The CX-7 and CX-9 are crossover SUVs that Mazda first introduced in 2006 for the 2007 model year. The two vehicles are similar in appearance, but they sit on different platforms and Mazda targeted them at different market segments. The smaller CX-7 is a sporty crossover meant to appeal to active young drivers, while the roomier CX-9 is more for families and others that need more passenger and cargo space.
The CX-7 has more powertrain options than the CX-9, but the larger CX-9 has the advantage of a heftier engine that delivers better performance. The CX-7 comes equipped with either a 161-horsepower, 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine or a 244-horsepower, 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The CX-9 comes with a more powerful 273-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6. The CX-7 also has a choice of transmissions -- either a five- or six-speed automatic -- while the CX-9's sole transmission choice is a six-speed automatic. Both vehicles are available in front- or all-wheel-drive versions. The towing capacity of the CX-9 ranges from 2,500 pounds for the base front-wheel-drive version to 3,500 pounds for the AWD version; the CX-7's towing capacity varies with its engines options, with the base engine able to tow 1,500 pounds and the turbocharged engine capable of pulling 2,000 pounds. Fuel economy for the CX-7 ranges from 20 mpg in the city for the normally aspirated, front-wheel-drive version to 17 mpg for the turbo AWD model. The heavier CX-9 manages only 17 mpg and 16 mpg for the AWD model.
The CX-9 is 200.2 inches long, which is nearly a foot and a half longer than the 184.3-inch-long CX-7. The CX-9 is 76.2 inches wide, which is just under three inches wider than the 73.7-inch CX-7. The CX-7 rides on a 108.3-inch wheelbase and the CX-9's wheelbase is slightly longer, at 113.2 inches.
The CX-9's most visible advantage is in its interior. Third-row seating provides space for seven passengers, whereas the CX-7's two rows of seats make room for only five. The CX-9 holds only a slight advantage in most passenger-space dimensions, and the CX-7 actually provides slightly more front leg room. The CX-9 shines in terms of cargo space, though. With both the second and third rows folded down, the vehicle offers 100.7 cubic feet of storage space. In comparison, the CX-7 offers just more than half as much space, 58.6 cubic-feet, with its rear seat down.
Mazda equipped the CX-7 and CX-9 with similar safety features, including antilock brakes, electronic stability control with rollover sensors, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives both vehicles its highest rating for frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests, but both vehicles score only a next-to-worst "marginal" rating for roof strength.
A base-model 2012 CX-7 i SV has a list price of $22,190, while a base-model CX-9 Sport starts at $29,725. The price gap narrows substantially at the top end of the model line, with a top-of-the-line CX-7 s Grand Touring starting at $31,840 and a CX-9 Grand Touring listing for $33,735. The mid-range CX-9 Touring has a list price of $31,645; the Touring versions of the CX-7 -- with either the base four-cylinder or the turbocharged engine -- have a base price of around $26,500.