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[NEWS] Mazda MX-30 2021 long-term review

Mazda MX-30 2021 long-term review

1 Mazda MX 30 2021 LT hero front

Mazda doesn’t do things by halves – except EV range. Let’s put its first one to the test

Why we’re running it: Does Mazda’s unusual debut EV make daily driving a joy, or will its limitations frustrate over time?

#Month4">Month 4 - #Month3">Month 3 - #Month2">Month 2 - #Month 1">Month 1 - #Specs">Specs

Life with an MX-30: Month 4

Hardly a long-distance cruiser - 11 August 2021

You would have to imagine that a chuckle rippled through the halls of Ujina when one jokester at Mazda decided the MX-30 needed a driver alertness warning. When the coffee cup icon and ‘take a break’ message popped onto the speedo, I had only driven about 60 miles and needed to charge anyway. Little danger of over-extending your concentration in something with legs this short.

Mileage: 1200

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Life with an MX-30: Month 3

Turning heads among precious metal - 28 July 2021

Seeing the crowds gathered around our long-termer’s identical twin (VX21 KNJ) at the Festival of Speed reminded me just how unusual and attractive the MX-30 is. At one point, there were more punters checking out the Mazda’s boot space and rear leg room than there were gathered around the 1900bhp Pininfarina Battista nearby.

Mileage: 1150

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Dynamically speaking, our Mazda EV is showing itself to be more Mazda than EV - 21 July 2021

It drew a confused look from my next-door neighbour when I started piling tools, petrol cans, oil and a 12V battery into the boot of the MX-30 but, although I’m excited to try the forthcoming rotary range-extender variant, I don’t have the skills to carry out a combustion conversion on our long-termer.

No, I was using the Mazda as a support vehicle in my attempts to rescue my Volkswagen Beetle from a five-year slumber and to see what it really has to offer dynamically over the rest of the electric SUV crop.

Heavy rain the night before had made my hometown’s crumbly country roads particularly inhospitable, and the periodic appearance of a brave rabbit, deer or cyclist gave the brake pedal and front tyres a workout.

The roads in question have poor sight lines, unpredictable cambers and a number of tight curves – not the sort of environment in which an electric runaround usually shines, but Mazda has worked wonders in bestowing on the MX-30 some of the dynamic finesse of its more overtly performance-focused offerings.

I was so surprised by how much I was enjoying myself that I started driving with an exuberance that I came to regret about nine minutes later, when I saw that I had brutally slashed my indicated remaining range, covered the car in a thick film of Kentish grime and filled my tool tray with three-year-old petrol.

Later in the day, when it briefly and miraculously fired into life, it genuinely looked like my 50-yearold VW antique would be a better bet for the return journey, given the relative lack of EV chargers in London’s outer fringes, but range anxiety comes a very distant third to fire and blowout anxiety on my list of concerns, so I ‘fired up’ the MX-30.

The drive home was taken at a slower pace to conserve range, but I was still impressed by this EV’s uncharacteristically cushioned ride over lumps and bumps and how quickly the comfy seats helped my back recover from a few hours spent hunched over a Haynes manual.

All in, my day felt like a metaphor for the near future of enthusiast motoring: fuel-burning toy for occasional use and tinkering, well-rounded EV for the daily. The strange thing is that, despite their radically different positioning, age and makeup, I’ve never gone more than 125 miles between fill-ups in either car.

Mileage: 1080

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Life with an MX-30: Month 2

Not even a reversing camera can pick up all shunts from behind - 30 June 2021

As if in recognition of its inherent range and roominess shortcomings, the MX-30 makes welcome concessions to practicality in other areas. At least, it does in our high-spec test car.

There’s the reversing camera, for one: its sensible mounting point and high-resolution display make it much crisper and less prone to dirt than those of several rivals, and the parking sensors don’t get overly stressed out if you come within five yards of a singular blade of grass.

The infotainment, too, is an absolute joy to use, standing out by virtue of its simplicity, accessibility and slick functionality. I would like to praise the volume knob in particular, which just last week I realised can be moved from side to side to change songs or radio stations. Genius.

It really is a helpfully appointed cockpit – but the other day, while giving my younger brother a lift, I was made aware of one switch that shouldn’t be there at all. On the back of the driver’s seat is a small control panel that allows the rear- seat passenger to move it at will to increase leg room as desired.

It was funny the first time he tried it, mildly irritating the next and downright infuriating the third.

Mileage: 810

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The simple touches - 28 June 2021

Mazda hasn’t complicated the MX- 30’s digital dashboard. You get three analogue-style dials, which are easily interpreted at a glance. I love how useful extra info has been cleverly integrated, like the red line on the speedometer updating in real time to reflect the speed limit. The remaining range being in a small font stops it being your first thought, too.

Mileage: 740

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Everything is better when it’s sunny – even our car’s range - 16 June 2021

While everyone else slapped on the factor 30 and ordered jugs of Pimm’s, I was to be found gleefully unplugging our Mazda for its first real stab at an extra-urban jaunt.

Warm weather arrived like manna from heaven, boosting the MX-30’s range from an oft-displayed 115 miles to 128. Small fry, you might think, but in the world of the nervous urban EV owner, every single one counts.

Off to Kent, then, on a 100-mile round trip to see my parents – a journey that I approach with caution ever since our old Vauxhall Corsa-e long-termer and its optimistic range indicator got me stuck at Cobham services in the pouring rain. The air-con had to be on, no question, but otherwise I was taking no chances: cruise control set to a 62mph limit, brake regen dialled all the way up and no frivolous overtaking allowed. It turned out I needn’t have been so cautious. To my surprise, I arrived with 60% battery left, which no doubt would have got me home to London in the morning – although the best kind of electricity is free, so I sneakily plugged the Mazda into an outdoor socket for a slow charge overnight.

I might have got away with it, too, had we not been plunged into darkness later that evening when the patio heater overloaded the already strained circuit. Whoops.

No matter: 72% capacity proved ample for the return trip, despite some horrendous M25 bank-holiday traffic, and then it was just a case of finding an Ubitricity lamp-post for the night near home. Not quite free, but cheap enough to feel smug about.

Mileage: 720

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We’re loving the premium feel of this EV – but not its short range or cramped rear - 2 June 2021

The miles are slowly creeping up on the odometer of our funky little electric Mazda. Slowly, you will no doubt have inferred, because I’ve yet to brave a proper long-distance jaunt, knowing as I do that, even without a motorway section to tackle, I will be lucky to get more than 100 miles from a charge.

With some lengthier trips on the horizon now that lockdown is going out of fashion, the time for me to face my fears is fast approaching, so I had better finesse my hypermiling skills.

Several weeks have passed since we were first acquainted, but I still welcome any opportunity to get behind the wheel of the MX-30. It’s largely how convincingly premium the car continues to feel, despite its relatively low price tag, that ensures its ongoing appeal.

Comparatively sized rivals beat it for range and space, but few cabin environments – even those of much more premium cars – come close for visual flair. I’m particularly enjoying the hidden centre cubby with its flip-up cork lid, the ‘floating’ centre console with a handy storage tray underneath and the perfectly positioned dials for controlling the infotainment screen and volume.

I’ve been playing with Mazda’s configurator to see if there’s anything I regret not specifying, and while I like the look of the top-rung brown/ grey leather upholstery, our car’s lighter cloth is much more upbeat.

I can’t imagine forking out £338 for illuminated scuff plates, and paying £109 for a coloured key casing doesn’t overly entice me, either. The seating position is absolutely ideal, too: just about low-slung enough to imply a relationship with the dynamically adept MX-5 but still with unencumbered all-round visibility and within easy reach of all the controls. They aren’t, I will concede, the comfiest seats I’ve ever sampled, but given the MX-30’s short real-world range, I don’t spend too long in them anyway.

It’s the sheer inutility of the rear seats that taints the experience. Compounding the accessibility issues thrown up by the narrow door opening and compact footwells, there are small, non-opening rear windows back there that make the cabin darker, inhibit all-round visibility and cause passengers to feel slightly claustrophobic.

Couple that with a sloping roofline that restricts rear head room and it’s difficult to view the MX-30 as a proper family car. Perhaps it would make sense while your kids are small, but a sudden growth spurt could force you to swap into something bigger.

There is one other annoyance to mention while we’re on the topic of cabin quality. For all of the heating system’s accessibility and the aesthetic nature of its intuitive touchscreen control panel, I simply can’t make it function as intended.

Climb aboard on a hot day, whack the temperature all the way down and turn the fan on and you will be sweating within seconds. It actively blows hot air for the first 10 minutes of driving, irrespective of selected temperature, by which point I’ve usually arrived at my destination and am feeling mighty irritable.

That may be a small gripe, and it’s potentially one that can be attributed to electric powertrains not using the traditional belt-driven air-con pump that we’re used to, but it’s one that I’m sure will continue to nag me during the warmer months ahead.

Love it:

Seeing red Several strangers have now approached me to compliment the MX-30’s Brilliant Black over Soul Red paint scheme.

Loathe it:

Subpar sound The standard audio system fails to get the bass in your face, and the Bose stereo is exclusive to top-rung GT Sport Tech trim.

Mileage: 670

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Life with an MX-30: Month 1

Car park conundrum - 26 May 2021

You can draw several similarities between the MX-30 and BMW i3, but it’s the rear-hinged back doors that most remind me of Munich’s first EV. I can’t deny their stage presence, but that often plays second fiddle to irritation when I’m parked in a tight space and want to put something on the back seats, requiring me to jam myself between both doors.

Mileage: 650

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Could be more sprightly - 12 May 2021

I’m not enamoured by the MX-30’s lacklustre performance, being used to even the cheapest EVs offering whimsical pace. It feels slightly sportier with the regenerative braking turned off, but nippiness is a concept largely implied by the synthetic, spaceship-like whirring that accompanies acceleration – which I quietly rather like.

Mileage: 620

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Welcoming the MX-30 to the fleet - 5 May 2021

Whatever your opinion on the unstoppable rise of the SUV, there’s no disputing that such cars facilitate the acceleration of electrification.

First, they’re generally raised off the ground, which allows for a whopping great block of lithium ion to be strapped to their undersides. Second, SUVs generally prioritise practicality over driving thrills, so any adverse dynamic impact stemming from the heft of electric innards isn’t of huge concern to the majority of buyers. And third, with the engine, gearbox and propshafts out of the way, there’s room for a much more capacious cabin than perhaps we’ve become used to.

All of which serves to explain why most mainstream manufacturers have chosen SUVs to be their first electric cars (not forgetting, of course, their overwhelming popularity with the modern consumer). But then there’s Mazda, that automotive salmon usually found swimming against the current of convention.

Rotary engines, compression- ignition petrol motors, slick Kodo design language that helps even its most mainstream models stand out: there are many reasons it’s among the most petrolhead-friendly brands in the mainstream sphere.

So what of its first fully electric car, the MX-30? Well, it’s certainly a Mazda: the rear doors open backwards, the centre console is clad in cork and the engineers have made a concerted effort to preserve some of the brand’s trademark dynamic balance. But with nearly everyone doing the whole electric SUV thing nowadays, can those quirks really be enough to make it the pick of the crop, or could this be a rare example of Mazda choosing panache over practicality?

What you will really want to know, and what we’re quickly finding out, is whether its 35.5kWh battery pack – a common talking point – can provide enough range for daily use. It’s the same size as that used in the notoriously short-legged Honda E and only 40% larger than the battery used for the plug-in hybrid version of the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

This made me nervous; the official range is put at 130 miles (I’m seeing around 117 displayed after a full charge), but I live in a flat and do more miles than the average London dweller. Surely this can’t be a match made in heaven?

So far, I’ve made it work. Free overnight parking on my local streets means I can take the Mazda round the corner after dinner, plug it into a Ubitricity lamp-post and pick it up after my morning coffee (before the parking wardens come prowling). It’s not ideal – these streetside chargers operate at less than 5kW, so even a 25% to 50% top-up takes a good few hours – but remember, it’s not a big battery, so it’s usually full when I come back to it, and I won’t have paid much for the privilege (24p per kWh).

Admittedly, I have been doing a lot of tootling about in congested West London, which is the sort of environment in which the short- range MX-30 is destined to be most popular. But when subjected to my patented half-lap-of-the-M25 endurance test, the MX-30’s displayed miles consistently match actual distance travelled, and the range doesn’t plummet as fast as I thought it might at a 65mph cruise.

In blunt numerical terms, on my longest non-stop trip so far, I covered 62 miles – mostly motorway but with some country lanes and gridlocked London arteries thrown in – and got home with 37% battery remaining.

If the battery were any bigger (and thus heavier), I think the MX-30 would lose the dynamic edge it enjoys over its contemporaries. Compared with the numb and disengaged helm of many rivals, it feels more than keen and agile enough to enliven the errand run. In corners, it turns in crisply, holds itself pleasingly upright and lets you get back on the power quickly without the scrabbling and skipping that can blight the experience in similarly positioned cars.

So what else has become clear in the first 500 miles? Well, Mazda’s refreshingly logical approach to infotainment ergonomics continues to stand out among large-screened and touch-control-heavy contemporaries, and I’m particularly pleased that neither the central display nor the gauge cluster shows any more information than is necessary: range, radio station and speed. Why try harder?

The back seats are a slightly more contentious issue. The ‘suicide’ doors are a neat touch, but they’re so small as to prevent entry to all but the most compact of passengers. Not that anyone bigger would want to try; one of my neighbours jokingly called the MX-30 “the world’s first two-seat electric SUV” in reference to its tiny rear bench.

Our test car is finished in mid-rung Sport Lux trim, priced at £28,045 (after the government’s £2500 EV grant) and expected to be the top- seller in the range. It builds on the already-agreeable specification of the entry-level SE-L Lux car, gaining such niceties as electrically adjustable, heated seats, tinted rear windows and keyless entry.

I’ve certainly not wanted for any extras thus far; with the weather warming up, I’m happy to forego the heated steering wheel and wiper de-icer that comes with range-topping GT Sport Tech trim, which carries a £2000 premium.

Over the next few months, I’ll be evaluating whether the Mazda’s quirks can overcome our qualms, and seeing if it deserves to be considered as a feasible daily driver. First impressions suggest it’s surprisingly luxurious and pleasingly distinctive, but that range has the potential to be a real bugbear, and I’ll no doubt want to carry rear passengers at some point.

Those factors in themselves are a major point of difference from most electric commuter cars and SUVs: it will certainly be an interesting experience with lots of talking points.

Second Opinion

Mazda believes the MX-30 offers plentiful range for the needs of most city-based EV drivers – if not what they think they need. I’m looking forward to finding out if Mazda is proven right and if the firm really can prove to buyers that less is more.

James Attwood

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Mazda MX-30 Sport lux specification

Specs: Price New £28,045 (after government grant) Price as tested £29,845 (after government grant) Options Soul Red crystal metallic paint £1800

Test Data: Engine Synchronous electric motor Power 143bhp Torque 199lb ft Kerb weight 1645kg Top speed 87mph 0-62mph 9.7sec Range 124 miles CO2 0g/km Faults None Expenses None

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