What is it?
The MX-30 isn’t Mazda’s first electric vehicle per se – it’s made several prototypes, including the absurd, Kinder-Egg-on-wheels EX-005 concept of 1970 – but it is Mazda’s first production EV.
Careering straight down the plug-in crossover route seems like a safe bet for pulling in buyers: indeed, Mazda says it shifted more than 2,000 examples in the UK in its first year-and-a-bit on sale.
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But there are lots of clues Mazda’s doing things differently here. The name, for starters: MX is usually the prefix of coupes and roadsters, most notably the MX-5, so affixing it here (in lieu of more explicit EV badging) draws a real line in the sand that we should think of this as sporty.
What else makes it stand out from the pack?
Its ‘freestyle door’ layout (check out the gallery above), which apes the RX-8 coupe of the mid-2000s. An odd choice, you might suggest, given that car’s unfashionable thirst for fuel and oil, but much like the retro styling of the Honda e, it’s an immediate talking point whenever somebody stops to poke around your MX-30.
In fact, the dinky Honda is arguably this car’s closest rival. Their prices align fairly neatly, as do their range figures, Mazda claiming 124 miles on the WLTP cycle. Or a smidge more if you mostly drive in town.
Wait, only 124 miles of range?
Yup. Or 106 miles real-world, in our experience. Mazda’s done the sums and worked out that smaller batteries have a significantly friendlier CO2 emissions footprint over their lifetime than larger batteries, and ‘break even’ with an internal combustion engine – i.e. counterbalance the high CO2 output of their manufacture with their lack of tailpipe emissions – after far fewer miles. It’s also researched its target buyers and concluded they don’t need any more distance from a full charge.
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And how big is the battery, exactly?
It’s 35.5kWh, and we’re told the MX-30 will never get a bigger one than this. Instead, larger range figures will be yielded in the future by the addition of a rotary range-extender unit, which should be a heck of a lot lighter on fuel than Mazda’s last rotary-powered car, that voracious RX-8.
READ MOREWhat’s the best electric vehicle for nipping around town?
This is a five-seater, but the rear is probably best reserved for little ‘uns, while the interior itself keeps it firmly in Honda e hunting ground. While not quite as revolutionary in its layout, its mix of vegan seat materials, plastics made from recycled PET bottles and actual cork trim give it a firm hipster-brunch-spot vibe.
What’s the competition like?
Other than the Honda e and perhaps the Mini Electric in the small-premium-car-with-naff-range segment, you’ve got the likes of the MG ZS EV, Hyundai Kona Electric, Peugeot e-2008 and Vauxhall Mokka-e in the small-SUV-with-decent-range portion of the market.
Our choice from the range
Mazda107kW Sport Lux 35.5kWh 5dr Auto£30,490
What’s the verdict?
“There’s a smart interior behind those wacky doors, and it drives neatly”
The dinky electric crossover is becoming a competitive corner of the car market. The MX-30 doesn’t quite offer the sportiness its name suggests: the nature of its powertrain stymies any chance of Mazda’s usual USPs – a deft touch and a delightful gearbox – giving it a head start over its key rivals.
But there’s a smart interior behind those wacky doors to make up for it, and it still drives as neatly as you could ever hope for from a 1.6-tonne SUV with modest power. Mazda’s been clever in how much regularity it’s built into the process of operating it, too. Analogue readouts and physical gear selection mean it’s a lot less daunting clambering in here than some competitors, going someway to counteract its poorer range figure. But with 200-mile alternatives available for similar money, might you be better off plucking up some courage to consider those instead?
£17,240 – £40,895
£29,605 – £38,065
Continue reading: Driving