- What is it?
- What else makes it stand out from the pack?
- Wait, only 124 miles of range?
- And how big is the battery, exactly?
- What’s the competition like?
- Our choice from the range
- What's the verdict?
- What is it like to drive?
- Well this is disappointing news…
- Is it comfortable?
- I see. And is it fast?
- What is it like on the inside?
- What should I be paying?
What is it?
The MX-30 isn’t Mazda’s first electric vehicle per se – it’s made several prototypes, including the absurd, Kinder-Egg-on-wheels EX-005 concept of 1970 – but it is Mazda’s first production EV.
Careering straight down the plug-in crossover route seems like a safe bet for pulling in buyers: indeed, Mazda says it shifted more than 2,000 examples in the UK in its first year-and-a-bit on sale.
But there are lots of clues Mazda’s doing things differently here. The name, for starters: MX is usually the prefix of coupes and roadsters, most notably the MX-5, so affixing it here (in lieu of more explicit EV badging) draws a real line in the sand that we should think of this as sporty.
What else makes it stand out from the pack?
Its ‘freestyle door’ layout (check out the gallery above), which apes the RX-8 coupe of the mid-2000s. An odd choice, you might suggest, given that car’s unfashionable thirst for fuel and oil, but much like the retro styling of the Honda e, it’s an immediate talking point whenever somebody stops to poke around your MX-30.
In fact, the dinky Honda is arguably this car’s closest rival. Their prices align fairly neatly, as do their range figures, Mazda claiming 124 miles on the WLTP cycle. Or a smidge more if you mostly drive in town.
Wait, only 124 miles of range?
Yup. Or 106 miles real-world, in our experience. Mazda’s done the sums and worked out that smaller batteries have a significantly friendlier CO2 emissions footprint over their lifetime than larger batteries, and ‘break even’ with an internal combustion engine – i.e. counterbalance the high CO2 output of their manufacture with their lack of tailpipe emissions – after far fewer miles. It’s also researched its target buyers and concluded they don’t need any more distance from a full charge.
And how big is the battery, exactly?
It’s 35.5kWh, and we’re told the MX-30 will never get a bigger one than this. Instead, larger range figures will be yielded in the future by the addition of a rotary range-extender unit, which should be a heck of a lot lighter on fuel than Mazda’s last rotary-powered car, that voracious RX-8.
What's the best electric vehicle for nipping around town?
This is a five-seater, but the rear is probably best reserved for little ‘uns, while the interior itself keeps it firmly in Honda e hunting ground. While not quite as revolutionary in its layout, its mix of vegan seat materials, plastics made from recycled PET bottles and actual cork trim give it a firm hipster-brunch-spot vibe.
What’s the competition like?
Other than the Honda e and perhaps the Mini Electric in the small-premium-car-with-naff-range segment, you’ve got the likes of the MG ZS EV, Hyundai Kona Electric, Peugeot e-2008 and Vauxhall Mokka-e in the small-SUV-with-decent-range portion of the market.
Our choice from the range
107kW Sport Lux 35.5kWh 5dr Auto
What's the verdict?
“There's a smart interior behind those wacky doors, and it drives neatly”
The dinky electric crossover is becoming a competitive corner of the car market. The MX-30 doesn’t quite offer the sportiness its name suggests: the nature of its powertrain stymies any chance of Mazda’s usual USPs – a deft touch and a delightful gearbox – giving it a head start over its key rivals.
But there’s a smart interior behind those wacky doors to make up for it, and it still drives as neatly as you could ever hope for from a 1.6-tonne SUV with modest power. Mazda’s been clever in how much regularity it’s built into the process of operating it, too. Analogue readouts and physical gear selection mean it’s a lot less daunting clambering in here than some competitors, going someway to counteract its poorer range figure. But with 200-mile alternatives available for similar money, might you be better off plucking up some courage to consider those instead?
What is it like to drive?
Mazdas are usually among the sweetest driving cars in their class owing to a combination of supple ride, light weight and a lovely manual gearshift. The MX-30, with its low-slung 310kg battery, its 1,645kg kerb weight and its single-speed transmission, can’t offer those selling points. It is, somewhat inevitably, lacking the sparkle that emanates from something like a Mazda 3 or CX-3.
Well this is disappointing news…
Don’t be too disheartened, in normal driving the MX-30 is very decent to pootle around in. It’s just missing that magic that turns a good car into a special one. And given Mazda went down the small battery route, we’d hoped for a bit more… effervescence. Pity.
Still, Mazda’s fitted the same torque-vectoring tech used elsewhere in its range but given it a bit of pep to work with the electric motor on the front axle. The result is neat, tidy, fuss-free cornering, and an amusing chirrup of wheelspin if you’re especially enthusiastic out of a corner. It’s not fun like an MX-5 is, but in the slightly homogenised world of EV handling, it’s neat.
Is it comfortable?
Ah, what you gain in stability you pay for in ride quality, or lack thereof at low speed. For the most part the MX-30 is comfy, but there’s little subtlety to the way it deals with speed bumps. It’s hardly alone in this regard, however, and it’s only really the Honda e that’s managed to fully evade the skateboard-like rigidity that small cars with a bank of battery cells in their belly usually exhibit.
I see. And is it fast?
Performance is fairly sober: with 143bhp moving 1.6 tonnes, its 9.7-second 0-62mph time and 87mph top speed are to be expected, but at least they’ll stop you sapping the battery too briskly. And as always in an EV, it’s 0-40mph where it majors anyway. There’s more than enough instant go to keep you happy at urban speeds.
There’s also smart brake regen on offer, with five levels to choose from via a pair of steering wheel paddles. Set at its strongest, this becomes a one-pedal car for all but reaching a standstill. It’s way more intuitively set up than some rivals, too, so we’d wager you might actually use it as opposed to trying it once and reverting back to driving more conventionally.
One thing you can’t alter is the false engine noise that accompanies acceleration and braking. Mazda had a tinker with this for 2022 and says the augmented noise better matches your throttle inputs now, but you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference. It actually sounds quite sweet – like a dinky three-cylinder petrol engine singing through autotune – and only pipes up under harder throttle or brake use. The car’s as spookily serene as any other EV as you cruise through town or along an A-road.
What is it like on the inside?
Mazda’s played things very well in here. Vegan materials and cork-covered cupholders may scream modern (though Mazda celebrated 100 years in business in 2020, and it started out making cork…) but all the major controls have been kept safe and approachable.
The MX-30’s engineers have seen everyone else mess with the gear selector formula and taken a chance to fit something that physically clicks between Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive, reassuring any first-time EV drivers right from the off that the brave new world doesn’t actually require much bravery. Another reassuring touch is its traditional, analogue fuel level gauge displaying how much battery’s left. No hard-to-fathom digital nonsense here.
Mind, every MX-30 gets a head-up display and a pair of 7in screens as standard, one up top to display media, nav or your smartphone interface, the other down by the gear lever for the climate control. But – hurrah! – the latter’s lined with physical buttons as well as a touchscreen, though we’d argue the fact it only displays climate, and doesn’t cycle between other functions, is a missed opportunity given how much room the screen takes up.
In the back, things will be a bit of a squeeze for adults, though manageable over short distances. Which, given the range figure, is probably fine. It’s worth having a poke around one of these before committing your kids to frequent journeys in the back, though – cool as those rear-hinged back doors are, they lead to pretty poor visibility for passengers (and the driver, as a matter of fact) owing to a pillar separating two tiny windows, hidden by the exterior tints.
The boot is reasonably sized but, thanks to the powertrain beneath, a tad shallow. Its 366-litre capacity puts it on par with a Ford Focus. Which the MX-30’s dimensions broadly match.
What should I be paying?
There are three levels of spec for the MX-30, each one equipped with radar cruise control, most of the active safety tech you’d want, a reversing camera and the biggest touchscreens Mazda offers.
Prices start at £30,050 for the base-spec Prime-Line model, but be advised that as of June 2022 the plug-in car grant no longer exists, so every penny of that figure is coming out of your pocket. That’s still not bad given the Honda e is a £37k car these days, while the similarly-ranged (you know what we mean) Mini Electric is only a grand or so less. If you’re after an SUV specifically, only the MG ZS EV comes close on price.
Next up is the mid-spec Exclusive-Line trim from £31,950, which brings fancier 18-inch alloys, heated front seats, heated and power-folding door mirrors, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and keyless entry.
The top-spec Makoto trim is a big leap up at £34,350, adding adaptive LED headlights, a 360-degree parking camera, sunroof, a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 12-speaker Bose sound system and various additional active safety gizmos.
Exclusive-Line is probably the way to go for most buyers, but remember you’ll need to keep some money aside for a nicer paint-job to really make the most of the MX-30’s dashing looks. Only you can decide if £1,800 is money well spent on ‘soul crystal red’.
As ever, there’s an app to help keep you on top of battery charging and suchlike, while a 20 to 80 per cent charge now takes just 26 minutes thanks to a 2022 upgrade lifting the max charging rate up from 40 to 50kW on the kind of DC charger becoming ever more typical at our service stations. On a standard 7kW AC home wallbox charger, you’re looking at something like five hours for a full top-up.
In short, you’re buying into the sparsest fully charged range in the class, but getting some of the highest tech and equipment levels in return.