Expert Reviews

2025 Mazda CX-70 First Drive Review and Video

When shopping for a new vehicle, the most sound advice out there is pretty simple: prioritize the vehicle you need over the one you want.

It’s here that the typical truck buyer tends to go wrong, bringing home a half-ton when an SUV probably makes more sense. So what about when you’ve already decided on a sport utility, but it’s size – or space – that has you hamstrung?

One possible answer is the 2025 Mazda CX-70 – a bit of an odd entry in a market already flooded with options. It’s big like a three-row SUV, and that’s because it is; to build this model, Mazda simply stripped the CX-90 of its rearmost seats and slapped a new badge on the back. Except instead of optimizing the space inside this newly minted five-seater, Mazda left it all but unchanged.

A Full-Figured Five-Seater

 

 

This isn’t the only SUV this size to lose its third-row seats and gain a new name; but where Volkswagen modified the roofline of its oversized Atlas to build the so-called Cross Sport version, Mazda left the slab-sides CX-90 entirely untouched. It’s something of a bizarre choice — not that there isn’t tons of room inside the CX-70 as a result, but it certainly seems a little uninspired.

That’s especially true considering Mazda could have brought the slightly smaller CX-80 here instead and achieved a similar result. Doing so would have given the brand a distinctive lineup of SUVs akin to Honda’s, where the two-row Passport and three-row Pilot slot in above the ever-popular CR-V. Instead, Mazda now has two entries that can’t be told apart aesthetically.

OK, that’s not entirely true. The CX-70 has some black exterior details that are supposed to give it a sportier look than its sibling. There are also some different paint colours between them, plus this one can be had with red upholstery. But in reality, most people won’t be able to tell these two apart.

 

 

On the bright side, there’s plenty of space in the front and rear seats, not to mention behind them. Cargo volume behind the second-row seats rings in at 1,131 L (slightly less with the panoramic sunroof), which is similar to what’s tucked under the tapered roofline of the Atlas Cross Sport. Likewise, the 2,147 L that’s opened up with the rear seats stowed (2,132 L with the panoramic sunroof) isn’t far off the mark set by the CX-70’s rival from Volkswagen.

But then those cargo numbers are nearly identical to the ones in the CX-90 with its third-row seats removed from the equation (they fold flat when not in use). What’s more, the second-row seats here haven’t been adjusted or otherwise reconfigured to offer more space for occupants – not that it’s necessarily needed, but it leaves the CX-70 at an inherent disadvantage in terms of overall practicality compared to its identically sized sibling.

Aiming for An Upscale Drive

As part of Mazda’s push toward the mostly unoccupied space between mainstream and premium offerings, it’s leveraging a platform and underpinnings for its newest offerings that aren’t unlike the ones used by BMW and Mercedes-Benz. That means a rear-biased all-wheel drive system, and inline engines that are mounted inversely instead of transversely.

The aim is to provide an upscale driving experience that, while not exactly sporty, offers some inherent engagement compared to what’s more common at this price point. In this way, the CX-70 can be considered a success, although it requires a certain degree of driver sensitivity to notice the difference next to something like the Atlas, Cross Sport or otherwise.

There’s a refinement that comes with the way the engine’s torque is shuffled to the rear wheels first, pushing instead of pulling the CX-70 along the road ahead. Without the tendency to understeer like a front-biased all-wheel drive system – while subtle, it’s almost always there – this sport utility feels precise where the rubber meets the road, particularly when cornering.

There’s still the sort of body roll that’s to be expected from such a large SUV, but that’s countered by a nimbleness that few others can match.

Execution is Everything

With these inverse engines, Mazda’s intent on enhancing the sense of sophistication in its newest SUVs, this one included. Unfortunately, the eight-speed automatic transmission that’s paired with them continues to be something of a pain point, with the occasional shift action that’s anything but refined.

 

 

Whether the turbocharged 3.3L inline six-cylinder or the 2.4L four-cylinder that makes up the gas-powered half of the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) powertrain, there’s appreciable smoothness and balance under the hood of the CX-70. In the case of the former, it doesn’t get any better on both fronts, and that’s entirely by design. The very firing order of the cylinders – along with their upright configuration – means there’s no noticeable vibration or harshness emanating from the engine itself.

There is, however, plenty of practical output – as much as 340 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque for trims fitted with high-output engine programming. (The former figure drops to a still stout 319 hp on regular-grade gas; torque stays the same.) That’s plenty of pull, with the CX-70 hustling around admirably and making passing manoeuvres with ease.

But then the transmission can be a bother, particularly at city speeds and when accelerating from a stop, with the occasional clunky and awkward shift. Likewise, the ignition stop-start system that’s facilitated by the 48-volt mild hybrid components takes away from the experience, often getting caught between attempting to shut the engine off to save fuel when coasting and kicking back on with a press of the gas pedal. The result is a feeling akin to a temporary loss of power combined with a lurching when the engine takes over again.

Most of that gets kicked to the curb in the PHEV, which uses a beefier electric motor and a 17.8-kWh battery pack to provide an estimated 42 km of emissions-free driving. It also makes the same 369 lb-ft of torque from the combination of the gas and electric motors, while the 319 hp on tap is more than decent.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to manually optimize the way the powertrain operates, with the CX-70’s computer prioritizing all-electric operation with even the slightest state of charge. (That’s also why the PHEV’s combined gas-only fuel consumption rating of 9.4 L/100 km is virtually identical to the six-cylinder’s.) Toyota, on the other hand, has got this right, with the likes of the smaller RAV4 Prime making use of selectable settings for hybrid or electric modes.

Priced Like a Mainstream Model

In spite of the reach upmarket, this is still a mainstream model – and it’s (mostly) priced like one. While it skips the CX-90’s cheapest GS trim, the gas-powered CX-70 GS-L is $49,750 before freight and tax, while the PHEV powertrain in the same package is $58,750. Neither the Atlas Cross Sport nor the Passport are available with plug-in power, but the former starts at $49,350 and the latter $48,480.

 

 

For that asking price the CX-70 comes with a 10.25-inch infotainment display (it’s touch-responsive with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto active, but requires a console-mounted controller otherwise), a full advanced safety and driver-assistance suite including blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control, tri-zone automatic climate control, and a heated steering wheel and front seats.

The GT trim adds to that list stuff like heated rear seats, surround-view cameras, and leather upholstery for $54,350. The PHEV version is $63,350. Then there’s the GT-P that’s only offered with the six-cylinder engine for $58,300 before freight and tax, with extras like upgraded leather and ventilated front seats, while the range-topping Signature trim is $62,300 and gets even more goodies.

Final Thoughts

To call the 2024 Mazda CX-70 something of a puzzling product is an understatement. It’s not that it doesn’t offer the sort of space a plus-sized five-seater should; but the fact it’s basically a rebadged CX-90 instead of a standalone entry holds it back a bit in terms of overall practicality. So do its powertrains, despite their promising fundamentals, with some hiccups that carry over from its sibling that was introduced last year.

While few two-row SUVs are this roomy, and the available PHEV powertrain is unique in this space, Mazda has come up short of delivering a show-stopper here. That doesn’t mean the CX-70 isn’t worthy of consideration, but be sure to cross-shop it carefully against what else is out there – including what’s in this automaker’s own lineup of SUVs.