For the past few years, the Mazda CX-7 has been one of the favorite crossover vehicles among those who love power and sportiness among the entrants in this segment.
For the 2010 model year, Mazda adds something, or perhaps more accurately takes something away, that more folks will love.
The new CX-7 gets a lower sticker price.
Mazda has introduced a new 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine as the standard powerplant now, while the 2.3-liter turbocharged four cylinder remains in the higher trim levels.
The lower trim levels, known as i SV and i Sport, take the new base engine, with the SV having standard cloth seats, remote keyless entry, 17-inch alloy wheels and a few other goodies that make for a nice base package.
Move up to the i Sport and you get Bluetooth connectivity and a few other amenities.
The s Touring gives you leather, heated seats and the s Grand Touring gives you pretty much everything, including backup camera and navigation system.
If you go with the new base engine, be assured that you won't be disappointed.
It's the same one found in the Mazda3 and Mazda6, two of the best non-luxury performance cars on the market.
It kicks out 161 horsepower and 161 pounds-feet of torque.
The engine is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission and a front-wheel-drive system.
Its gas mileage numbers are quite good also; 20 mpg city, 28 highway.
If you select the turbocharged engine, you get 18 and 25 mpg with the front-drive and 17 and 23 for the all-wheel drive.
The power numbers go up to 244 horsepower and 258 pounds-feet.
Overall, the driving experience in the CX-7 is certainly worthy of Mazda's "Zoom-Zoom" motto.
Despite the fact that you're in a crossover SUV, with higher seating position than a sports sedan, the CX-7 still seems well connected to the road and offers responsive steering and solid braking.
We drove the naturally aspirated engine model and were quite impressed with its power, so can only imagine how the turbocharged engine performs.
Mazda says that engine is shared with its sporty Speed3 model, which is quite dramatic.
The CX-7 has a nice-looking, functional interior that is not necessarily luxurious.
Chrome trim blends well with quality plastic paneling.
For front-seat passengers, comfort is no problem. The seats move liberally fore and aft, and the driver can use the tilt/telescoping steering wheel to find the right setting.
Rear seating roominess is pretty good too, with the 60/40 split bench folding down to offer a generous amount of cargo space; Mazda says it's 58.6 cubic feet.
The cargo area behind the rear seats is also very spacious, allowing for easy storage of everyday items like gym bags or grocery sacks.
In the cockpit, the controls for temperature and the radio are placed neatly on a center stack, and there is a screen that shows the displays.
For the most part, all of the controls are fairly intuitively placed and easy to manipulate.
Mazda made a great call in pricing the CX-7 a little lower, a move that will make it more competitive with other entry-level SUVs.
Our tester, a Sport model, was priced at $25,990; the entry level model starts at less than $22,000 and the Grand Touring tops out at around $33,000.
For driving pleasure with just enough utility, the CX-7 is a solid pick.