A sports car wearing lifts: Mazda's CX-7

Car-based SUVs abound. But we never quite understood the odd subset of this crossover category in which vehicles come hyperstyled – and often with Brinks-truck visibility out the rear.

Then we met Mazda's CX-7. New for 2007, it's a 2.3-liter, four-cylinder, five-passenger hatchback with the modified underpinnings of a Mazda sedan and a nose inspired by the manufacturer's RX-8 sports car. The first cockpit feature a driver will notice is the radical rake of the windshield – like no SUV you've ever strapped into.

Next to be felt is the standard turbo: CX-7 delivers more torque than plenty of naturally aspirated (nonturbo) V-6s. We also got an inadvertent test of CX-7's handling when fast-moving traffic locked up, triggering a hard double lane change that was remarkably crisp and road-holding. Behold, a sports car wearing lifts.

With four-wheel drive, moonroof, and Bose audio, our test CX-7 was priced at $28,785. Fuel economy was a disappointing low-20s in mixed-use driving (and the turbo calls for premium gas). CX-7's height delivers visibility, which was decent – even to the rear. Nice. With less than 60 cubic feet of seat-down cargo space and a towing capacity of just 2,000 lbs., we still don't fully buy into this class, but drivers who do will like this Mazda.

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