Mazda MX-30 electric car revealed

Covers removed from new Mazda MX-30 electric car, but UK debut not expected until 2021

The Mazda MX-30 has been revealed at the Tokyo Motor Show, with the company’s first fully electric vehicle set to arrive in the UK in 2021 after launching in Japan next year.

It features a 35.5kWh battery, and range from a single charge is expected to surpass 125 miles. The maximum AC charging speed is given as 6.6kW, meaning a full top-up from a home wallbox should take around six hours.

A plug-in hybrid range-extender and hybrid versions of the MX-30 are also planned: the former will see the battery twinned with a rotary engine and a small fuel tank, while the latter will contain a much smaller battery and a larger fuel tank.

An 141bhp electric motor drives the front wheels, although Mazda hasn’t yet given full performance figures. We’d expect the MX-30 to hit 0-62mph in eight to 10 seconds and have a top speed in the region of 100mph.

The MX-30’s design is similar to that of Mazda’s other SUVs, following the language used on the latest CX-5. Mazda says the front face – with its minimalist grille – “bears a friendly expression”, with the look set to be adopted on the latest Mazda3 hatchback, too.

The MX-30 also has reverse-hinged rear doors, similar to those on the BMW i3. It’s thought that they make the rear seats more accessible, however one drawback is that rear passengers aren't able to get out without the front doors also being opened. The company claims the car's interior design gives occupants a sense of being "enveloped in openness", with materials chosen on the basis of "comfort and eco-friendliness".

No prices have been given for the MX-30 yet, but the relatively small size of its battery and the absence of ultra-rapid charging capability should keep it in the same ballpark as the CX-30 SUV. A figure of £30,000 – before the government’s plug-in car grant has been applied – is expected at this stage.

The Mazda MX-30 had been expected to rival the Renault ZOE – which recently welcomed a new 52kWh battery, giving 245 miles of range – but it may face stiffer competition from MG ZS EV instead.

The Wankel rotary engine that will be used in the range extender and hybrid versions of the MX-30 has something of a cult following, thanks to its radical approach to internal combustion. While most engines use pistons that move up and down, a rotary engine uses triangular-shaped pistons that rotate around a central shaft.

This produces a high power-to-weight ratio, and the compact nature of the engine makes it ideal for use in an electric vehicle, where packaging requirements can put space at a premium.

Mazda MX-30 prototype drive

The prototype version of the Mazda MX-30 has a CX-30 body and is called the e-TPV, but make no mistake: work on the all-electric powertrain underneath is at an advanced stage ahead of the car’s debut in Japan in 2020. On the road, the MX-30 prototype feels like a conventional petrol or diesel car. The modest amount of power and torque means acceleration isn’t quite as immediate as on most electric vehicles these days.

Nor is it as silent as you might expect an electric car to be. There’s a faint whir from the motor, while Mazda has developed a feature called EV Sound, which uses artificial audio to communicate how much torque you’re using at any given stage.

The electric-guitar-like noise could well add some drama along a fast B-road, however it could be more of an annoyance in stop-start traffic around town. Fortunately, drivers will have the option to switch it off.

The MX-30’s best feature is its brakes. The transition between regenerative braking – which recycles energy back into the battery in order to boost range – and the actual brake pads is outstanding. It may even be the best we’ve ever experienced in an electric car.

Meanwhile, in typical Mazda fashion, the ride is firm but not overly harsh. We’ll have to wait until we’ve driven it on UK roads at speed before we can deliver a final verdict, however.