Mazda MX-30 electric review

Taking a slightly different approach to many electric cars, the MX-30 focuses on low weight, a modest range and an engaging driving experience

Mazda MX-30
£27,495
Electric

Pros

  • Engaging to drive
  • Interesting styling
  • Sustainable materials

Cons

  • Impractical door layout
  • Quite short driving range
  • Cheaper version not yet available
Car type Range Wallbox charge time Rapid charge time
Electric 124 miles 5hrs 45mins (0-100%, 7.4kW) 31mins (10-80%, 50kW)

This is the Mazda MX-30, the Japanese brand’s first production electric car. Like many other Mazda products, it takes a somewhat leftfield and unconventional approach to the more mainstream competition, and judging by our first impression, this could be a gamble that pays off.

Firstly, there's a big focus on the sustainability of materials used to build the car. And secondly, Mazda has avoided the temptation to get caught up in a 'range war' with its rivals. It reckons a comparatively small 35.5kWh battery, giving an estimated range of just under 125 miles, will be more than sufficient for most buyers. It should be possible to get close to 100 miles out of it in real-world driving conditions.

That puts the MX-30 in the same category as cars like the MINI Electric and Honda e, as well as the original 'urban electric car', the BMW i3. They're intended as stylish, high-tech companions for the daily commute, school run or shopping trip. Most drivers will charge their cars at home overnight, rather than use them as regular long-distance cruisers.

According to Mazda, this size of battery offers the best compromise between the environmental costs of manufacturing the cells, and the benefits to the consumer. There's further evidence of ecologically minded thinking in the make-up of the MX-30's interior, with the door panels made from recycled plastic bottles and the centre console using cork-tree bark. Mazda isn't the first electric-car manufacturer to do this kind of thing – both the latest Renault ZOE and the Polestar 2 make use of sustainable materials – but it's clearly committed to the approach.

Getting into the MX-30, the first thing you'll notice is that it uses the same 'missing B-pillar plus rear-hinged doors' approach as the i3. And with it comes the same frustrations experienced in the BMW: you can't access the rear seats without moving the driver or front-seat passenger out of the way first, and the rear seats feel quite dark and claustrophobic, especially given the windows can't be opened.

There's better news for front-seat occupants, who get a pair of very comfortable chairs to sit on, and an elegant touchscreen interface for both the climate control and infotainment functions. It uses the Mazda Connect operating system and will pair easily with your smartphone via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The other piece of tech you'll instantly notice is the head-up display, which helps keep the driver's focus on the road.

Once you set off, the MX-30 remains typically quiet for an electric car, but there's also a synthetic 'engine' sound that changes in pitch as the car's speed increases. That might strike some buyers as annoying, but anyone coming from an internal-combustion-engined car will find it entirely natural; it pretty much blends into the background.

For the most part, the MX-30 drives like a normal small automatic SUV. The 'MX' part of the name is usually associated with the brand’s sports cars, and isn't entirely unjustified. From the driving seat it echoes much of the famous MX-5 roadster's characteristics; precise steering, smooth braking and well judged suspension are all present and correct. Like all Mazdas, big or small, overtly sporty or family-focused, it's a cut above the competition when it comes to driver satisfaction.

The small battery means the Mazda isn't as excessively heavy as some other electric cars, so it's pleasingly fleet-footed on a twisty country road, and you don't feel its bulk fighting against you as you take a series of corners. Keen drivers will definitely enjoy this car, even though – with a 141bhp electric motor and estimated 0-60mph time of between eight and 10 seconds – it's not massively fast or powerful.

Regenerative braking, which is pretty much a given on any electric car these days, is standard. You can adjust the strength of the effect using the paddles between the steering wheel. There are five levels to choose from, ranging from barely perceptible to a strong slowing force when you lift off the accelerator; the latter allows for 'one-pedal' driving if you anticipate the traffic ahead well enough.

Another advantage of a smaller-than-average battery is quick charging times, with an 80% top-up from a 50kW public rapid charger possible in a little over half an hour. Even drawing power from a home wallbox, the Mazda will be fully juiced in less than six hours, so it'll be easy to get all your charging done within the window for off-peak electricity costs.

Initially, the MX-30 range is limited to 500 'First Edition' models. This version costs from £27,495, including the government’s plug-in car grant, with pre-orders being taken now for early 2021 delivery. More affordable versions will follow in due course, and these promise to be an even more appealing prospect – especially when compared to rivals like the MG ZS EV and smaller contenders like the Peugeot e-208 and Vauxhall Corsa-e.