Mazda’s MX-30 Is A Short-Range EV With a Funky Attitude
Mazda’s MX-30 is the maker’s entry into electric vehicles and benefits from some of the Japanese automaker’s tried-and-true technology from previous internal combustion models. While the end result is a compact SUV that punches well above its weight in the corners, the question remains if its 100-mile range is enough.
- The 360 degree parking assist was really helpful, providing a precise preview of the surroundings—it’s one of the best systems I’ve used to date.
- Despite its curb weight of 3,650 pounds, body roll remained relatively controlled even through spirited drives along the twisty roads near our office in Easton, Pennsylvania.
- The steering rack was weighted really nicely, with a ratio that sits in the goldilocks zone between being too fast and vice versa.
- Base price: $34,645 ($37,655 as tested)
- Range: 100 miles
- Horsepower: 143 hp
- Torque: 200 lb-ft
- Zero to 60: 9.6 seconds
- Battery capacity: 35.5 kWh
- Charge time (6.6-kW home box, 20 to 100 percent): 13 hours 40 minutes
- Charge time (Level 3 DC Fast Charge): 36 minutes
What’s In a Name
MX are two letters that carry massive significance for Mazda. The Japanese automaker made a statement in 1989 with the MX-5 Miata—and its front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout—which debuted at the Chicago Auto Show. That car was a lightweight convertible roadster with balanced handling characteristics that define the category to this day. Despite this iteration having a front-engine, front-wheel-drive layout, it’s clear that Mazda didn’t include MX in the MX-30’s callsign by accident.
Along with the Miata, Mazda has previously used MX in its concept vehicles—MX-81 and MX-02—that focus on the future, proposing new ideas. The number that follows simply relates to the similarities in size between the CX-30 and MX-30. Instead of going for a fundamental rethink, Mazda adapted the existing technology from its previous internal combustion-powered vehicles. This compact SUV shares the same Electric G-Vectoring Control as the CX-30, along with an EV-specific version of the brand’s Skyactiv technology.
In my three days with the MX-30, I took the compact SUV through the many fantastic roads that eastern PA has to offer. This involved drives through wide-open highways, tight city streets, and twisty backroads—both during the day and at night.
Right from the start, it was clear that Mazda took some of the MX-5’s DNA and spliced it into the MX-30. Despite being a compact SUV that tips the scales at 3,650 pounds, the MX-30 is actually a great handler in the corners. While it’s not the nimblest EV that I’ve ever driven—the dual-motor Polestar 2 keeps that accolade—the MX-30 is a plucky little machine, eager to please across even the twistiest ribbons of tarmac.
Steering feel is a clear high point of the MX-30. For normal road driving, the steering rack is weighted nicely, with just enough heft to make the car feel planted on the road; during spirited drives along some of the playful ribbons of tarmac in Easton, the steering remained communicative and playful. Mazda also found the goldilocks zone with the steering ratio, which was quick enough for city driving without darting around on the highway.
With a quoted 9.7 second 0-60 time, the MX-30 isn’t the snappiest EV on sale. However, throttle response is very linear and forgiving at low speed, making it really easy to drive smoothly. The same can’t be said for other electric runabouts that offer a much more aggressive pedal. Once you let off the accelerator, the MX-30’s regenerative braking system offers four levels of adjustability, which you tune using the paddles behind the steering wheel. The gentlest allows you to lift and coast as you would in a normal automobile, while the highest will really slow you down on its own.
Braking is such a difficult aspect to get right when it comes to EVs. With regenerative braking becoming really good, automakers often lose sight of the importance of a great brake package. With 326-millimeter ventilated discs up front and 303-mm solid discs in the back, braking performance is superior to any other EV I’ve driven in this price bracket.
My only major complaint was the pseudo engine noise that’s piped into the cabin. As part of the e-Skyactive system that optimizes the driving experience, Mazda says the sound improves engagement with the vehicle. I found it more of an annoyance, especially at highway speeds where it puts out a drone that’s just barely audible. While very reserved, EVs make a unique set of noises, and we should celebrate that.
Range and Charging
With just a smidge over 100 miles of range, the MX-30 is at quite a disadvantage next to other EVs that can go up to 200 or even 300 miles on a single charge. While the Japanese automaker noted that the average American drives 30 miles per day, the lack of capacity is apparent behind the wheel. Before we even had a chance to drive the car, it had to be trucked over to our office—a journey of roughly 80 miles—so it would arrive with more than a little juice.
When it inevitably comes time to plug in, the MX-30 uses a Combined Charging Socket (CCS), which allows you to add juice at home with the onboard 6.6-kWh charger or on the go via any CCS-compatible charge point. While I had to go through the MyMazda app to view how far along the charging was, it was also useful in finding charge points and remotely starting or stopping the process. Outside of that, the app also allowed me to keep tabs on tire pressure, range, and upcoming service appointments. You can also pre-heat or pre-cool the vehicle with the app.
For those who might be deterred by the MX-30’s lack of range, the Japanese automaker is looking to release a plug-in hybrid variant in 2022 that will have a rotary engine to keep the batteries topped up. While such a unique powertrain surprised me (traditionally it hasn’t been the most reliable in Mazda’s repertoire), rotary engines are quite small. Regardless of the left-field decision, more range is on the way sometime next year.
From the first row of the MX-30, you’ll find a well-designed and functional space with only minor foibles. While the seats were firmly bolstered and comfortable, I could never adjust the driver’s seat as low as I wanted it. The second row is absolutely a different story. I commend Mazda for trying something different with its clamshell freestyle door concept—which appears to be loosely inspired by the RX-8—as they make it much easier to get in and out of the back. At five-foot-eleven, I had plenty of headroom in the back, but anybody above six feet tall would likely be better suited in the front seats.
While the freestyle doors are great for opening up the rear of the vehicle, they are a catastrophe when it comes to rear visibility. Despite the advantages of their pillar-less design when open, they form an enormous B-pillar when closed. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the door blocks about 90 percent of your visibility during shoulder checks on the highway. Thankfully Mazda’s blind-spot monitoring tech and rear-cross traffic alert saved my bacon on several occasions where I simply couldn’t see what was around me.
Like most EVs, the MX-30 uses recycled materials inside the cockpit. Sections of the door cards are wrapped in fabric with threads created from recycled water bottles. The seats are also wrapped in vegan leather, which is treated with a silicone coating to better resemble actual leather. However, the clear party piece of the interior is the cork accents near the center console—a nod to Mazda’s beginnings as the Tokyo Cork Kogyo Co., Ltd in 1920. Maximizing the premium feel of these materials, the end result is an interior that’s genuinely luxurious.
While the infotainment system lacked wireless connectivity for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto—along with touch controls—the physical knobs and buttons to get through the menus were relatively intuitive. Despite the flip-up covers on the cupholders, which I mostly kept folded down, they’re easy to access and don’t get in the way of the infotainment controls. When it comes to creature comforts, I really enjoyed using the included heads-up display, rain-sensing wipers, and automatic headlights. The headlights were particularly helpful on the twisty roads around Easton, quick to adjust from high-beam back to main beam whenever another vehicle was coming past.
My only gripes involved the rocker-style media controls on the wheel, where Mazda added an additional third click in the center, which mutes the stereo or changes the source. Unfortunately, there were more than a few instances sifting through playlists where I went for the volume or skip/rewind buttons, only to find mute or change source.
Being inherently quiet, EVs have been raising the bar when it comes to quality control inside the cockpit. I’m happy to report that the MX-30 is no exception. While it’s difficult to properly judge QC in such a short period of time, the mix of sustainable materials stayed whisper quiet throughout our testing. Along with no squeaks or rattles to report, all of the contact points on the steering wheel and infotainment system felt well-built and premium.
Despite some of the MX-30’s minor shortcomings, I’m really happy that Mazda didn’t just throw an electric powertrain in the CX-30. None of my dislikes of the MX-30 were fundamental issues, and should easily be fixable come the next model year.
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Published at Thu, 11 Nov 2021 22:32:00 +0000