Mid-size crossover SUVs are a diverse bunch, with automakers offering both stubbier two-row and longer three-row options. And then there are a few that blend the gap, such as the Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, and Toyota Highlander, which cast shadows closer to those of two-row mid-size models while still offering three rows of seats.
Given Mazda's naming structure and the secrecy surrounding the CX-70 since the three-row CX-90's debut almost a year ago, we assumed the brand's new two-row mid-size model would follow in the treadmarks of its five-seat peers, trading the third row of its bigger stablemate for less overall length to improve maneuverability (not to mention a better shot at fitting in most garages). Well, we assumed wrong, because the CX-70 is not a smaller but mechanically similar sibling to the CX-90: It's a CX-90 with one less row. (The CX-70 is pictured above on the left, and the CX-90 is pictured on the right.)
It's a strange and somewhat deceptive decision on Mazda's part if you ask us. It's especially odd considering the automaker already produces and sells the CX-60 overseas. The CX-60 is a smaller two-row mid-size crossover SUV that shares many of its mechanical bits with the CX-90 (and, in turn, the CX-70), but it sits on a wheelbase that's 10 inches shorter and wears distinct body panels. It's more than a foot shorter than the mid-size models Mazda sends our way.
It's likely the automaker went this route to save itself from the cost of developing and certifying another model for our shores. Though neither Mazda nor NHTSA shared details on the matter, we wager the CX-70 rides on the certification coattails of the CX-90 that it all but mirrors. Besides its lesser seating capacity, the CX-70 differs from the CX-90 by way of a distinct front fascia, rear roof spoiler, and exterior trim décor. Essentially, it's a trim package that Mazda is trying to pass off as a different model. (Imagine Toyota renaming 4Runners with the optional third row the 5Runner.)
Consumer sentiment will ultimately judge whether Mazda's decision to market its two-row CX-90 as an entirely different model works in its favor or not. We're no Nostradamus, but we think the success of the CX-70 depends entirely on its price relative to the CX-90. If it's not considerably cheaper, then there's not much of a case for picking a two-row CX-70 over the CX-90 and the peace of mind that comes with its third row.
Mazda's mum on the specific chassis tuning differences between the CX-70 and CX-90, and it's possible the CX-70 drives more nimbly than its bigger brother due to tweaks to its suspension and steering. Still, there's only so much engineers can do to hide the transparent size and mass of this large and hefty mid-size crossover SUV, and it's likely the CX-70 will feel bigger and bulkier from behind the wheel than its smaller five-seat rivals.
If that's how things pan out, then it's possible the short-term savings afforded by Mazda's hare-brained scheme to sell the same vehicle under two nameplates ultimately results in long-term losses.
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