CX-70: The Driver’s Crossover

Cargazing
By Derek Price

The all-new 2025 Mazda CX-70 arrives as a compelling entrant in the crowded midsize crossover segment, blending the brand’s signature driving dynamics with upscale amenities and efficient plug-in hybrid technology.

After a week behind the wheel of the CX-70 PHEV Premium Plus, it’s clear that Mazda has crafted a vehicle that stands out from the pack.

At first glance, the CX-70 impresses with its sleek, athletic stance. Mazda’s Kodo design language translates beautifully to this larger canvas, with a long hood, sculpted flanks and a low-slung roofline that gives the CX-70 a distinctly sporty appearance.

The aggressive front fascia and available 21-inch wheels further emphasize its dynamic character.

But it’s from behind the wheel that the CX-70 truly shines. True to Mazda’s “Zoom-Zoom” ethos, this midsize crossover handles with a precision and agility that’s rare in its class.

The steering is direct and communicative, while the chassis exhibits impressive composure through corners.

It’s not hyperbole to say this is the Miata of midsize crossovers. The CX-70 shrinks around you on a winding road, defying its substantial dimensions.

With its long hood, sculpted body lines and aggressive stance, the 2025 Mazda CX-70 brings a dose of athleticism to the midsize crossover segment.

The plug-in hybrid powertrain in my tester proved both potent and efficient. Combining a 2.5-liter gasoline engine with a 68-kW electric motor, the system produces a robust 323 horsepower and 360 lb-ft of torque. This translates to brisk acceleration and confident passing power.

More impressively, the CX-70 PHEV achieves an EPA-estimated 56 MPGe, allowing for significant fuel savings in daily driving.

Inside, the CX-70’s cabin is a testament to Mazda’s upmarket aspirations. Premium materials abound, from soft-touch surfaces to available Nappa leather upholstery.

The design is modern and driver-centric, with a widescreen infotainment display seamlessly integrated into the dash. Mazda’s decision to offer both a rotary controller and touchscreen functionality for the infotainment system is commendable, allowing drivers to choose their preferred input method.

Practicality hasn’t been sacrificed in the pursuit of style. The CX-70 offers generous passenger space in both rows, and the cargo area is well-thought-out with additional compartments and a clever sub-trunk for hiding valuables.

The remote-folding rear seats are a particularly useful touch for those with active lifestyles.

The CX-70’s upscale interior blends premium materials, intuitive technology and thoughtful storage solutions to create a cabin that rivals luxury-branded competitors.

Technology integration is impressive, with features such as wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a crisp head-up display, and the introduction of Alexa voice control. Mazda’s suite of driver assistance features, including the new

Unresponsive Driver Support system, provides peace of mind without being overly intrusive.

At $59,275 as tested, the CX-70 PHEV Premium Plus represents a significant investment. While this places it in competition with some luxury-branded offerings, the Mazda more than holds its own in terms of quality, performance and features.

That said, buyers seeking a more budget-friendly option can find lower-trim CX-70s starting around $40,000.

Some may question Mazda’s decision to introduce the CX-70 alongside the very similar CX-90, with the primary difference being the lack of a third row in the CX-70. This product strategy could lead to confusion for some shoppers.

Additionally, while the handling is exemplary, the firm suspension tuning may be too sporty for those prioritizing a cushy ride.

Despite these minor quibbles, the 2025 Mazda CX-70 is a compelling package that should be on the shortlist for any midsize crossover shopper who values driving engagement.

It successfully combines the practicality of an SUV with the soul of a sports car, all wrapped in a premium package that punches above its weight class.

For those who refuse to sacrifice driving pleasure when moving to a family-friendly vehicle, the CX-70 proves that practicality and performance need not be mutually exclusive. It’s a worthy addition to Mazda’s evolving lineup and a strong contender in the competitive midsize crossover segment.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2025 Mazda CX-70 PHEV Premium Plus ($57,450). Options: Premium paint ($450). Price as tested (including $1,375 destination charge): $59,275
Wheelbase: 122.8 in.
Length: 201.6 in.
Width: 84.9 in.
Height: 68.7 in.
Power: 2.5-liter engine plus 68-kW electric motor (323 hp, 360 ft.-lbs. combined)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 56 MPGe

Ratings

Style: 9
Performance: 7
Price: 7
Handling: 9
Ride: 8
Comfort: 8
Quality: 9
Overall: 9

Why buy it?

The CX-70 offers sports-car-like handling dynamics, premium cabin quality and efficient plug-in hybrid technology, making it an ideal choice for driving enthusiasts who need versatility.

Posted in Mazda

Efficiency Meets Elegance

Cargazing
By Derek Price

The 2024 Hyundai Sonata arrives with a bold new look and a host of improvements, solidifying its position as a compelling option in the midsize sedan segment.

After a week behind the wheel, it’s clear that Hyundai has crafted a vehicle that deftly balances efficiency, comfort and value.

The most immediately noticeable change is the Sonata’s dramatic exterior redesign. Hyundai has given its midsize contender a thoroughly sporty makeover, with a long, low hood, a wider grille and sleek LED lighting that stretches across the front fascia.

It’s a head-turning look that stands out in a segment often criticized for bland styling. The new design isn’t just for show, either. Improved aerodynamics contribute to the Sonata Hybrid’s impressive fuel economy.

And impressive it is. The hybrid powertrain, which combines a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with an electric motor for a total output of 192 horsepower, delivers an EPA-estimated 44 mpg in the city and a remarkable 51 mpg on the highway.

On the road, the Sonata Hybrid provides a refined and comfortable driving experience. The transition between electric and gasoline power is nearly imperceptible, and the six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly.

While not overtly sporty, the Sonata handles competently, with precise steering and well-controlled body motions.

However, the soft suspension tuning can lead to some bounciness on undulating roads, a minor quibble in an otherwise composed ride.

The 2024 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid’s redesign features a low-slung profile and striking LED lighting, giving this efficient sedan a sporty, premium appearance.

One of the Sonata Hybrid’s standout features is its whisper-quiet cabin. Road and wind noise are exceptionally well suppressed, creating a serene environment more reminiscent of luxury vehicles costing thousands more.

This tranquility is complemented by supportive seats and high-quality materials throughout the interior.

The Limited trim I tested came lavishly equipped, with features including a panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats and a crisp 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.

The infotainment system, accessed through a responsive 10.25-inch touchscreen, is intuitive and feature-rich. Wireless

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now available across all Sonata models, a welcome addition for 2024.

Hyundai’s suite of advanced driver assistance features, including adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist, work seamlessly together to reduce fatigue on long drives. The system keeps the Sonata centered in its lane with minimal ping-ponging, and it smoothly adjusts to the flow of traffic.

A whisper-quiet cabin, high-quality materials, and a tech-forward dashboard with dual 12.3-inch screens elevate the 2024 Sonata Hybrid’s interior to near-luxury levels of refinement.

At $38,560 as tested, the Sonata Hybrid Limited represents strong value in the midsize hybrid sedan segment. It undercuts similarly equipped competitors while offering a more comprehensive list of standard features along with

Hyundai’s generous 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

However, it’s worth noting that Hyundai — along with its corporate cousin Kia — have faced some engine reliability issues in recent years. While the long powertrain warranty provides peace of mind, potential buyers should be aware of this history.

Despite this concern, the 2024 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited impresses as a well-rounded package that should appeal to a wide range of buyers. Its combination of striking style, excellent fuel economy and premium features at a competitive price point make it a compelling choice in the midsize sedan segment.

For those seeking a fuel-efficient daily driver that doesn’t sacrifice comfort or style, the Sonata Hybrid deserves a spot at the top of the test drive list.

It proves that practical family transportation doesn’t have to be boring and that impressive efficiency can coexist with an engaging driving experience.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2024 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited ($37,200). Options: Carpeted floor mats ($210). Price as tested (including $1,150 destination charge): $38,560
Wheelbase: 111.8 in.
Length: 193.3 in.
Width: 73.2 in.
Height: 56.9 in.
Power: Four-cylinder engine plus electric motor (192 combined hp)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 44 city, 51 highway

Ratings

Style: 9
Performance: 7
Price: 9
Handling: 6
Ride: 9
Comfort: 8
Quality: 8
Overall: 8

Why buy it?

The Sonata offers an enticing blend of eye-catching style, exceptional fuel economy and premium features at a competitive price point.

Posted in Hyundai

Adrenaline Injection

Cargazing
By Derek Price

The Toyota GR Corolla is a testament to automotive alchemy, transforming the traditionally staid Corolla into a fire-breathing hot hatch that will leave enthusiasts grinning from ear to ear.

After a week behind the wheel of the Premium trim, it’s clear that Toyota’s GAZOO Racing division has created something truly special.

At the heart of this pocket rocket is a turbocharged 1.6-liter three-cylinder engine that defies expectations. Despite its diminutive size, this powerplant churns out a whopping 300 horsepower and 273 pound feet of torque, figures that would have been impressive in a V8 not too long ago. The low-end grunt is particularly astonishing, with boost coming on strong and early, catapulting the GR Corolla forward with startling urgency.

Paired exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission, the GR Corolla delivers a visceral, engaging driving experience that’s becoming increasingly rare in today’s automotive landscape.

The shifter action is precise and satisfying, with well-defined gates that make rowing through the gears a joy. An automatic option is not available, thank goodness. It would undoubtedly dilute the raw, connected feel that makes this hot hatch so special.

The 2024 Toyota GR Corolla’s subtle yet aggressive styling belies its potent performance capabilities, making it the ultimate sleeper hot hatch.

On twisty backroads, the GR Corolla comes alive. Its rally-derived all-wheel-drive system, which can split power between the front and rear axles in various configurations, provides tenacious grip and allows for impressive cornering speeds. The steering is direct and communicative, giving you the confidence to push harder with each successive bend.

Visually, the GR Corolla strikes a balance between aggression and subtlety. In the neutral gray paint of my tester, it doesn’t scream for attention like some of its more extroverted rivals. Instead, it’s a sleeper that will surprise unsuspecting sports car drivers at stoplights.

Functional vents and a subtle rear spoiler hint at its performance potential without crossing into boy-racer territory.
Inside, the GR Corolla is more focused on function than luxury. The supportive sport seats hold you firmly in place during spirited driving, and the digital gauge cluster provides all the necessary performance information at a glance.

While not as plush as some competitors, the interior feels well-built and purposeful.

Surprisingly, the GR Corolla isn’t as punishing in daily driving as one might expect from such a performance-focused machine. The ride is firm but not brittle, and road noise is kept reasonably in check. That said, it wouldn’t be my first choice for long highway slogs or if comfort is your top priority.

While not luxurious, the GR Corolla’s focused interior puts all necessary controls at the driver’s fingertips, with supportive seats ready for both spirited drives and daily commutes.

Fuel economy, rated at 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway, is respectable given the performance on tap. However, enthusiastic driving will quickly see those numbers plummet.

At $42,132 as tested, the GR Corolla Premium represents strong value in the hot hatch segment. It undercuts some European rivals while offering comparable (or superior) performance. Standard features are generous, including a premium audio system and advanced driver aids.

The GR Corolla isn’t without faults. Some interior plastics feel a bit cheap, and the infotainment system, while improved, still lags behind the best in the class. Rear seat space is also tight, a reminder of the Corolla’s compact roots.

But these are minor quibbles in the face of the GR Corolla’s overwhelming charm. It’s a car that makes you seek out the long way home, that begs to be driven hard, and that proves Toyota can still build thrilling driver’s cars when it puts its mind to it.

For enthusiasts lamenting the demise of affordable performance cars, the GR Corolla is a beacon of hope. It’s a hot hatch that punches well above its weight, delivering supercar-rivaling thrills in a practical, relatively affordable package.

The fact that it wears a Corolla badge makes it all the more remarkable.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2024 Toyota GR Corolla Premium ($39,920). Options: Special color ($425), carpet floor mats ($289), door sill protectors ($179), frameless HomeLink mirror ($175), cargo net ($49). Price as tested (including $1,095 destination charge): $42,132
Wheelbase: 103.9 in.
Length: 173.6 in.
Width: 72.8 in.
Height: 58.2 in.
Engine: 1.6-liter three cylinder (300 hp, 273 lbs. ft.)
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Fuel Economy: 21 city, 28 highway

Ratings

Style: 9
Performance: 10
Price: 6
Handling: 9
Ride: 6
Comfort: 3
Quality: 8
Overall: 9

Why buy it?

It offers blistering performance, rally-bred all-wheel-drive grip, and surprising daily usability in a package that won’t break the bank.

Posted in Toyota

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