Mazda MX-30 review

Mazda enters its second century by kicking off its line of pure electric vehicles, in the form of the MX-30 crossover.

What's this?

The Mazda MX-30, not to be confused with the CX-30 crossover or the MX-5 sports car. Instead, despite the use of the ‘MX’ initials that have served Mazda’s performance car models for so long, this is the Japanese company’s first-ever electric vehicle (EV) for production. It is a crossover in shape but it is not simply a CX-30 with its internal-combustion innards torn out and replaced with an electric motor and battery pack; instead, the MX-30 is a bespoke vehicle design that sits apart from the other crossovers/SUVs in Mazda’s range. It is one of the few all-electric crossovers or SUVs at the more affordable end of the spectrum on the current market, but Mazda looks like it has taken a risk by only providing the MX-30 with a 35.5kWh lithium-ion battery pack. This permits it a WLTP-ratified combined range of just 200km, although Mazda insists its market research shows the average European commuter only drives 50km a day and therefore doesn’t require a needlessly weighty battery, capable of taking a car up to 500km in one go, as a result. The car’s performance is also modest, with 145hp and 271Nm on offer from a single electric motor driving the front wheels.

How is it to drive?

Mazda claims that ‘right-sized’ battery pack brings many benefits to the MX-30 proposition. The simple act of making it in the first place requires less CO2 than a larger lithium-ion battery, while charging the vehicle over the course of its lifetime (on national grids that are not run mainly on renewable energy sources) will also liberate less carbon into our atmosphere. Not only that, but the MX-30 is relatively light for a crossover, and an EV crossover at that.

This gives the Mazda EV excellent handling, considering its taller stance and family-biased ethos. It’s not out-and-out thrilling in the corners, but the MX-30 is deserving of the ‘MX’ honorific thanks to keen steering, good body control and a surfeit of grip. It limits understeer well and puts its 271Nm of instant electrical torque down well through the front axle alone, so that piloting an MX-30 at speed on a challenging road turns into a fairly involving, highly competent process.

It’s also impeccably refined on the move, with its soft damping (that allows some lean during faster cornering) providing superb ride comfort from town speeds all the way up to motorway cruising. Tyre and wind noise are quelled to a notable degree too, so you can better focus on the fact that, because the MX-30 doesn’t have any sort of reciprocating piston engine onboard, it is almost eerily smooth no matter what you’re asking of the drivetrain and chassis.

The thing is, we kind of wish Mazda had made it a bit more exciting. The cabin is very nice but not particularly thrilling, although there are some nice eco-touches in there due to the use of recycled and sustainable materials like 100 per cent PET, cork and vegan-friendly leatherette upholstery, and the somewhat puny motor doesn’t exactly give the MX-30 that sort of ‘push in the back’ acceleration that’s the usual hallmark of an EV. The power delivery is silky enough and nicely linear, but the MX-30 feels a bit ponderous if you ask it for anything more than 50 per cent throttle.

When is it coming to Ireland?

Mazda Ireland’s website already shows the MX-30 but it is not available for ordering or online configuration yet, as it won’t land on our shores until at least March 2021 – as a limited-run, well-specified First Edition only. Further trim specs will join later and perhaps the MX-30’s biggest USP is its price, which will start around the €30,000 mark. That’s competitively cheap in the grand EV scheme of things.

Any juicy technology?

Two things to talk of, although one isn’t really technology – it’s those fancy rear-hinged back doors. In order to keep the MX-30’s frame reasonably short overall, yet trying to make the interior as practical as possible, the smaller and more compact rear doors ensure there are no B-pillars in the cabin, making ingress and egress much easier. It’s also a nice tie-in to a historical Mazda model, the RX-8, which had the same feature. Beyond this, there’s now a seven-inch touchscreen for the climate controls of the MX-30. This works very well and presents the graphics crisply, but Mazda has been cunning in ensuring anti-digital types won’t complain about ‘everything going touchscreen these days’ because it has put six crucial, physical short-cut buttons to the main climate functions down the side of the screen. Consider this a ‘belt and braces’ approach from the manufacturer. rating: 4/5

Smooth but not stand-out, proficient but not perfect, the Mazda MX-30 is a solid entrant to the compact EV market, yet not one that we think will change the game considerably. Its selling points are its looks, its sharp handling and its low purchase price, but the 200km overall range is going to be a limiting factor to its success, we feel – even if Mazda is confident end users will never need more than this. It can’t be that confident, however, as a range-extender model of the MX-30 is coming, complete with a tiny onboard rotary engine to top the battery pack up. That may well be the MX-30 we’re waiting for, albeit it won’t be a pure ‘zero-emissions’ vehicle if it has to burn petrol in some small way.

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