, the CX-7 is a five-seater with a 4-cylinder engine. It is available with front or all-wheel drive. The 244-hp turbocharged 2.3L motor was the only choice until a non-turbo 2.5L engine was added for 2010 to front-wheel drive models.

Is a used Mazda CX-7 a good car? The Mazda CX-7 with a 2.3L turbocharged engine will have more expensive-to-repair problems and should be avoided. On the other hand, the 2010-2012 front-wheel drive Mazda CX-7 with the 2.5L non-turbo engine is reliable and can last long with good care. Even if the engine or transmission will need to be replaced at higher mileage, many automotive recycler will have used 2.5L engine or transmission units. They are not super expensive to replace.
The 2010 Mazda CX-7 scored five stars in the NHTSA front and side impact crash tests. The 2011 and 2012 models are not rated.

Most problems in the 2.5L non-turbo Mazda CX-7 are the same as for any average car of this type: Noisy wheel bearings, bad front lower control arms, tie rod ends and sway bar links. Minor exhaust leaks are not uncommon; a local muffler shop can repair them for a reasonable price. To catch bad front control arms and tie rod ends, have your CX-7 inspected at least once a year in a repair shop. The Check Engine light with the code P0442 is often caused by a bad EVAP vent control valve which is cheap to replace. Rear brakes (parking brake) may squeak if rusted.
Problems with a 2.3-liter turbo engine, including the Check Engine light, oil leaks, issues with a timing chain, VVT, turbocharger and oil consumption are common. This means that the engine oil level must be checked regularly and topped up as needed. See how to check the oil level.
2011 Mazda CX-7 2011 Mazda CX-7.
A failing turbocharger can cause a white smoke from the exhaust as well as a loud whining noise from the engine when accelerating. Replacing a turbocharger is expensive: $950-$1,600. A bad air/fuel ratio or A/F sensor in the 2.3L turbo engine can cause the Check Engine light (code P2187 lean at idle) and jerking on acceleration. The related Mazda service bulletin recommends replacing the sensor with an updated part. A bad EGR valve can cause the Check Engine light to come on with the code P0401. Replacing the EGR valve costs $450-$600.

Gas mileage: The EPA has rated the 2011-2012 front-wheel drive Mazda CX-7 with a 2.5L non-turbo engine at 20/27 mpg city/highway with an estimated range of 377 miles on a tank of gas. The estimated mileage for the 2010 2.5L front-wheel drive CX-7 is even better: 20/28 mpg. The 2011-2012 all-wheel drive CX-7 with a 2.3L turbo engine gets 17 mpg city, 21 mpg highway on premium gasoline.

Driving experience: True to the Mazda Zoom-Zoom spirit, the CX-7 handles sporty, with minimal body roll in turns. The steering is precise and readily snaps back to the center position when driving straight.
2011 Mazda CX-7 interior 2011 Mazda CX-7 interior.
The 2.3L turbo engine offers plenty of power; the 0-60 mph time is around 7.8 seconds. The 2.5L engine provides adequate power for normal city driving. Overall, the CX-7 feels like a well put-together sporty wagon rather than an SUV.

The 2.5L non-turbo engine:
The 161-hp naturally aspirated (non-turbo) 2.5L engine (code name L5) is bulletproof with regular maintenance. It has proven to be reliable and not very expensive to maintain. This engine has been used in many Ford and Mazda products. It's a simple double-overhead cam engine. Unfortunately, it's only available in front-wheel drive models. It has a timing chain; there is no timing belt. The long-term repair costs are pretty low.
When checking a used Mazda CX-7, check the used car history for reported accidents and other issues. See if the driver's seat is comfortable. Test the air conditioner, since a number of CX-7 owners mentioned that the A/C is not strong enough in hot weather. During the test drive, see if the car holds the straight line well and doesn't pull to one side or another. Watch out for tire noises and wheel bearing noises, such as humming or rumbling. See if the transmission engages without delay and shifts smoothly. Watch out for the airbag and other warning lights staying on, repairs could be expensive.

Engine oil capacity:
2.3L turbo engine (with filter): 6.0 qt. (5.7 liters)
2.5L non-turbo engine (with filter): 5.3 qt. (5.0 liters).