In-depth reviews

Mazda MX-30 SUV review

"The Mazda MX-30 is a stylish electric SUV that's fun to drive and affordable"

Carbuyer Rating

4.1 out of 5

Pros

  • Stylish design
  • Fun to drive
  • Cheap to run

Cons

  • Limited range
  • Rivals are more practical
  • Could use more power

The Mazda MX-30 is the Japanese manufacturer’s first electric car and one that stays true to many of the brand’s key values, notably the striking styling, interior quality and enjoyable handling found in all the other models in its range.

Mazda doesn’t have the backing of a big automotive empire like the Volkswagen Group or Stellantis, but the brand has used that to its advantage. Its relative independence has allowed Mazda to go its own way when making an EV, something that's evident in the styling, tech and handling of its MX-30. The result is a quirky and interesting car that feels like few other EVs.

It’s also been designed not to have a huge range figure. While many of the latest electric cars are sold with a headline range figure of around 300 miles, this model can only travel 124 miles on a single charge. Mazda says this is because most buyers will have a second car and the shorter range is plenty for day-to-day use around town. Really, it is enough for the majority of people, but being able to travel further on a charge would reduce the range anxiety that many people feel.

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The battery is small at 35.5kWh, which Mazda says is to help keep production costs down and make the car more environmentally friendly. The price is rather appealing, despite the limited range; it’s cheaper than high-spec versions of the MG ZS EV and Nissan Leaf. In fact, it’s one of the UK’s cheapest electric cars, yet it’s much more upmarket than its closest rivals and far better to drive.

If you have a home wallbox charger the MX-30 can be charged in under six hours and a public 50kW rapid-charger will supply an 80% charge in 26 minutes. The Mazda is fun to drive thanks to well-weighted steering and good brakes but as it only has 143bhp, it’s not very fast in a straight line - another area in which it’s unlike many electric cars. It takes  9.7 seconds to go from 0-62mph, slower than the 8.5 seconds it takes the MG ZS EV, and the MINI Electric feels much quicker off the mark as well.

The MX-30 has unique styling, including interesting touches such as rear-hinged half-size back doors. They recall the Mazda RX-8 sports car, but aren’t actually very practical. Access to the back is tight and, since you can’t lower the windows in the back, it can feel a bit cramped inside. It’s much better in the front, as you get vegan-friendly leatherette upholstery and trim pieces made from materials such as cork and recycled plastic bottles. The interior is a real highlight; it feels very upmarket and is a pleasant place to sit.

The first 500 UK cars were all First Edition models, which came with a strong kit list including a heads-up display, sat nav and digital instruments. The standard model range comprises three trim levels, all of which are well equipped. 

The Mazda MX-30 also bagged a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP in 2020, with impressive crash-test results across the board. Plenty of smiles from behind the wheel, an attractive interior and low running costs will impress buyers, but they'll need to only carry rear passengers very occasionally and be happy with the car’s limited range.

MPG, running costs & CO2

Forget range anxiety and Mazda's decision to offer a smaller battery pack makes sense

As with its SkyActiv petrol and diesel engines, Mazda is looking to buck common trends with its first EV. Instead of engaging in a race to fit the biggest battery pack possible, the MX-30 instead has just a 35.5kWh capacity, giving it up to 124 miles of range between charges. While such a short range is easier to forgive for city cars like the MINI Electric and Honda e, it's harder to justify for a bigger one. Most rivals such as the Tesla Model Y and Volkswagen ID.4 will easily double this - but these cars are also drastically more expensive.

Mazda's thinking is that production of larger battery packs is bad for the environment, and that they're heavy, negatively affecting how the car drives. Mazda also points to research that 95% of the MX-30's target buyers drive less than 60 miles a day. They're the sort of drivers who are likely to tackle the school run, commute to work and drive locally to shop or see friends, rather than regularly travel long distances on the motorway. It's also likely they'll plug the car in overnight at home whenever it's necessary, and a discounted home charger comes as part of the deal. 

A full charge takes less than six hours using a 7.4kWh wallbox, but it's also possible to charge the MX-30 at up to 50kW using a public rapid-charger and its CCS connection. Do so and the battery can be topped up from 0 to 80% in 26 minutes. The range-topping Volkswagen ID.3 offers up to 125kW rapid charging, so it’s another area the Mazda falls behind rivals. VED (tax) is currently free for electric cars, which also enjoy the lowest rates for company-car drivers and free entry into low emissions zones like the one covering central London.

Engines, drive & performance

It doesn't have screaming acceleration, but the Mazda MX-30 is a satisfying steer

The 'MX' badge is usually reserved for Mazda's sporty models, such as the iconic MX-5 roadster, so is it deserved here? Weighing around 1,600kg, the MX-30 is certainly light compared with other electric SUVs, and this pays dividends in almost every driving situation. There's never any feeling of dragging the MX-30 around corners, instead, it's agile and quick to respond, with very little body lean. In fact, we found its handling finesse makes it almost  as fun to drive as the smaller MINI Electric, even if it doesn't have as much punch when you hit the throttle. Its steering is precise and requires just the right amount of effort.

The brakes feel natural too - not always a given in alternative fuel cars that harvest energy from braking regeneration. The strength of the electric motor's braking effect can be adjusted on the move via the paddles mounted on the steering wheel. Even in its strongest mode it doesn't quite allow for one-pedal driving, but you can learn to use it to slow the car in predictable traffic - only using the brakes for unexpected stops. 

Just don't expect acceleration worthy of 'reaction videos' on YouTube as your friends are pinned back in their seats, Tesla-style. With 143bhp, the MX-30's electric motor feels more on a par with diesel rivals for acceleration, taking 9.7 seconds to get from 0-62mph. Top speed is limited to 87mph. Of course, with just one forward gear and no turbo lag, there is the benefit of smooth progress as soon as you press the throttle. You'll also notice a synthetic engine sound to help make the MX-30 feel natural for drivers.

Interior & comfort

Mazda has incorporated renewable materials without any loss of quality

Mazda has long been known for its striking designs, and the CX-30 is no exception. Its interior follows the brand's recent uptick in quality adding some striking materials and features into the mix. The centre console trays and door handles are lined with cork from the bark of trees that have fallen naturally, while the door trim incorporates fibres from recycled plastic bottles. The only disappointment is some cheap plastic around the gear selector.

Its suspension is supple enough to ensure the MX-30 feels planted but doesn't bounce or skip uncomfortably around corners, so passengers should be comfortable. However, the driver will likely wish the rear windows weren't quite so sloping and dark, as they restrict over-the-shoulder visibility when manoeuvring.

The surprisingly analogue feel of the interior, with no touchscreen functionality and rotary knobs for the ventilation controls, is refreshing when you compare the MX-30 against the needless complication present in the ID.3’s interior. It may take you a little while to get used to navigating the screen with the controller, especially as the standard-fit Apple CarPlay and Android Auto apps aren’t really set up to be used like this.

Standard equipment is generous, including a head-up display, seven-inch digital instruments cluster, sat-nav and a rear-view camera. The First Edition trim level was available to the first 500 buyers and its design elements included 18-inch alloy wheels and light upholstery with grey cloth, stone leatherette and orange stitching.

Following on from the First Edition, there were SE-L Lux, Sport Lux and GT Sport Tech trims like the Mazda3. From 2022, however, the trim levels were renamed Prime-Line, Exclusive-Line and Makoto. Mid-range Exclusive-Line adds heated front seats with lumbar adjustment and keyless entry, along with the option of 'three-tone' contrasting paintwork and a brighter finish for the wheels. The Makoto range-topper features a sunroof, heated steering wheel, 12-speaker Bose stereo and front wiper de-icer, along with a host of extra driver assistance features.

Practicality & boot space

Its rear-opening doors look cool, but hamper practicality somewhat

In a nod to the Mazda RX-8 sports coupe, the MX-30 features a set of rear-opening back doors. It’s an intriguing design, but there are compromises when it comes to functionality. For a start, they aren't as big as most rivals' back doors, and it's necessary to fold the front seat out of the way to get inside. It's also rather claustrophobic in the back of the MX-30, made worse by a lack of kneeroom and the fact the rearmost windows cannot be opened. Longer trips will be hampered by low and shallow seat bases that don't provide much thigh support to taller passengers but headroom is adequate.

The MX-30 has a sloping rear profile and stubby tail, with almost no overhang behind the rear wheels, so boot space isn't much better than in a supermini. There's up to 350 litres behind the rear seats, including underfloor storage, but this reduces to 332 litres in the range-topping Makoto version due to the need to house the Bose sound system’s large subwoofer speaker.

It's possible to split and fold the 60:40 rear seats, and space extends to 1,171 litres. But there aren't many clever features like an adaptable boot floor. With the engine bay taken up by the electric motor, there's also no 'frunk' like you'll find in some larger EVs. It's also likely the electric Mazda will follow the path of other small EV's and be deemed unsuitable for towing.

Reliability & safety

Owner satisfaction and safety are both strong areas for Mazda

Mazda has an excellent reputation amongst owners, who voted the Japanese brand into fourth place in our 2021 Driver Power satisfaction survey. They are impressed across the board, and find the interiors well screwed together, while running costs are also low. However, practicality was one area where improvement was deemed necessary, with more child-friendly features and flexible seating common requests.

Being an all-new model, there's no data yet on how the MX-30 will fare, but given Mazda's typical attention to detail and its new EV powertrain, we'd be surprised if it wasn't one of its most reliable models yet.

The MX-30 is certainly fitted with the latest safety tech, from autonomous emergency braking and lane-keeping, to a system that monitors the driver's attention levels. In the event of an accident, e-Call with GPS can also inform the emergency services while providing them the vehicle's exact location.

It all helped the MX-30 achieve a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP, with impressive scores of 91% and 87% in the adult and child occupant protection categories respectively.

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