Mazda MX-30 SUV review
"The Mazda MX-30 is a stylish electric SUV that's fun to drive and affordable"
- Stylish design
- Fun to drive
- Cheap to run
- Limited range
- Rivals are more practical
- Could use more power
This is the Mazda MX-30, the first all-electric model in the history of the Japanese manufacturer. It looks stylish, and in keeping with the brand's other models, it's also fun to drive.
Mazda isn't afraid to go its own way, and unlike rival car makers who are locking horns over battery capacity and range figures, the MX-30 instead gets a relatively small, lightweight battery pack. This helps it stay nimble, and Mazda reckons its 124-mile range is also enough to satisfy the driving habits of its target audience, most of whom likely own another car.
The battery has a 35.5kWh capacity, and Mazda believes using a smaller pack not only boosts handling, but also has less impact on the environment and keeps the MX-30's price down. Speaking of which, the MX-30's list price of around £27,000 (including the government grant) is noteworthy, because it means even in the well-equipped First Edition trim it's cheaper than the equivalent higher trim versions of the MG ZS EV and Nissan Leaf.
It can be charged using a home wallbox supply in less than six hours, or topped up from 0-80% in 36 minutes using a 50kW rapid-charger. Handling is certainly a strong point, helped by the MX-30's modest kerb weight. It can flit between corners without fuss and Mazda's well-weighted steering and feel some brakes have also made the transition to electric power intact. With just 143bhp, performance is fairly modest, though. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes 9.7 seconds, compared with 8.5 seconds for the MG ZS EV.
Looking like nothing else with a Mazda badge, the MX-30 features rear-opening back doors, hindering practicality somewhat. There are five sets of seatbelts, but getting in and out of the rear is slightly awkward, the back windows cannot be lowered, making it a bit dark for rear passengers. Life is far better in the front, thanks to comfortable seats with a vegan-friendly leatherette upholstery, cork trim inserts and door trims using recycled plastic bottles. Mazda has been making some great interiors in recent years, and this is no exception.
The first 500 UK cars are all First Edition spec, with a strong kit list including a heads-up display, sat nav and digital instruments. A full model range will be announced later in the year, with some expected to come in at an even lower price point.
MPG, running costs & CO2
As with its SkyActive 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 will instead have just a 35.5kWh capacity, giving it up to 124-miles 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.
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 sit on the motorway. It's also likely they'll plug the car in overnight at home.
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. Do so and the battery can be topped up from 0 to 80% in 36 minutes. Road tax is currently free for electric cars, which also enjoy the lowest rates for company-car drivers and free entry into low emissions zones.
Engines, drive & performance
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 as fun to drive as the 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 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.
Its suspension is supple enough to ensure the MX-30 feels planted but doesn't bounce or skip uncomfortably around corners. We wish the rear windows weren't quite so sloping and dark, as they restrict over-the-shoulder visibility when manoeuvring.
Standard equipment is generous, including a head-up display, seven-inch digital instruments cluster and eight-way adjustable drivers' seat. The First Edition trim level is available to the first 500 buyers, and will also include sat nav, adaptive cruise control and compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Its design elements include 18-inch alloy wheels and light upholstery with grey cloth, stone leatherette and orange stitching. Two solid paint colours are available for free, or buyers can upgrade to a three-tone hue for around £1,000. The rest of the range will be announced towards the end of 2020.
Practicality & boot space
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 the fact the rearmost windows cannot be opened.
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. It's possible to split and fold the 60:40 rear seats, but there aren't many clever features like an adaptable boot floor or hidden compartments. 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.
Mazda hasn't confirmed exact boot capacity figures yet, but we expect them to sit between those of a supermini and small SUV. The sloping rear profile is sure to have an effect, and the MX-30 has a stubby tail, with almost no overhang behind the rear wheels. It's also likely the electric Mazda will follow the path of other small EV's and be deemed unsuitable for towing.
Reliability & safety
Mazda has an excellent reputation amongst owners, who voted the Japanese brand into fourth place in our 2020 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 and provide them the vehicle's exact location.