A classy, comfortable, refined, well-equipped and well-priced crossover – but at the cost of a range that will put off many buyers
Car executives frequently claim their firm thinks differently, often when they’re about to pull the covers off a new box-shaped, box-ticking, firmly inside-the-box SUV. But Mazda? Mazda really is a little bit different. From its belief in the rotary motor to its compression ignition petrol engines, Mazda frequently stands alone in a fug of car industry conformity – and that’s true of its approach to electric cars.
Mazda, you see, doesn’t seem entirely convinced by them. Not because of tin-hatted climate change denial, but due to a belief that the environmental impact of an EV should be measured across its whole life cycle – and big lithium ion batteries mean making an EV produces more CO2 than making a combustion-engined car.
But Mazda knows it needs EVs – both to meet growing consumer demand and to meet ever-toughening emissions legislation. Which brings us to the MX-30. From the outside, it looks like a firmly inside-the-box electric crossover. It mixes Mazda’s typically understated style with some stylish flourishes (RX-8-esque suicide doors!), a packed equipment list and pricing that starts at a very competitive £25,545 (AUD$45,000) after government grants (in the UK).
So far, so conventional. But the philosophy underpinning the MX-30 is almost wilfully anti-establishment. Mazda has taken a stand against the trend to pack EVs with expensive and bigger batteries to offer more range. It’s fitted the MX-30 with a comparatively small 35.5kWh battery: good for the environment, lowering the car’s price and for driving dynamics. The cost is the MX-30’s official range: 200km. Mazda claims it’s ‘right-sized’, offering sufficient range for the daily usage of intended buyers. You could also describe it as ‘small’, especially compared with rivals such as the Peugeot e-208 (340km), Renault Zoe (395km) and Nissan Leaf (312km). It can’t even match the oft-criticised ranges of the Mini Electric (228km) and Honda E (218km).
So can the MX-30’s competitive price, driving dynamics and new features convince sceptical buyers that Mazda’s philosophy really is right?
The MX-30 features the latest evolution of Mazda’s Kodo design language, with sharp, clean styling that clearly differentiates it from its combustion-engined siblings, along with stylish three-tone paint options. That said, the crossover design doesn’t exactly shout EV, particularly with a long bonnet that looks designed to house a combustion engine more than an electric motor (largely because, for reasons we’ll get to, it is).
The interior also merges some of the spatial benefits of its dedicated EV architecture with some reassuringly conventional features. The clean dashboard creates a real sense of space, with the 8.8-inch infotainment screen set back in the dashboard. There’s also a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen to operate the climate control. But this isn’t a form-over-function touchscreen takeover: the climate control screen is surrounded by physical buttons, and the infotainment is operated via a rotary controller built into the ‘floating’ centre console.
Neat touches abound, with the use of stylish cork trim and environmentally friendly seat material, creating a classy, comfortable cabin. While our late pre-production test car was in the equivalent of top-spec GT Sport Tech trim, even entry-level SE-L Lux models feature a head-up display, an eight-speaker stereo, 18-inch alloy wheels and a reversing camera among other kit.
The MX-30’s party trick is its backwards-opening rear doors, a neat nod to the RX-8 and designed to ease access to the rear seats. That said, the rear doors only work when the front ones are also open, reducing their practicality somewhat. Space in the rear is also somewhat limited, and larger adults might struggle for leg room. The boot is a decent 366 litres, with 1171 litres of capacity with the rear seats folded.
The MX-30’s front-mounted electric motor sends its 100kW to the front wheels, and also offers 270Nm of torque. As with most electric cars, that power is available instantly, and the MX-30 is resultantly capable of making pleasingly brisk progress.
The car’s comparatively small underfloor batteries result in a kerb weight of 1645kg, relatively light for an EV of this size, and the MX-30 consequently feels relatively nimble and dynamic to drive. You’re not going to mistake it for an MX-5, clearly, but it’s certainly among the dynamically sharper of electric crossovers.
As with the Kia e-Niro, paddles behind the steering wheel can be used to adjust the energy recapture, with the heaviest of five settings allowing for near-one-pedal operation. On a mixed test loop of 65km, we used around 92km of the given range, and while we weren’t driving as conservatively as we might, that suggests the MX-30 might need plugging in (via either up to a 6.6kW AC or 50kW DC connection) more often than that official range of 200km already implies.
The MX-30 undoubtedly has much going for it. It’s stylish, well-equipped, refined, classy and competitively priced. There is much to recommend for those seeking a compact electric crossover – but it comes at the expense of range. Mazda might be correct that it’s ‘right-sized’ for most buyers; presented with other options, those buyers may not agree.
Of course, if 200km are not enough, Mazda will soon offer a solution – and a wilfully different one at that. While it has no plans to offer the MX-30 with a bigger battery, it will launch one with a range-extender rotary engine (see, told you there was a reason for the extra space under the bonnet), which it claims offers more range and is still less environmentally impactful than packing in more lithium ion packs.
Until then, though, the MX-30 is a quirky, defiantly different and welcome addition to the ever-swelling EV ranks – if a 200km range really is right for you.