19.3.2021Mazda MX-30 first drive
As Mazda’s first EV to arrive in the UK, the MX-30 has a lot riding on it. The compact EV ticks plenty of boxes, though with a relatively short range, it’s not going to be for everyone. As part of a new wave of smaller, shorter-range EVs with a focus on fun, however, the Mazda looks to be well placed in its sub-genre. We attend the UK launch to gather some early impressions as to how the MX-30 gets on.
Review by Chris Lilly
MAZDA MX-30: PERFORMANCE
There’s just the one powertrain to review, which sees Mazda fit a 107 kW (145 hp) motor under the bonnet, driving the front wheels. It’s certainly not going to get the pulses racing, but the motor has more than enough to it to deal with daily life, thanks in part to the instant response and 271 Nm of torque available. It allows the MX-30 to complete the 0-62mph sprint in 9.7 seconds which, again, is hardly quick, but it’s far from sluggish too.
The day’s test route provided a decent mix of roads, with A- and B-roads across a corner of the Cotswolds making up the majority of the round-trip. It dealt with everything comfortably, from village streets to dual-carriageway, and helps Mazda’s ‘right-sizing’ principle. I’d have welcomed a more powerful motor, with 150 kW available for example, but the MX-30 performs well and you don’t really need more.
With Mazda’s focus on handling, and the ‘MX-‘ prefix linking the 30 with the iconic MX-5 roadster, hopes of a true “driver’s car” were high. As such, I was initially a little underwhelmed by the MX-30’s handling, but this is certainly a case of expectations ruining reality. Resetting the road tester in me, and approaching the Mazda MX-30 with a clean sheet of paper, the EV actually handles very nicely, though with a softer set-up than you might expect. The suspension is softer than that found in the Mini Electric or Honda e - the MX-30’s short-range, high-fun EV rivals - and is the more comfortable for it.
However, thanks in part to a rather decent grasp of vehicle dynamics from Mazda (they have some of the best driving cars in each class across the manufacturer’s line-up), and the rest down to some fancy technical trickery, the MX-30 handles nicely. When turning you can feel the car’s weight shift and load up the outside tyres in a manner which is rare to find now in a crossover. It means the handling isn’t as taut as I’d expected, but grip and cornering performance are still good. It also means that performance over rough roads and in urban areas is far more comfortable, with the MX-30 the most comfortable of the Mini/Honda/Mazda triumvirate.
I reckon the MX-30 is a stylish machine, with Mazda’s design language translating well to the compact crossover. Everything the Japanese manufacturer makes at the moment looks good, and the MX-30 is no exception. It’s got the looks of a coupe-crossover, but with added practicality thanks to a pair of rear-hinged half doors behind the front portals for easier access to the rear. It’s the same concept as on the BMW i3, though a bit larger all-round. As such, getting to the rear seats is relatively easy, and the model tested had a button on the rear of the front seat to shift it forward and back for easier access still.
There’s a surprising amount of space in the back seats, which although aren’t really spacious, can fit an averagely sized adult without any need for contortionist expertise. I wouldn’t want to do a long trip in the back of an MX-30, but I could certainly cope for an hour or so with the head and leg space available. As for a family of four, I should think the MX-30 will deal with daily life just fine, but the rear space and load area - as well as relatively short range - mean that long holidays or camping trips for example would, I expect, be a struggle.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The MX-30’s cabin is simply lovely. There has clearly been a lot of thought in making sure the interior fits the ethos Mazda has gone for with its first EV. Textiles used are leatherette and cloth for the upholstery - the latter available with up to 20% recycled fibres - and there are sections of panelling that use recycled materials such as plastic bottles to create a felted feeling on the doors for example. Mazda has used cork to line its cubby holes and trays which not only helps protect these areas from keys, coins etc, but also harks back to Mazda’s heritage from 100 years ago as a cork manufacturer. It’s coated to make it non-porous, and uses left-over material from bottle stoppers, using what would otherwise be waste.
It all gives a premium feel, and one of carefully considered ecological considerations. The driver gets a great position and steering wheel, though a set of analogue controls to read. There is a head-up display available on models, and the Mazda infotainment system is a good one and found in here as well as in other models. The worst comment is that the infotainment screen is practically letterbox in shape, which keeps visibility forward good, but is the worst shape for navigation possible, showing less of the road ahead compared to conventionally-shaped or portrait screens. It’s an excellent cabin elsewhere, however.
MAZDA MX-30: RANGE & RUNNING COSTS
Many buyers will instantly be put off by the official 124-mile driving range. That would be a shame though, since the MX-30’s range will more than meet the typical daily mileage of the majority of drivers in the UK. Even if it doesn’t, it would comfortably serve as a second car for an even greater proportion of people, covering the lion’s share of a household’s annual mileage. In real-world conditions, the near-60 mile route offered a decent chance to test the car’s range, but without truly testing the Mazda. Two things quickly became apparent: one, the range holds up well to real-world driving and, two, the calculated range is pretty accurate as well.
The MX-30 started with 116 miles showing on its screen, with 99% battery - the car had only travelled 128 miles before I put 58 on top of that. On returning to base, the car was displaying a range of 60 miles, meaning I had increased the calculated showing by a couple of miles, but it remained close. I could perhaps have added five miles to the display by the end of a charge, but it remains a pretty accurate calculation, and one that stays very close to the WLTP-derived figure. We shall have to spend more time with the Mazda MX-30 to test this further, but initial impressions are good.
Mazda offers a variable brake energy recuperation system on the MX-30, which isn’t new in itself, but it has gone about it In a different way to usual - perhaps a better way. There is no Eco or Sport mode available, as rival cars have - there isn’t even a ‘B’ setting - instead relying on the regen settings and the driver to perform those tasks, which I think works well. The novel approach is that D is placed in the middle of the recuperation levels, ‘braking’ a little when lifting off the throttle.
The new approach is that you can toggle ‘up’ twice to a coasting level, and down twice (from D) to essentially ‘B’ - a strong regen setting that will almost bring the car to a stop. Others start at D and go down, or may offer a D- setting for coasting, but I think Mazda’s specific approach is unique. It certainly is compared to other EVs tested. Other green features include the compact battery, which although limits range, it also reduces weight, improves efficiency and cuts down charging times. Charging can be carried out on a 6.6 kW AC charger for 5 hour full recharge, or at up to 40 kW DC using the CCS inlet for a 36 minute 10-80% charge.
There are three core trim levels, plus an additional First Edition for launch. All come well equipped, particularly when compared to rival models. Fitted as standard to all models are an 8.8- inch colour infotainment system with Mazda’s rotary dial control, navigation, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, USB, DAB and Bluetooth. The driver gets a 7-inch TFT display between dials, and the MX-30’s heating controls are covered by a 7-inch colour touchscreen system low down on the centre console. LED headlights, reversing camera and parking sensors front & rear, automatic wipers and lights, head-up display and suite of safety systems are included.
The GT-Sport Tech trim tested included 18-inch alloys, adaptive LED headlights, powered sunroof, 12-speaker Bose stereo, electric driver seat and heated front seats and steering wheel, keyless entry and start as well as 360-degree parking sensors. The MyMazda connected car app is available across the range as well, allowing the familiar EV features of charger timing, battery check, remote locking and pre-conditioning.
MAZDA MX-30: MODEL SUMMARY
The Mazda MX-30 is a very good EV. It’s comfortable, stylish, drives nicely and has a lovely interior. Some will want a bit more performance, others a bit more range, but the Mazda does all that’s needed of it in these regards, so the ‘rightsizing’ aspect must be remembered. Although not for everyone, it’s an EV that’s suitable and worthy of consideration for more than you might think.
Model tested: Mazda MX-30 GT Sport Tech
Engine / CO2: 107 kW electric motor / 0 g/km
Trim grades: SE-L Lux, Sport Lux, GT Sport Tech, First Edition
On-road price: From £32,045 (inc £2,500 PiCG)
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars