Everyone knows the key to a successful EV is to have USP. You know this, I know this, and Mazda knows it too which is why it’s given its first-ever EV something they call “freestyle doors” that are essentially the same sort of rear-hinged doors you got with the RX-8. Tesla has its network of superchargers, the Porsche Taycan has its badge, and the BMW i3 has its rear hinged doors. Oh wait. The difference here is the Mazda MX-30 is a crossover as opposed to a hatchback. Crossovers are trendy.
The best bit is unlike most of the stuff I drive over here in Japan, the MX-30 EV will be sold Stateside later this year. Well, it’ll be sold in California, but hey that counts. To see if its worth your time, I’ve taken it for a first drive on its home turf to find out if Mazda’s first full EV is more than just another EV with funky doors.
What is a MX-30?
Sharing the same SkyActiv platform as the combustion (how outdated) CX-30, the MX-30 is exactly the same size as its ICE sibling. That puts it bang in between the CX-5 and now defunct CX-3. In other words, it’s the perfect size for zipping around the streets of Tokyo. Unlike the CX-30, however, the MX-30 doesn’t have four doors. Sort of.
The “MX” moniker in its name should give you a hint at how Mazda wants to market this. It’s a sort of SUV-coupe shape and with its two-and-a-bit doors I suppose Mazda want us to see it as more of a lifestyle sporty crossover than the regular CX lineup. Funnily enough, the last time Mazda had a two-and-a-bit door car was the RX-8, which had a rotary engine. Eventually Mazda also plans to add a rotary range extender for the MX-30, joining the mild hybrid and EV variants.
Inside the MX-30
If you’ve been in any Mazda product from the last five years the MX-30 will feel more or less the same. The controls for the climate control are now replaced by a touchscreen, but apart from that, it’s all Mazda as usual. Being an electrified-only model I guess gave Mazda the confidence to play around with materials inside. There’s some tweed-like material on the door trim, a more liberal use of soft plastics and leather for a proper premium look and feel, as well some cork. Forget piano black trim, the time for cork is now.
The material is not just some random thing Mazda’s interior designers thought of on a whim. Cork is a nod to Mazda’s 100 year history when it used to manufacture the stuff before going into automobiles. For the sake of a thorough test, the car does not smell of wine. That’s either a good or a bad thing depending on your personal preference.
Other things I like about the MX-30 are the quick jump buttons for the Mazda Connect infotainment can also be used for Apple CarPlay. Why don’t more manufacturers do this? It’s so simple but makes life so much easier than having to go through menus with the rotary dial.
As for the interior as a place for people to be in, the MX-30 will fit four adults comfortably, and five is a bit of a squeeze. For those in the back, the lack of opening windows and climate vents might test the limits of their comfort for extended periods of time. This is best thought of as a two seater that can carry two more people in the back if needed. The trunk itself is a decent size without a high lip to get over. I also like how the plastic cladding goes all the way up to the loading area avoiding the risk of scuffing the lovely Soul Red paint.
What is odd in the MX-30 EV ‘Highest Spec’ is the tailgate isn’t electrically powered. You have to open and close it the old fashioned way, which is an odd omission for what’s supposed to be a tech-laden car. The same goes for the front passenger seat, which is manually operated yet the driver’s seat has many electrical functions. Come on Mazda, you’re better than this.
Driving the MX-30
If all you want from your electric car is something that’s easy to use, has a slightly raised driving position, and doesn’t need ludicrous speed, then the MX-30 EV ticks all those boxes. It’s got a planted and stable ride with decent damping, if on the firm side. That’s fine on Japan’s smooth motorway, however, it does struggle smoothing out larger bumps at low speeds. I’ve had a go in the mild-hybrid version of the MX-30 prior to driving the full EV version and unsurprisingly the EV felt quicker and smoother. Though, it should be said this isn’t some 0-60 in 1.1 seconds EV. With a modest 144 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque, Mazda only claims 0-60 in 9.7 seconds. That’s hardly hot hatch quick, but for daily use around town it’s sufficient. The EV trademark of instant torque is great fun off the lights and when you mash the throttle you get a bizarre noise pumped in. It’s akin to an outboard motor in the distance.
Take it on some twisty roads and the MX-30 EV behaves like a Mazda crossover, even with its electric motors. The electric motors power only the front wheels and that’s fine. It drives with a bit more life to it than other crossovers, the handling being the standout here. The steering is typical Mazda with direct control and feel. It’s no different to that of the Mazda3 and CX-30, which makes sense since they’re basically the same underneath. It’s not quite as charming or as nimble as the smaller Honda e but again, that’s not the point.
It’s really just the range. The 35.5 kWh lithium-ion battery is rated for a 175 mile range, but the best I saw was 131 miles, averaging 7km/kWh. As it’s a lifestyle vehicle I expected it to stretch a bit further. I guess that’s what the upcoming rotary generator will be for. As long as you’re able to charge it overnight at your house or work it shouldn’t be a problem. For many in Japan who live in apartment buildings without built in chargers, this is more of an issue. Luckily for Mazda, it only takes 36 minutes on a quick charge to get the battery up to 80 percent capacity.
There’s also the lack of space up front. No, there’s no frunk, and I feel like Mazda could’ve at least used the awkward empty space under the bonnet for even a small storage area. It just seemed like a waste of space.
It’s also quite expensive. As it stands, the MX-30 EV is the most expensive car Mazda sells in Japan, beating the highest spec CX-8 by a whopping $900. That puts this in a predicament as it’s also a solid $11,000 more expensive than the hybrid version. Sure, the EV is smoother and will cost less to run, but it’s not like the hybrid version was an agricultural vehicle. Its range is much more usable. As a car to appeal to the masses, the MX-30 EV doesn’t quite make sense financially. I guess that’s unless you can get an amazing lease deal on it, which isn’t a thing in Japan. For those with a spare $45,000 laying around to buy it in cash, the Mazda badge isn’t quite premium enough. Though I do believe it’s getting there.