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In-depth reviews

Mazda MX-30 review - a fun urban EV with optional range-extender

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

Carbuyer Rating

4.1 out of 5

Owners Rating
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Pros

  • Stylish design
  • Fun to drive
  • Cheap to run

Cons

  • EV version has limited range
  • Rivals are more practical
  • Could use more power

Verdict - Is the Mazda MX-30 a good car?

The Mazda MX-30 was the Japanese manufacturer’s first electric car, and for a significant portion of its life, was only available as a BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle). And despite its obvious difference to the rest of Mazda’s cars, it stays true to many of the brand’s key values, notably the striking styling, interior quality and enjoyable handling. The result is a quirky and interesting car that feels like few other EVs.

Mazda MX-30 models, specs and alternatives

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.

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The electric MX-30 was designed not to have a huge range figure. The battery is small at 35.5kWh, which Mazda says is to help keep production costs down and make the car more environmentally friendly. While many of the latest electric cars are sold with a headline range figure of 300 miles or more, 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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And it seems that many buyers simply couldn’t get past the limited range and the anxiety that caused, because sales of the EV have been poor. To the extent where, in late 2023, Mazda brought out a range-extender plug-in hybrid version of the MX-30. Its battery is half the size of the EV’s, giving it an all-electric range of 53 miles, but it also has a small rotary engine - another brand value that Mazda and its fans hold incredibly dear - to generate electricity to power the electric drive motor once the battery runs dry. Official figures claim fuel economy of 282mpg.

Both versions of the Mazda MX-30 are really fun to drive thanks to well-weighted steering and good brakes. The EV only has 143bhp, so 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 range-extender is a fraction quicker than the EV, but there’s not much in it.

If you have a home wallbox charger, the MX-30 EV can be charged in under six hours, and plug either version into a public 50kW rapid-charger, and you’ll get an 80% charge in around 25 minutes.

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.

MPG, running costs & CO2

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

Instead of engaging in a race to fit the biggest battery pack possible like most manufacturers, the MX-30 EV 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, even though, admittedly, these cars are also drastically more expensive.

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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.

In late 2023, Mazda added a second version to the range – a range-extender plug-in hybrid. Its battery is around half the size of the EV’s at 17.8kWh, giving it an all-electric range of 53 miles, but it also has a small petrol rotary engine – something of a Mazda speciality – to generate electricity to power the electric drive motor once the battery runs dry. Official figures claim fuel economy of 282mpg and CO2 emissions of 21g/km, although like with all plug-in hybrids, these official figures can be extremely misleading and the figure you actually get in the real world will depend entirely on how much of the time you need the help of the petrol engine.

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It’s a very different proposition to the EV as a result, even though it costs roughly the same, you do lose some of the EV’s financial benefits: you’ll have to put petrol in it from time to time, you don’t get the same VED, ULEZ and congestion charge exemptions and, probably most critically for many potential customers, company car drivers will pay Benefit-in-Kind tax on 8% of its value rather than the 2% you pay on the EV. However, it does at least make the MX-30’s various virtues accessible for those customers who like the car, but can’t – or won’t – live with the electric version’s limited range.

Like the EV version, but unlike many PHEVs, the range extender supports DC charging, and using a 50kW public rapid charger can top up your battery in 25 minutes. It’s unlikely many people will stop mid-journey, though, as the petrol engine is on hand to help out, and the petrol used probably won’t cost any more than a rapid charge. What’s more, charging up your battery on your 7.4kWh home wallbox won’t take that much longer at an hour and a half.

Engines, drive & performance

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

Let’s deal with the all-electric version first, shall we? 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.

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The brakes feel natural, too, which isn’t 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.

Things aren’t much different with the range-extender version, introduced towards the end of 2023. It may use one of Mazda’s fabled rotary petrol engines, famed for their soaring revs and prodigious power, but here, it’s focused on efficiency. Besides, the teeny 0.8-litre unit never actually drives the wheels directly: it's simply there to generate electricity for the electric motor that propels the car.

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This motor has a smidge less torque than the EV’s, but it does have an extra 27bhp, so it’s a fraction quicker, although with 0-62mph happening in 9.1 seconds, there’s not a huge amount in it. What’s more, the smooth, unbroken acceleration and keen responses are just the same as the EV version’s.

The PHEV is fairly indistinguishable from the EV in other areas of the driving experience, too. It feels just as crisp when changing direction, despite weighing about 131kg more, and while the ride is marginally less compliant over a scruffy surface, it still rides as well as many cars it would consider as rivals.

You can switch between three driving modes: Normal will fire up the petrol engine when the battery drops to 43% to top it up, Charge mode fires up the engine immediately to top the battery up regardless of its state of charge, and EV mode won’t allow the engine to cut in until absolutely necessary. You also have similar brake regen functionality as you get in the EV. The petrol engine stays very subdued when it does fire up, so although it’s not as quiet as the EV on these occasions, it’s still unobtrusive. 

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That’s until you need to travel at motorway speeds, though. Get beyond 70mph, and the engine’s faint hum turns into more of a drone, which we can only describe as sounding like having your own personal biplane flying above your head. The noise continues until you back off the throttle, or kill the engine by switching to EV mode.

The EV’s 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. The PHEV is a smidge firmer, but it’s still fine. 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.

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 – a nod to the brand’s origins making products out of the material – while the door trim incorporates fibres from recycled plastic bottles, and there’s a vegan leather option for interior upholstery. The only disappointment is some cheap-feeling plastic around the gear selector, and some of the gloss black physical buttons might bother some owners, as they show smudge marks easily.

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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 VW 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. Whilst the screen is set further back than that in a Jeep Avenger, making it a little hard to read, Mazda’s software interface is clear and easy to navigate, and every MX-30 comes with the built-in sat nav which includes five years of complimentary updates.

Trim levels are Prime-Line, Exclusive-Line and Makoto. All models come with the same 18-inch alloys, but the finish is different depending on the trim. Top-spec versions get a bright polished look. 

Prime-Line kicks off the range with a generous level of equipment, offering a heads-up display, reverse camera and seven-inch digital gauge cluster plus 8.8-inch infotainment display with sat nav. 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. All three trims are available on both the EV and PHEV versions.

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We’d recommend speccing the optional Soul Red paint colour if you want to stand out – it does cost £1,800, but is a worthy addition that really looks great on the MX-30.

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-hinged 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' conventional 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 knee room and the fact the rear 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 in both EV and PHEV versions, 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. There’s also no dedicated space for the charging cable, so boot space is taken up with the bag that holds it as a result.

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 and/or rotary engine, there's also no 'frunk' like you'll find in some larger EVs. 

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 seventh place (out of 32 carmakers) in our 2023 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 more flexible seating common requests. All of this plays rather neatly into the MX-30’s mix of strengths and weaknesses, so we don’t expect this model to change that view anytime soon.

There’s not yet much data yet on how the MX-30 will fare on reliability as an individual model, but Mazda owners that contributed to the Driver Power Survey stated that around a quarter of their cars experienced a problem of some kind within the first year of ownership. The electric version of the MX-30 should be more reliable that a regular combustion-engined car in theory as it has far few moving parts. However, this obviously doesn’t apply to the range-extender, and there’s no telling how dependable that all-new engine will be, although the limited shelf-life of Mazda’s rotary engines of the past may worry some.

The MX-30 is 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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Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

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