2007-2012 Mazda CX-7: gas mileage, engine choices, problems to watch out for

March 16, 2020
One of the few sporty SUVs on the market, the CX-7 is affordable, practical and fun to drive. 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.
2012 Mazda CX-7 2012 Mazda CX-7. Photo: Mazda.
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. The interior is sporty and tight. The visibility is good in the front, but limited in the rear corners. There is ample cargo space with the rear seats fold down. Where the CX-7 stands out is the driving experience; it feels sporty, confident and balanced on the road. This is especially true for turbocharged models, as they come with larger wheel s and wider tires. The non-turbo front-wheel drive Mazda CX-7 is more practical and better on gas. The ride is on the firm side, but quiet and comfortable. Which engine is better? What are the reported problems? Is the Mazda CX-7 good on gas?

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.

Engine choice: 2.3L turbo versus 2.5L non-turbo? The turbocharged direct-injected 2.3L MZR DOHC motor has plenty of power but thirsty. It's an advanced motor, but expect much higher repair costs in the long run. Rebuilding or replacing the 2.3L turbo engine is also very expensive. For a 2.3L turbocharged engine, Mazda recommends using premium gasoline. This engine needs more frequent oil changes and premium engine oil to last.
The 161-hp naturally aspirated (non-turbo) 2.5L engine (L5) is bulletproof with regular maintenance. It has proven to be reliable and not very expensive to maintain. The 2.5L engine has been used in many Ford and Mazda products and even if it fails, it won't cost a lot to replace with a used unit. Unfortunately, the 2.5L engine is only available in front-wheel drive models. Both the 2.3L-turbo and 2.5L engines have a timing chain; there is no timing belt. Considering possible repair costs, the 2.5L non-turbo engine is a much better choice.

Reported problems: Problems with a 2.3-liter turbo engine, including Check Engine light, oil leaks, issues with a timing chain, VVT, turbocharger and higher oil consumption, have been reported by many owners. 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 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. Various front end problems, including bad control arms and tie rod ends, are not uncommon. To catch front end problems in time, the vehicle must be inspected on the hoist in a repair shop. A faulty wheel bearing can cause a humming noise that gets louder with speed. Replacing a wheel bearing costs from $280 for the front to $520 for the rear bearing. A bad EGR valve can cause the Check Engine light to come on with the code P0401. Replacing the EGR valve costs $450-$600.

If you want to buy a used Mazda CX-7, we recommend opting for the 2010-2012 CX-7 with a 2.5L non-turbo engine, as it's more reliable, fuel efficient and less costly to maintain. Turbocharged models should be avoided due to higher repair costs. When checking a used Mazda CX-7, see if the driver seat is comfortable. Avoid the car if you notice a white or blue smoke from the exhaust or if the engine is too noisy when started. If possible, check the service records to verify if the oil changes were done regularly. 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 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).