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2025 Mazda CX-70 First Drive: A Snazzier 2-Row CX-90

Mazda's new SUV is a true Lexus rival

2025 Mazda CX-70 driving
  • The CX-70 is Mazda's first true midsize two-row SUV.
  • Based on the three-row CX-90, this SUV benefits from a little extra time in the oven.
  • It's priced the same as the larger CX-90.

Mazda hasn't had a proper two-row midsize crossover, but the market's increasing appetite for SUVs (and the fact that the three-row CX-90 is bigger than the outgoing CX-9) convinced the automaker there was room in the lineup. Enter the 2025 Mazda CX-70, which is essentially a two-row variant of the CX-90; so thin is the disguise that Mazda didn't even remove the armrests and cupholder cutouts where the third row of seats would be.

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Is the CX-70 different from the CX-90?

First things first: Develop a baseline for comparison. Luckily, Edmunds has a 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV in our long-term test fleet, so driving to the desert oasis in our Soul Red Crystal family hauler was a no-brainer. Within the first few minutes, I was struck by two things: Dang, this interior is nice — over the last few years, Mazda has been making serious moves to enter the luxury market — and wow, is this powertrain not my favorite.

On paper, the PHEV is the way to go. It offers nearly as much power as the upgraded non-hybrid six-cylinder, and you can go about 25 miles on EV power before the gas engine kicks on. But Mazda hasn't quite figured out how to smoothly combine engine and electric motor engagement. The result is a sometimes jerky experience as the engine sputters at low speeds without the motor, or the car surges forward when the engine kicks in after initial motor travel. The engine is also loud and sounds overtaxed at freeway speeds. And in EV-only mode, power interrupts as you accelerate; perhaps I'm being generous — maybe the powertrain is actually abhorrent — but it's almost like Mazda tuned the motor to feel like it's simulating gearshifts. Whatever's going on, it's utterly bizarre.

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But because I haven't driven the CX-90 with the new inline-six, my initial impression is lukewarm. At least the seats are cushy and the ride is mostly comfortable; these help make the driving experience from Los Angeles to Palm Springs more tolerable.

My first turn behind the two-row CX-70 was in the top-line Turbo S Premium Plus, with the uprated 340-horsepower inline-six, quilted saddle-colored leather upholstery and suede on the dashboard.

This is the one. The CX-70's six-cylinder engine is responsive, gearshifts are smooth, and the cabin is impeccably crafted. There are Lexus and Acura models that don't feel as dialed-in or luxurious as this Mazda.

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The next day, I had the opportunity to take the CX-70 PHEV on a longer drive route. It featured the same powertrain configuration as the CX-90 PHEV, and I still got the odd "shift" in EV mode. Once the gas engine fired up, however, it felt pleasantly different from the CX-90 PHEV. There were no lurches in stop-and-go traffic, making the two-row feel more driveable in the city. There were also no stumbles as the eight-speed transmission rowed through its gears.

If you're set on a Mazda plug-in but don't need three rows of seating, I'd suggest the CX-70 PHEV. The extra year seems to have paid off in terms of powertrain refinement.

Familiar on the inside

When I first jumped into the CX-90, I marveled at how tight the back seat was. Like some sort of reverse TARDIS, the interior felt smaller than the exterior dimensions suggested. I slammed the second-row seat back as far as it could go, and I still had to move the front passenger seat forward to fit my daughter's rear-facing child seat behind.

Unfortunately, knocking out the third row doesn't mean the CX-70's second row is any more spacious. There's plenty of headroom, even for my 6-foot-4-inch frame, but sitting behind myself reveals a midsize SUV with compromised legroom. The elevated stadium-style seats help give vertical legroom, but it's not cavernous. A few of the CX-70's mainstream rivals, including the Honda Passport, feel more breathable from the back row.

However, cargo room is a generous 39.6 cubic feet with the rear seats up, which is slightly less than the Passport but about 10 cubic feet more than a Lexus RX. With a boxy hatch opening and no intrusion from the wheelwells, the CX-70's cargo area is useful and usable.

2025 Mazda CX-70 driving

Who is this for?

The CX-70 and CX-90 are so similar it's difficult to figure out why you would buy one over another. There's the obvious difference in the number of rows, and my CX-70 recommendation stands if you want the plug-in hybrid powertrain. But if you want the gas-only version instead, there's no real reason you'd choose one of these over the other — in an apples-to-apples comparison, the trims match up exactly in price. (The CX-90 can actually be less expensive, as it is available in more trims than the CX-70.)

Against a competitive set, however, the CX-70 feels more premium than its mainstream rivals, though it does have an elevated price tag. The overall driving experience isn't quite as sublime as you'd get from a comparably sized Mercedes-Benz GLE, but the Mazda costs a lot less. Disregard these labels and categories, however, and you're left with a very nice SUV that might cost a little more than you expect but punches far above its price tag.

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Edmunds says

The Mazda CX-70 is mostly a two-row CX-90, but it also benefits from a few tweaks that make the overall experience more pleasant.