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Mazda MX-30: What it lacks in range it more than makes up for in fun

The Mazda MX-30 may have a small battery and electric motor but it does have all the spirit, style and fun of the MX-5 – and in that sense this EV is completely unique.

Discover EV expert verdict...

4.5 / 5

PROS
  • A cracking drive
  • Distinctive styling
  • Class-leading interior quality
CONS
  • Limited range for some people
  • Cramped rear seat space
  • Needs deeper front seats

Overview

We’ve driven most electric cars on the market to date and we’ve used just about every metric you can think of to rank and rate them. The Mazda MX-30 certainly scores highly on a lot of those, but there is one aspect on which it blasts the rest of the EVs out of the water. That is “Mazda-ness”… Or to put it better, brand consistency. Being Mazda’s first EV (discounting the weird and wonderful concepts over the years) the MX-30 is more like a Mazda than the Taycan is like a Porsche or the e-tron is like an Audi, and I shall attempt to explain why.

We’ve just returned from the UK launch of the MX-30, which in the current restrictions enforced by the pandemic at this stage was a little different to a normal car launch. Aside from sanitised cars, every journo in masks, takeaway lunch etc., the usual presentations were done via Vimeo. Whilst watching Mazda UK’s Managing Director Jeremy Thomson talk about the MX-30 and how they have purposely fitted a smaller battery (or what Mazda call “the correct size battery”) the cynic in me couldn’t help think that the purported benefits were just dressing up the fact the car has a small battery to make it cheaper.

After all in the current range obsessed market why would you opt to put a 35.5kWh battery in a platform that could easily take more, or at least offer the ability to specify a bigger battery? Mazda claims that a smaller correct sized battery means a lighter car, which in turn means better handling and more enjoyable performance. Something to have fun in, without the skills of an F1 driver… Another Mazda springs to mind here, but more on that later.

Not convinced, I arrived for the launch first thing at the world’s first electric forecourt, GRIDSERVE’s maiden site in Braintree, Essex, to see around 30 MX-30s parked up and most of them charging. It was certainly a sight to behold for an EV nut, and a vision of the not so distant future, not to mention firm proof that EVs are the way forward. I suspect there was another set of journalists arriving for a drive in the afternoon and due to the size of the battery Mazda could easily recharge them in time, another nod towards the “correct size” no doubt.

Driving

After a good look over the car it was time to drive the route Mazda had setup for us, a 50 mile round trip taking in a mix of motorways and A and B roads, including some nice twisty sections of the Essex countryside. The first thing to note is that despite a 0-62mph time of 9.7 seconds it feels a lot pokier than that, and secondly there is an artificial engine noise piped into the cabin, which opinion seems largely divided on. You’ve got the purist EV camp that suggest there is no reason for it and why should it make a noise like an ICE, and then you’ve got those that argue anything that makes the transition from fossil fuel to electric propulsion as frictionless as possible is a good thing.

Personally, it depends on the mood I’m in, but more importantly the car I’m in. Mazda has really tried hard in every sense to make this little family car great to drive and in this application I think it really works. It’s not loud and unless your foot is flat you may not even notice it, but as the road’s twists and turns unfold in front of me and my confidence in the car grew, it made sense and added to the fun.

Pushing on I was seriously impressed with how well the MX-30 drives. The steering is well-weighted, sharp and communicative (shame the steering wheel is slightly oversized), the suspension (featuring a MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear set-up) is slightly firm but well damped (even on sections of rutted road) and keeps body roll in check. For a crossover it corners pretty flat with enough give to be comfortable.

Mazda say that by implementing the same measures as on the Mazda3 and CX-30 – such as the use of optimised bushings and a centre beam – the smooth and instantaneous transmission of force from the road surface to the driver has been achieved. The Electric G-Vectoring Control Plus (e-GVC Plus) also enhances chassis performance by using motor torque to optimise the front-rear load shift for improved stability. In layman’s terms I found it very enjoyable to drive and kept hearing the words of Jeremy Thomson. Sharing the MX moniker – that’s only worn by Mazda’s that challenge convention to create and deliver new values in a segment, it very much reminds me of the MX-5, which focuses on driver engagement, lightweight design, communicative controls and balanced handling. Basically it has just right amount of power, it’s not overly complicated and fun!

I had another “correct-sized” battery moment when I threw the car into a roundabout for the first time. I expected it to wash out but it didn’t, it coped with ease despite the speed and only faltered on the exit with tyre scrabble and torque steer, something which all front-wheel drive EVs suffer from and to be fair it was very wet. It’s certainly not as bad as the Nissan LEAF or as laughably unsettling as the MG ZS EV. It’s present but easy to work with. Away from the twisty stuff and in an urban environment the turning circle proved excellent.

In terms of downsides there are no drive modes, unlike most EVs, so you don’t have the option to alter the steering for example which might have been nice. The regen brakes are also a little grabby, but otherwise the system offers a seamless transfer between energy regeneration and hydraulic brake action. I also like the fact that there are five adjustable levels of regenerative braking, which can be adjusted via the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. There is also no urgency when you put your foot flat to the floor from standstill, but this Mazda is not all about outright performance, it’s about the right things in the right quantities – to have some fun on a daily basis without having to break the rules and your back

Mazda MX-30 driving
Mazda MX-30 electric motor

Range and running costs

As explained Mazda believes that the MX-30's battery capacity of 35.5kWh provides the optimum balance between driving range (which gives customers peace of mind) and keeping overall vehicle weight lower for better handling and greater agility (not currently the case for many EVs). As such it delivers a range of 124 miles, which to be honest is more than adequate for most, but more importantly – unlike the MG ZS EV it’s very accurate. At the start of the journey the car was fully charged with 110 miles and by the time I finished I had 50, which is pretty impressive given I was driving very spiritedly for most of the test route.

The beauty of a small battery, of course, is short charging times. Each MX-30 comes as standard with a Type 2 AC charging cable (up to 6.6kW) enabling a charge from 20% to 80% in 3 hours and a socket for DC rapid charging, taking just 36 minutes.

With prices starting at £26,045 it represents good value for money and the entry-level SE-L Lux trim provides everything you need from active safety kit to creature comforts, plus it means it undercuts the cheapest Honda E and Renault ZOE, and its several thousand pounds cheaper than the Kia e-Niro and Peugeot e-2008. The MX-30 is also predicted to be one of the best EVs for depreciation.

With zero emissions, they're also very cheap in terms of company car tax – zero per cent benefit-in-kind (BIK) rising to 4% over the next three years, notwithstanding changes in policy. There are also huge savings to be had on the cost of electricity versus petrol or diesel, and running costs with fewer moving parts. The MX-30 gets Mazda’s standard three years or 60,000 miles warranty, but it also has an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty specifically for the batteries.

Design

The styling is modern and elegant but still SUV like. Mazda has done away with the signature wing used on other products in its model line-up, instead employing a bold signature Mazda badge as the highlight feature of the front together with a new black grille which combines with the deeply sculpted form around the cylindrical headlamps, as used on all Mazda’s new-generation cars.

Though they appear flat, the body side surfaces are formed with a bold curve in them that continues from the front end to the shoulder highlights. The A-pillars stand boldly upright to punctuate the flow, while the C-pillars sweep down at a sharp angle to seamlessly blend the roof and cabin. The side of the tailgate is finished in a metallic paint colour distinct from the main body, to emphasise both the cabin’s streamlined look and its integration with the rear of the vehicle. It oozes effortless style, is distinctive enough for an EV without being overtly offensive and still very much exudes the characteristics of a Mazda.

Getting into the car and you’re immediately met with a more premium cockpit than perhaps expected. It’s well laid out and a pretty nice place to be. Your eye is then immediately drawn to the unusual materials, cork being one of them. Mazda make a song and dance about the use of cork – for being stylish, durable and having a low environmental impact (in that its left over from the production of bottle stoppers), but also that it pays tribute to Mazda’s heritage (harking back to the company foundation in 1920 as the Toyo Cork Kogyo Corporation) but it all seems somewhat moot given there’s only cork on the centre console tray section and door grips! The other materials (used for the doors, side trim, console and dashboard) include a smattering of chrome detailing, leatherette and a type of plastic that incorporates fibres from recycled PET bottles. Overall, it’s comfortable, stylish, well-equipped and comes with good levels of tech for the price point – much better than the electric offerings from Kia and Hyundai.

Comfort and practicality

The controls are excellent – in that they are well laid-out, clear and grouped intelligently, so that all operations can be performed quickly and intuitively. The MX-30 adopts the same 8.8 inch, dashtop-mounted centre display introduced in the Mazda3 and CX-30, with a 7 inch display below which serves as a touch-screen air-conditioning control panel; a first for the brand. There is also traditional push switches mounted on the display’s perimeter to offer alternative control over the A/C. In addition to a two screen configuration, content is also displayed on the driver's 7 inch instrument cluster, giving visual consistency of instrumentation throughout the cabin. Together it all gels rather nicely, with Mazda's Commander control offering fast and easy use of the system, without the need to take your eyes off the road – it is probably one of the most ergonomic, user-friendly cockpits we’ve seen in an EV. Simple, but effective.

The rear doors open backwards to 80° (otherwise known as suicide doors, similar to Mazda RX8 and BMW i3) to allow easy access to the rear seats. Unfortunately space is rather limited in the back in terms of leg and head room, and would only comfortably sit two children. That said teens and adults alike would be able to get content but not for too long, especially for anyone sat in the middle with a high transmission tunnel adding even less practicality.

There is no frunk, which is a shame when a peak under the bonnet reveals that there is more than enough room for one. The 366 litre boot space is not much bigger than a Ford Fiesta’s and there’s nowhere to store the charging cables either but there is a sub-trunk beneath the floor for storing small items. You lose an additional 25 litres if you get the GT Sport Tech with its subwoofer and surround sound. If a big boot is on your wish list you’ll want to look to the e-Niro and e-2008. I did like the seating position which is quite high to secure a clear and unobstructed view, while the shape of the rear door glass and quarter windows enable good all-round visibility, but at 6 feet 3 inches there was nowhere near enough depth to the front seats for me so it didn’t take long before it got somewhat uncomfortable. Still for the average driver interior space is more than adequate, enhanced further by the floating centre console which also adds additional storage space. There’s also big glovebox and a good array of cup holders, cubbies and trays.

The MyMazda smartphone App is designed to make life with an EV more convenient, so it will send a notification to a customer's smartphone if they forget to plug in the charging cable, and you can control charging using a timer, monitor charging progress, view the status of the battery and adjust vehicle climate control settings. You can also search for charging stations and then relay the information to the navigation system.

In addition to the 350 First Edition models, the full UK MX-30 range features three generously equipped model grades – SE-L Lux, Sport Lux (as tested) and GT Sport Tech. Standard equipment includes 18” alloy wheels, LED headlights with daytime running lights, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, Mazda Radar Cruise Control with intelligent speed assist, driver attention alert, blind spot monitoring system with rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning system and lane-keep assist system, navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and head-up display.

Verdict

The MX-30 fills a space in the market that hasn’t really got any competitors. The closest would be the slightly larger Kia e-Niro, Hyundai KONA Electric or MG ZS EV, but although more practical with larger cabins and boot space and longer ranges, they lack the premium feel of the cabin and the spirited drive that the Mazda gives you.

On the flip side the MINI Electric and Honda e satisfy some the fun element and have well designed cabins, but with limited practicality they fall short in our opinion of the MX-30. Right now we would struggle to find a car that fulfils that middle ground as well as the Mazda.

There are some downsides, but they are few and far between. The brakes are a little grabby, smooth enough between the regen and pads but the initial bite and more so release, can be sudden. We’d like a little more rear space and deeper front seats. A frunk would be useful, plus more superior rubber up front to handle the power better, but we’re nit-picking really. We’d like to say a bigger battery and some more range would be useful, but it wouldn’t be the same car and to be honest unless you do a lot of daily miles the 124 mile range is more than plenty, especially if it’s a second car.

We really liked the MX-30 and if this is what Mazda can do with their first EV we’re very much looking forward to Mazda’s future electrification plans.

Key Specs

2021 Mazda MX-30 Sport Lux

Price (RRP OTR): From £26,045 (including plug-in grant), £28,045 (model as tested)
Top speed: 87mph
0-62mph: 9.7 seconds
Power: 143bhp
Torque: 200lb-ft
Driving range (combined): 124 miles
Charging time: 5 hours (wall box, 0-100%); 36 minutes (50kW, 20-80%);
Insurance group: TBC
Vehicle warranty: 3 years/60,000 miles
Battery warranty: 8 years

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Comments (2)

Charlesm

26th Mar 2021 11:58

Was there any mention at launch of the rumoured REX version might appear?


DiscoverEV

7th Apr 2021 14:48

Hi Charles, no metion of it at the Launch I'm afraid. We're not entirely convinced it needs it when average journeys are well within its range.


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