Slowly, but surely, it seems that the major Japanese manufacturers are waking up to the fact that they will need a competitive line up of EVs if they are to compete for consumer vehicle sales in the near future. EV insiders are wondering why are we still talking about hydrogen, and the short answer is that (ahead of Tesla's mad share price increases), Toyota was the biggest player in the consumer car market and it was betting a big part of its future on hydrogen gas. Mazda is hanging onto the multi-fuel approach with its membership of the eFuels Alliance, but at the same time its beginning to deliver battery powered electric vehicles. Ahead of a full review, we managed to get hands on with the Mazda MX-30 for a preview and this is what we found.
Back in May 2020, we reported that Mazda was ramping up production of 500 MX-30 units for the UK market – and that the car was likely to be here in Q1 2021. The lockdown slowed that timeline down, but only a little. Dealers across the country are coming out of hibernation and test drives can now be booked. We predicted that the UK price would be close to £28,000 and it seems that we were right. We also predicted that range might be an issue and that also seems to be accurate.
Price and Options
The MX-30 SE-L Lux is a front-wheel drive car that starts at just over £26,000 with grey cloth seats and 18″ silver metallic wheels. Add another £2,000 for the Sport Lux model and you get brighter wheels and stone-coloured ‘leatherette' covers on your seats. Also included in the extra £2k is an auto-dimming driver door mirror and keyless entry. Adding around another £3,000 will get you the GT Sport Tech version, although adding ‘Sport' to any of the names is a little deceptive – because they all have the same powerplant and battery. You will get a sunroof with this upgrade and a de-icing wiper at the front. There's also the addition of a 150w standard UK plug socket, for powering your laptop (apparently). The GT Sport Tech additionally gets a 12-speaker Bose surround sound audio system. There is a big jump in safety tech here, with smart braking, rear cross and cruising traffic support (CTS). CTS has been designed to keep you safe when fatigue sets in. It is a radar-based adaptive cruise control that works best over 20mph. It balances your position on the road – keeping you centred and at a safe distance from the car in front. Only the entry-level SE-L has a manual driver seat, all of the higher trim levels come with a powered seat.
There is also a ‘First Edition', which sits somewhere between the SE-L and the Sport Lux at £28,000. Finally there is an ‘Anniversary' edition, which offers a two-tone finish and red roof.
If you choose to ‘build your own' spec, then Mazda will offer a small range of options – including a set of 18in black alloy wheels for £942 more.
The basic price quoted will be for any MX-30 will be for the white version, with ceramic metallic, polymetal grey and jet black costing an additional £550. There's a machine grey at £670 more and two options at £1,500 more with contrasting colours and a top of the range ‘Soul Red Crystal Metallic' with contrasting panels at £1,800 more.
You can compare all four models yourself on the Mazda site.
As we get onto discussions about specifications, it's worth bearing in mind that the Mazda MX-30 range overlaps (in terms of pricing) with Peugeot's e-208/e-2008 and is way more expensive than the MG ZS EV. Importantly, it is worryingly close in price to the VW ID.3 and Hyundai Kona.
Apart from the front grill and slightly truncated rear, there is little to set the MX-30 aside from Mazda's mainstream offerings like the CX-30. If you like Mazda's overall design DNA, then you will find the MX-30 pleasant – as there are no surprises. However, from Mazda's point of view, the car is a leap forward – utilising its Kodo Design philosophy. Kodo is the heartbeat of the organisation and Mazda's engineers have tried to capture the ‘soul of motion' – turning it into the art of manufacturing. At first glance, nothing about the exterior matches that lofty ambition.
One thing we can say is that the combination of physical design and on-board technology makes the MX-30 really safe – for passengers and pedestrians alike. Check the MX-30's NCAP safety tests to see what we mean.
The interior design of the MX-30 is much more inspiring. Nothing too flash, but cork trim, a neat combination of TFT screens and traditional controls make for an enjoyable driving environment. We found the layout to be intuitive – things are where you would expect them to be and the ‘floating' central console has quite a futuristic feel to it. The cork trim is a nice touch and a nod back to Mazda's manufacturing origins as a cork producer in Hiroshima around the early 1920s. We tried the basic cloth seats and they were comfortable enough, but the woke leather ones will no doubt be more comfortable. Nice touches like the floating centre console give it a luxury feel and the air conditioning is easy to access and adjust. All models have heated electric mirrors.
Then we come to the elephant in the room: the rear doors.
In comparison, the alternatives from Volkswagen, Peugeot and the rest of the competition have full doors, easy access and working windows – all of which combine to make being a passenger rather fun. The ‘suicide doors' arrangement chosen by Mazda means that you're likely to experience a strong feeling of being ‘trapped' in the rear seats.
We were told that, “There is a handle that allows the front seats to be slid forward by back seat passengers, then from the back you can open the front door, then use the large handle to open the rear door. So if you are in the back of the car with the doors shut you can get out without someone assisting.”
In a word, the MX-30 has opted for a rear passenger experience that can only be described as claustrophobic, where the front doors need to be swung open in order to release the rear doors.
A big improvement on a simple 2-door system, but not comfortable for moving adults around regularly.
Storage and Load Carrying
There's plenty of space for the driver and front passenger, but (considering the price) boot space is merely okay. You get close to 360 litres (think Ford Fiesta) with the seats up and around 1,150 litres with them down. Despite having external dimensions that are close to the VW ID.3/Peugeot e-2008 and being longer than the Peugeot e-208, you actually get almost 10% less boot storage than with the ID.3.
Maybe Mazda engineers used all of that missing storage space for batteries? Unfortunately, no.
In-Car Entertainment and Controls
The Human-Machine Interface is a priority, according to Mazda. Its engineers have a clear delineation between the driver's side with the information necessary for the journey versus the entertainment and convenience side. The central display is an 8.8in screen that connects you to entertainment, Bluetooth and navigation. Using the ‘Multimedia Commander' you can schedule your preferred charging times and it can pre-warm/cool the cabin to your taste prior to a journey – while you are still hooked up to your home charger – which is supposed to save a lot of strain on the battery in extreme weather situations.
Standard support for Apple and Google are in place – as well as options available through the MyMazda app. This lets you to remotely start or stop charging, turn on or off the climate control in the cabin as well as set the temperature. You can also send a Navigation route directly to the Mazda MX-30’s navigation system.
In addition, there's a neat little HUD, which means you can monitor your speed without taking your eyes off the road. Something we'd like to see in all EVs, frankly.
While the driver experience and internal trim levels are interesting, once we move to the core of the car, that's when serious questions start to go unanswered. There's almost no aspect of the MX-30's performance that can be considered a ‘win'.
It will top out at 87mph – which is almost the average for entry level electric SUVs these days, while the acceleration to 60mph will take you close to 10 seconds. No ‘hot hatch' feeling here.
Unladen, it is over 1,700Kg – which is a little heavier than the MG and lighter than the VW. Handling is OK and it is a comfortable car to drive.
According to Mazda, “The Electric G-Vectoring Control Plus (e-GVC Plus) enhances chassis performance by using motor torque to optimise the front-rear load shift for improved stability and the MX-30’s Skyactiv-Vehicle Architecture is specifically tailored to complement the smooth power delivery of the e-Skyactiv drivetrain. The dynamic focus also extends to a throttle pedal that delivers a seamless transition between linear power delivery and smooth regeneration on lift off, equally, the braking system offers a seamless transfer between energy regeneration and hydraulic brake action.”
It sounds great on paper, but was not noticeable when driving. In other words, the additional technologies did not seem to make the MX-30 feel/drive differently from any other EV we've tried recently.
Given the similar weight, size, performance and price to the other cars in its class, you would be forgiven for wondering where the range went. The WLTP range of the VW ID.3 is a (relatively) whopping 261 miles. The Peugeots land just over the 200 mile mark and the MG ZS EV offers a miserly 163 miles.
Against that kind of competition, how has Mazda managed to deliver just 124 miles?
The battery is a paltry 35.5kWh affair that you can charge overnight with a standard AC charger. Should you find yourself on a long journey, then the VW ID.3 can pick up juice at a rate of up to 270 miles for every hour it is plugged in, whereas the Mazda MX-30 only seems to manage a peak pull of 110 miles every hour. On Mazda's site, they describe the owner's ability to pick up a '20-80% charge' in only 36 minute. The issue is that the battery that you're charging to 80% is really small.
In terms of DC, it appears that the MX-30 can handle up to 40kW. Disappointingly, that would mean that you gain no benefit from the extra flow available on any of the country's rapid chargers offering between 50kw and 350kW.
The reality of owning an MX-30 is that on the motorway in winter time, you could not be sure of driving more than 75 miles on a full charge. In real world terms, driving non-stop from London to Southampton on a cold December day would be a risky and potentially time-consuming venture.
For WhichEV, a running cost of less than 4p a mile is generally considered cheap and over 5p a mile is toward the expensive end of the scale. The Mazda MX-30 would cost you around £5 to fully charge at home on a 14p per kW rate. With the 124 mile range, that gives you a running cost of a fraction over 4p a mile, so it's reasonably economical.
Charging on a public rapid charger at 40p per kW will cost you a little over £14 to completely recharge.
Standard warranty on the car is 3 years/36,000 miles and the battery has an 8 year/100,000 mile guarantee.
The car is only insurance group 19, but it does need a service every year/12,500 miles – which is twice as much work as a BMW i3 etc.
Mazda has a tradition of making quality cars in smaller volumes than many of its competitors. While it has a decent range of cars when it comes to diesel and petrol models, the company has a long way to go before it can compete in the EV space. Performance is average for the price, storage space is limited and while the driver and front passenger will be carried in comfort, putting adults in the back seems cruel. It weighs around 200kg more than the Peugeot e-2008, but offers less maximum boot space and 82 miles less WLT range.
Overall, if you want a tiny car with limited range that's really cute, then the Honda e is a great choice. If you want to spend your ‘Mazda budget' on a much better car with significant range advantages, then VW and a host of others are waiting to take your money.
We look forward to getting this car in for a full test, but – for now – the answer to our initial question appears to be: no, fun features do not make up for meagre mileage.
|Price:||£26,000 to £31,000 depending on trim options|
|Range (WLTP):||124 miles|
|Charge time (7.4kW):||~5 hours|
|Charge time (50kW, 20-80%):||36 minutes|
|On Board Charger:||6.6kW|
|Cost per mile*:||4p|
Note: Running cost calculations are based on an average of 14p per kWh.