First Drive: The Mazda MX-30 brings a premium approach to the everyday EV
What is it?
For years, Mazda has been fighting the corner of internal combustion engines, saying there’s plenty of room to refine them before we completely say goodbye. However, it has now joined the bandwagon by building its own electric vehicle – but it has still gone its own way.
Building a crossover is a pretty safe bet for sales, but Mazda isn’t convinced that big battery cars are that much better for the environment over their full life cycle. That’s why the MX-30 only has a range of 124 miles when some rivals have north of 200, because that way, it’s more efficient more quickly and has emitted far less by the end of its life.
We’ve been behind the wheel of a pre-production model to get a feel for the firm’s first production electric vehicle.
The MX-30 has been built to be an electric vehicle from the ground up, which means it can be optimised as an EV rather than converting an existing petrol model. This allows the car’s construction to be compact, being surprisingly small on the outside but feeling bigger once you’re behind the wheel.
Elsewhere, there are sustainably sourced materials used throughout, ‘freestyle doors’ that evoke memories of the firm’s RX-8 sports car, and an EV-adapted version of Mazda’s G-Vectoring technology, which can use the electric motors to independently control each wheel to improve grip and stability.
What’s under the bonnet?
The MX-30 uses Mazda’s new e-Skyactiv powertrain, which consists of a 143bhp electric motor combined with a 35.5kWh battery pack. The system makes 271Nm of torque, but it has been tuned unlike most EVs to have a more linear power delivery, so you don’t get that immediate kick of power.
In that way it’s less fun to drive at lower speeds than many of its rivals, but generally speaking it results in a much smoother driving experience. As for that 124-mile range, it’s more than enough for most use cases – especially if you have a home charger – but it remains to be seen if buyers are willing to look past this because it’s more eco-friendly in the long run.
What’s it like to drive?
With the ‘MX’ part of its name, Mazda is clearly keen to create a mental link between this and its MX-5 sports car. The firm has long put driving pleasure at the forefront of its vehicle design, and to be fair to the MX-30 it does handle well with a less crashy ride than some of its rivals, which is likely a benefit of the smaller, lighter battery.
In general driving the MX-30 is a pleasure, with the impressive ride quality and improved sound suppression making it quiet and relaxing to drive. Once you’re accustomed to not having the traditional EV punch, you naturally relax into a much smoother driving style that, while far from exciting, does make it ideal for daily driving duties.
How does it look?
The MX-30 wears Mazda’s ‘kodo’ design language well, continuing the firm’s winning design streak. It’s not the most elegant car in the range, though, with the chunky cladding lower down giving a slightly cheaper feel.
That being said, the details are fantastic, with the narrow headlight and grille design up front and coupe-like roof sloping to the rear giving off genuine premium appeal. The highlight is the ‘freestyle doors’ that have a pillarless design, making it easier to get into the back while looking cool in the process.
What’s it like inside?
The interior continues Mazda’s knack for building premium-feel cabins at less-than-premium prices. All of the touchpoints have high quality materials, but on top of this the compact EV powertrain has allowed for a clever ‘floating’ centre console that raises the controls closer to hand while freeing up a large lower storage area.
However, while up front it’s spacious, comfortable and ergonomically sound, in the back the story’s not so positive. It’s pretty cramped, with leg room almost non-existent with our driving position while the sloping roof limits headroom.
What’s the spec like?
The MX-30 is available with three well-equipped trim levels, as well as a First Edition for early adopters, being priced well against rivals. Prices start at £25,545 after the plug-in car grant, with equipment including 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and taillights, front and rear parking sensors and a seven-inch climate control screen.
Top-spec GT Sport Tech models upgrade this healthily, starting from £29,845 with the lovely cloth upholstery used in our test cars. Opting for part-leather ticks the price just over £30k. Extra kit includes adaptive LED headlights, heated steering wheel and a 12-speaker Bose sound system.
The sustainable materials used inside are great quality, but the signature cork trim – which is a nod to the fact Mazda started life as a cork producer – felt like a bit of an afterthought in its implementation.
The more electric vehicles that hit the market, the more it becomes clear that giving each a distinct character is difficult. However, Mazda has done a great job with the MX-30 thanks to its linear power delivery, fun handling and decent ride quality. If you don’t need to carry adult rear passengers it could be a great daily driver.
However, it’s the range that’s the only question mark. It’s on par with the similarly priced Honda e, but that car is considerably smaller. It’s less expensive yet feels more premium than other crossover EVs like the Hyundai Kona Electric, but has much less range.
Should the cabin space and range not be an issue, though, the Mazda MX-30 is a comfortable, quality crossover worthy of your attention.