Mazda CX-70: When less should be more, but isn’t

We have a wad of money, ready to fork over to Mazda, yet they seem dead set on refusing it. The Mazda CX-70 was supposed to be our next family car, but after seeing it in person we aren’t so sure. It left us bewildered at the the decisions being made in Hiroshima. Everyone expected the CX-70 to be a smaller, lighter, CX-90. It’s not. Instead, it’s essentially a CX-90 with the third row taken out. That’s it.

This is not to denigrate the CX-90 at all. It’s a stupendous 3-row SUV, the first US-market Mazda built on the company’s so-called large platform chassis. In Mazda-speak, that means it has all the right ingredients for a proper driver’s car: straight-six engine, front-midship layout, rear-wheel-drive. Mix all those together and add a dash of that Mazda jinba ittai handling magic and you have a winner.

The CX-90 is an engaging and sporty machine that isn’t just pretty good for a 3-row SUV. It’ll out-handle most 2-rowers. In other words, it grants families who need the extra seating a reprieve from the soul-draining prison sentence of typical SUV ownership.

But what if you don’t need three rows? My family was hoping that when it came time to replace my wife’s 2018 CX-5 that Mazda would have something that slots in-between the front-biased AWD CX-50 and the CX-90. We love Mazda’s uncompromising dedication to driving control and lithe suspensions. Their engineers have worked wonders with the CX-90’s 4,900 pounds. Imagine what they could if they ditched a few hundred pounds.

CX-70 vs CX-90 Differences

Mazda hasn’t revealed specs on the CX-70, but we expect the removal of the third-row seats won’t dramatically affect the weight. Its absence provides a cavernous cargo area and the addition of an under-floor storage area with configuration options. It’ll likely retain the CX-90’s three powertrain options: a 323-horspower and 369 lb-ft inline-four PHEV and two versions of the turbo straight-six mild hybrid, one with 280 horsepower and 332 lb-ft, the Turbo S with 340 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque.

We like the CX-70’s new fascia. The good news is that it looks better than the CX-90’s odd dimples, a rare styling misstep for Mazda. The bad news is, they’ve been replaced with fake vents that resemble black plastic waffles. Smoked or black trim on the bumpers, door handles, side badges, window trim, and mirrors give it a sportier vibe than the chromed-out CX-90.

Inside, the CX-70’s interior is quite upscale, especially in the dark red leather that recalls Mazda’s 100th anniversary cars. Its overall design and layout is identical to the CX-90’s and the command-dial interface, designed to be tactile and thus minimize the need to take your eyes off the road, is similar to that of all Mazdas There is one new feature making its debut on the CX-70 — Amazon Alexa integration — but it’s not something we expect JNCers to care about. Pricing hasn’t been announced though it’ll likely be a bit cheaper than the CX-90.

But Why?

Other companies are capable of building two vehicles of varying lengths that share a common platform. In fact, Mazda does exactly this with the smaller CX-60 in Japan and Europe. However, it’s much closer to the size of the CX-50 than the CX-90, and Mazda probably didn’t want it competing with CX-50. But why couldn’t it have made a true CX-70 that splits the difference?

As a herring of a company in an ocean of whales, Mazda seems perpetually on the brink of disaster. Probably the most daring of all the mainstream carmakers, it has a smaller budget yet takes big engineering risks. It continues to pursue rotary engine technology, as both a range extender and now possibly a sports car engine. It achieved the holy grail of spark-controlled compression ignition in its SkyActiv-X  engines. It continued to develop diesel engines even as every other company abandoned it in the wake of Volkswagen’s scandal. Even the CX-70’s large-platform FR chassis is an unexpected gamble in today’s industry climate. Did Mazda simply run out of money to develop smaller CX-70? Or maybe they realized it wouldn’t be competitive at the price they had to sell it for?

We’ll never know, but the fact remains that we have no suitable replacement for our CX-5. Actually, the CX-70 was already our second choice. When we got it, the original plan was to trade it in for the then-upcoming RWD Mazda 6 sedan when it came out. Then Mazda changed course and prioritized the CX-90 while shelving the 6. Fine, I thought, we’ll just get the CX-70 then. Now that seems kind of pointless. We won’t know for sure until we test drive one, but for now we’re once again out at sea when it comes to our next car.

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16 Responses to Mazda CX-70: When less should be more, but isn’t

  1. Lukas says:

    And whats the difference to our european CX-60 now?

  2. Ian N says:

    – and the significance of the Cosmo pictured (to this article)?

    • Ben Hsu says:

      Nothing, really. I assume they were trying to show something about it’s towing capacity. In any case, Mazda had the Cosmo at the CX-70’s reveal so I took a picture of it!

  3. cyko9 says:

    The photos in this article are spectacular! That shot of the Cosmo in front of the house is worthy of framing.

  4. Ryan Senensky says:

    That takes the cake as the laziest engine cover I’ve ever seen. Why does that even exist? As mentioned in the article, Mazda is perpetually on the brink of disaster and they still created that little tiny cover for what must be a reason.

  5. speedie says:

    Mazda has marketed the CX-90 as an affordable luxury SUV. I think Mazda saw a market for a less expensive CX-90, but did not want it lessening the value of the CX-90. Worst case is people call the CX-70 a less expensive CX-90, but that means people associate the CX-90 as being worth more. Pretty straight marketing if you ask me.

  6. steve says:

    Is this the same wheel base as the three row vehicle? Same design? I can’t tell, all the cute utes look the same, especially in black….in the shopping mall lot. It is just a transportation pod, not sure what the fuss is. Something like this with more MPG or more efficient with LESS complexity would be more valuable to me, personally. So I can toss my stuff in without regard, and even maintain and fix it when I buy it used ten years from now.

  7. Ben says:

    Ben, I find myself in the same situation. I thought I was going to trade in our 2018 CX-5 for the CX-90 or CX-70 and have been left wondering wtf? I don’t need the extra row of seats in the CX-90 and the driver’s seat is actually quite tight on legroom (I’m 6’3″). I will hold out hope for the CX-70 until I can see it in person. And can we please get one more straight 6 with a manual before everything goes electric?

    • Ben Hsu says:

      Great Bens think alike! I’m still holding out hope that the sedan will come along someday. Our CX-5 has about 40,000 miles so we can wait if needed.

      • speedie says:

        40K, that is just broken in. All of my Mazda’s lasted past 150K and one did 200K+. I did unfortunately have to junk two of them because I live in New England and the chassis were just too far gone after 10 salty winters.

      • Ben Hsu says:

        That shouldn’t be a problem in southern California. However, our CX-5 did experience some uniquely SoCal damage. It got shoved at a red light by a stolen Jetta leading police on a car chase.

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