Fresh approach to tackle HK roads
Dare one say that the Mazda sexy seven - sorry, the Mazda CX-7 - is a sound system on wheels? The first thing that catches your eye, and very shortly afterwards your ears as you settle into the driver's seat, is the Bose CD player and MP3 digital audio system. Nine speakers are scattered about the interior and you can stick six discs in at a time. There's a strong temptation to stay where you are and club it.
Mirrors adjusted, windscreen wipers turned on by mistake, indicators located, seat jiggled back and forth, it's time to motor out of Central. Trouble is, several hundred other drivers have had precisely the same idea at precisely the same time, so it's grunt and groan from traffic light to traffic light, in and out of lanes, and then finally up and over Wong Nai Chong Gap and down Deep Water Bay Road towards Shouson Hill. Unless someone does something about the amount of traffic on the roads in Hong Kong, road tests like this are going to end up being conducted in a car park, pushing all the buttons, going 'broom broom', and hanging out of the window from time to time while someone operates a hair dryer outside to give you the feeling of the wind whipping past.
However, if you are going to have to crawl along, the five-seater CX-7 is not a bad conveyance to do so. It's not a new car, having been launched at the end of 2006, but, to employ the industry term, it's been freshened. Just how much freshness do you get for HK$300,000? The answer is it's a very fair deal. The exterior has been made sleeker (principally the grille and fog lights), the turbo engine has been modified to enhance fuel economy and make acceleration smoother, and the six-speed automatic transmission is exceptionally easy to handle. The steering wheel telescopes, which is a boon for nature's more outlandish human creations who sometimes have trouble fitting themselves into the compartment and, once there, find themselves in a traffic jam.
The Mazda handles especially comfortably once out on the open road. Zipping along past Pok Fu Lam there was not one bump or bounce, and little sound intruded from the outside. There's another benefit to driving an SUV, and that's riding along above many other road users. Not at the height of a double-decker bus or a truck, but there's enough in the way of altitude to grant that pleasurable feeling of stepping down when you get out, rather than having to lever yourself up.
Final word: this vehicle was test driven on a day when the remnants of Gobi Desert sands were blowing through Hong Kong, knocking the pollution index off the scale. And no, I didn't open the power sun roof, much as I would have revelled in the thrill of doing so.