Sporting coupe-crossover styling cues and unconventional rear-opening back doors, there’s nothing quite like the Mazda MX-30 on the road.
With a modest 35.5kWh lithium-ion battery pack, it has a range of up to 124 miles. This puts it in the city EV segment, competing with rivals such as the Mini Electric, Honda e and Fiat 500 Electric, yet it’s almost identical in size to a Toyota C-HR Hybrid.
Mazda’s logic for the relatively small battery size is interesting.
It argues that smaller batteries deliver most drivers the necessary distance they need each day (the average UK commute is 26 miles) and they have a friendlier CO2 footprint over their lifetime than larger power packs.
What’s more, keeping it light delivers a better driving experience.
However, the introduction of a new MX-30 R-EV variant in 2023 is rather at odds with that. It’s effectively a plug-in hybrid, though ‘range extender’ might be a more accurate description.
It features an electric motor, a tiny 17.8kWh battery, plus an 830cc rotary petrol engine, producing a total power output of 167bhp.
Unlike other PHEVs, where the internal combustion engine directly powers the front wheels, the MX-30 R-EV is always driven by the electric motor, so you keep the EV driving experience.
It has a 53-mile pure EV range or a total driving range of some 400 miles, while the CO2 output is just 21g/km.
The MX-30 R-EV might be the better option for many drivers tempted to switch to electric cars, but keen to avoid range anxiety.
Anyway, back to the pure electric Mazda MX-30, which is generously equipped and available in three trims (Prime-Line, Exclusive-Line and Makoto).
Entry-level Prime-line versions get 18-inch alloy wheels, a head-up display, a heated steering wheel and rear privacy glass. Step up to Exclusive-Line for power seats, keyless entry and a choice of two-tone paint jobs, while Makoto adds an electric sunroof, heated steering wheel and 12-speaker Bose sound system.
The MX-30’s electric motor produces 143bhp – enough to accelerate from 0-62mph in 9.7 seconds and on to a top speed limited to 87mph.
It can be charged using a home wall box overnight or topped up from 20-80% in just 25 minutes using a 50kW public charger.
However, now it’s time to deal with the most controversial and brave aspect of the MX-30 – those rear-hinged ‘freestyle’ doors (a nod to the classic Mazda RX-8 sports car).
Unless you drive alone or with just a front-seat passenger, the design is challenging, to say the least.
Even though it’s family sized, not being able to open the rear doors from inside or outside (unless the front doors are opened first) is not ideal.
Also, the narrow rear doors make entry and exit from the back seats a challenge for full-sized adults. Once inside, back seat passengers get a restricted side view, their windows don’t open, plus leg and headroom aren’t exactly generous.
On the plus side, the boot is a decent 350-litres, extending to 1,171-litres with the rear seats folded.
The cabin generally is classy, modern, minimalist and packed with tech. There’s an 8.8-inch central infotainment screen, a 7.0in climate control touchscreen mounted just below, a digital driver’s screen and a head-up display.
Mazda’s also kept its rotary controller and a few buttons and dials, so controlling the MX-30’s functionality isn’t as frustrating as some EVs.
For instance, the climate screen retains physical buttons for the temperature and fan speed, making it easier and safer to use on the move.
It’s also eco-friendly with an emphasis on sustainable materials, including breathable fabric upholstery made from recycled plastic bottles and cork in the floating centre console. Did you know that Mazda started life as a cork-making company in 1920?
On the road, it soon becomes clear why Mazda chose to give this car an ‘MX’ prefix. It’s no MX-5, but as crossovers go, it’s dynamic and fun to drive. Playful at times, it rides well and stays surprisingly flat in faster corners.
The combination of instant torque, light kerb weight (1,645kg) and fake engine noise subtly pumped into the cabin makes the MX-30 feel swifter than its official sprint time might suggest.
Overall, it feels smooth and well-balanced with direct steering, while the brakes aren’t as stodgy as many EVs.
You can use the paddles behind the steering wheel to choose from various levels of brake regeneration (recovering energy while braking). And if you opt for the hardest setting you get one-pedal driving, which will virtually bring the car to a halt by easing off the accelerator.
The driving position is good, though rearward visibility isn’t the best. Thankfully, side, front and rear parking sensors are standard.
Judging by our experience on mixed roads, a 100-mile+ range is possible in everyday driving, but take it on a motorway in mid-winter and it will take a hit. That said, Mazda also quotes a city driving range of 165 miles – and something close to that may well be achievable if you drive carefully.
Awarded a maximum of five stars in Euro NCAP crash testing (with impressive scores of 91% and 87% in the adult and child occupant protection categories respectively) the MX-30 is fitted with the latest features including autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and lane-keep assist.
The MX-30’s other EV rivals include the Hyundai Kona Electric, MG4, Peugeot e-2008 and Vauxhall Mokka Electric.
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