The MX-30 is Mazda’s first EV. Similar in size to the conventionally powered CX-30, the Japanese automaker is billing this vehicle as a small crossover, one aimed directly at eco-friendly urbanites that don’t venture far from home. And one glance at the estimated range will have you double-checking the model year to see if it’s 2022 or 2012.
The MX-30’s 35.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery provides — drumroll please — 100 miles’ worth of juice. That’s it. In a world where some electric cars can travel more than five times as far on a single charge, that figure is woefully behind the times. In fact, it’s not that much more than what you got in a Ford Focus Electric or a Nissan Leaf back in 2011, the EV dark ages. The MX-30’s limited range is an obvious fault to point out, low-hanging fruit, but it’s not the only issue with this vehicle. The battery-powered Mini Cooper SE, for instance, offers similarly low range (just 114 miles between charges), though it’s orders of magnitude more fun to drive and not compromised by a questionable design. In fact, it may be our favorite new Mini. The point is, low-range EVs are fine, but they have to be compelling in other ways and this Mazda, sadly, isn’t.
In its defense, the Japanese automaker contends that since most people rarely drive more than 30 miles per day, the MX-30’s range is more than sufficient. In late 2021, that’s a pretty weak argument, but in principle, Mazda is correct. It makes little sense paying through the nose for a giant battery, one that gobbles up far more energy and resources to manufacture. Once DC fast chargers are on every street corner like gas stations, Mazda’s strategy starts to make a lot more sense. But we’re not there yet and won’t be for a while. An extra cushion of range is still critical, as I learned firsthand.
For whatever reason, the car failed to charge one day. I hooked it to a standard household outlet to let it slowly absorb electrons overnight. But when I went to run an errand the next day, it had the same 73 miles of range it did after plugging in. Luckily, there was still plenty of juice to get where I needed to go and back again, but this snafu ratcheted up my stress levels. I would have been even more concerned had it been winter and I needed to run the heater.
As for the all-important topic of charging times, when hooked to a 110-volt outlet, it takes about 13 hours and 40 minutes to juice the battery from 20% to 80%. Level 2 charging at 240 volts and 30 amps does the same deed in a vastly superior 2 hours and 50 minutes. Tap into a 50-kilowatt DC fast charger and you only need around 36 minutes to hit 80%. Times to full are not listed by Mazda, though lithium-ion batteries don’t charge linearly, so plan accordingly if you need the battery at 100%.
Compensating for this crossover’s lack or range, Mazda is offering a couple perks. The automaker partnered with ChargePoint to provide owners with a $500 credit they can use for public charging or as a down payment on a Level 2 at-home charger. Generously, owners can also take advantage of the Mazda MX-30 Elite Access Loaner Program, which allows them to drive other vehicles from the company’s portfolio for up to 10 days annually for the first three years of ownership. This is great when you have to travel long distances or haul more people than the MX-30 can manage.
Greatly broadening this vehicle’s appeal, a range-extended plug-in hybrid model will be offered soon, likely for the 2023 model year. A small rotary engine will serve as the onboard generator, charging the battery as you go, though it will not directly power the wheels. This could be the MX-30 worth buying.
Range isn’t one of this crossover’s strong suits and neither is performance. A single electric motor delivers a modest 143 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque, a good bit less than you get in a Chevy Bolt, Hyundai Kona Electric or Volkswagen ID 4. All that twist gets sent to the front tires, a pair of 215/55R18 Bridgestone Turanzas. Like other EVs, this Mazda hits hardest right off the line, and even with a relatively low wear rating of 480, in wet conditions you can squawk those rubbers if you romp on the accelerator. Still, this vehicle’s performance wanes noticeably as speeds increase, losing much of its punch on the highway.
Despite its inconsistent power delivery and limited range, the MX-30 still drives like a Mazda. The steering has rare crispness on center, plus the weighting and ratio choice make the MX-30 feel nimble and unusually connected to the road for an EV. Ride quality is taut yet supple, the body remaining well controlled in corners and over large bumps, though there is a bit of roll in corners. True to form, no harshness or roadway grit sneak through the suspension’s attachment points and into the passenger compartment, something that makes this Mazda feel like it was built by a premium manufacturer. Even the driving position is just right.
Matching its dialed-in chassis, this all-electric crossover’s brakes are equally praiseworthy. The pedal is firm but never grabby and the transition from regenerative to friction braking is 100% natural. This feels exactly like a traditional brake pedal, with no rubberiness or change in effort you sometimes get in EVs. Paddles mounted on the steering wheel allow you to adjust the level of regenerative braking. If you want the MX-30 to sail along like a schooner in a stiff breeze, just click the right paddle a couple times. If, like me, you’re all about regen, hit that left paddle and this Mazda will provide a lovely one-pedal driving experience. The only downside is your braking selection resets whenever you shift into or out of drive, or restart the car.
The MX-30 features the usual range of driver aids. Things like automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, lane-keeping assist, rear parking sensors and blind-spot monitoring are all standard and work as advertised. About the only modern assistance feature that’s missing is lane centering. Stepping up to the Premium Plus Package gets you additional amenities like a 360-degree camera system with dynamic lines, a heated steering wheel, front parking sensors and a premium, 12-speaker Bose audio system. You also get blind spot assist, which helps prevent you from steering into other vehicles while attempting to change lanes, and front cross-traffic alert. At speeds less than 6 mph, this aid warns you of vehicles that are approaching from the left or right, helping prevent collisions, particularly at intersections with limited visibility.
A Mazda Connect infotainment system is standard, complete with an 8.8-inch dashboard display. This multimedia offering definitely isn’t one of my favorites. You control everything with a dial and some buttons on the center console rather than a touchscreen, though more troublesome is the completely unintuitive interface. Using the navigation system is painful but saving and managing radio presets is so convoluted it will make you cry. Thank goodness Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard. Fitting in nicely with that primary display is a 7-inch touchscreen for the climate-control system. Rounding out the panels, there’s also a 7-inch digital instrument cluster.
The MX-30’s interior is premium and elegant. I have concerns about their long-term durability, but the cork accents on the center console and front door pulls look great, feel good and are a lovely tip of the hat to Mazda’s heritage, ‘cause apparently it used to make cork a century ago. Who knew? Other premium materials abound. The dashboard is made largely of low-sheen soft plastics that look rich, there’s an intriguing felt-like fabric on the door uppers, the leatherette seating surfaces are nice enough (real cow hides are not available) and everything is assembled with exacting care.
Comfort in the front is high, though the backseat is cramped, with scant legroom for adults. Accessing the rear is a challenge, too, as the MX-30’s unusual rear-hinged demi-doors don’t open quite wide enough. They also result in gigantic blind spots, both to the sides where fixed B-pillars would normally be and to the rear where you can barely see anything. Cargo space clocks in at 21 cubic feet, about 1 more than you get in the Mazda CX-30 crossover but 3.5 less than a Honda Civic Hatchback.
This all-electric crossover drives well and feels upscale, but the limited range, cramped seating and lackluster infotainment system make it feel a generation behind other EVs. If you’re still considering an MX-30 after reading this review, it starts at $34,645 including $1,175 in delivery fees. The swankier Premium Plus example seen here checks out for $38,650, a total that’s padded by one option: $995 for the stunning Soul Red Crystal Metallic three-tone paint job. Neither of these prices include any state or federal incentives that may be available.
Unless you live in a highly urbanized area, you really shouldn’t buy an MX-30. And the good news is, you probably won’t be able to, at least right now. For 2022, Mazda is only offering 560 units for sale in the state of California (can you say, “compliance car?”). This all-electric crossover — and the upcoming range-extended plug-in hybrid version — will, however, be more widely available in subsequent model years.