Mazda has revealed some details of the CX-7 crossover sport-utility vehicle which will make its public debut at the upcoming Los Angeles and Detroit motor shows.

The CX-7 is the first of three vehicles the automaker is designing and engineering specifically for the North American market.

However, that's what they said about the MPV minivan introduced in the 1990s, and that eventually found its way on to other markets with both left- and right-hand drive.

Mazda Europe said separately it would announce European specifications late in 2006 but a UK-based spokesman stressed that no individual markets had been confirmed and the model was officially US-only for now.

In a statement, Mazda's US unit claimed its new five-seat CX-7 "is a refreshing departure from the fleet of traditional SUV's currently plying American roads", combining "sports car verve and SUV practicality, resulting in a fun-to-drive SUV". We'll see what the critics say.

The automaker reckons the new crossover's exterior styling has evolved from the 2005 MX-Crossport and 1995 RX-01 concepts with hints of the current RX-8 sports car as well. Eighteen-inch aluminium wheels and tyres will apparently be standard.

The cabin has a three-dial instrument cluster, high-mounted gear shifter, and firm-fitting front bucket seats. The instrument panel consists of a claimed "unique 'double-roof' structure, in which a small 'roof' over the meter cluster is positioned just in front of a large 'roof' that extends across the entire instrument panel".

The 60-40 split rear seat carries three people and folds to extend the 29.9-cu. ft. cargo hold to 58.6-cu. ft. The 39-inch-long rear compartment (seats up) offers more stowage space than some larger SUVs, Mazda claimed.

The new model is powered by a turbocharged and intercooled 244hp 2.3-litre four-cylinder direct-injection petrol engine. The powertrain is largely shared with the recently launched Speed 6 (6 MPS in Europe) but tuned to deliver 258 lb-ft of torque at a relatively low 2,500 rpm for strong throttle response.

A six-speed automatic transmission is standard and the crossover is estimated to deliver over 23 mpg (US) in combined driving.

Fully independent suspension, four-wheel ventilated disc brakes with standard four-wheel anti-lock, dynamic stability control (DSC) and traction control system (TCS) complete the mechancial spec.

As with most US-market SUVs, customers will be able to choose two- or four-wheel drive. The so-called active torque-split all-wheel drive has a computer controlled coupling feeding up to half of the engine's torque to the rear wheels as needed.

The newcomer goes on sale in spring 2006 as a 2007 model.

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