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Road tests

New Mazda MX-30 2020 review

The Mazda MX-30 is the Japanese firm’s first electric model, and it turns on the style

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Verdict

The Mazda MX-30 is a stylish electric vehicle with a great price tag, if you can deal with its very modest range. However, the car’s appeal doesn’t lie in how far it can go on a single charge. Instead buyers will be swayed by the Mazda’s high-quality feel for reasonable money. It’s good to drive too, thanks to its relatively light kerbweight when compared with rival electric vehicles.

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Mazda isn’t the first car maker you’d think of when talking electric cars. While rivals fall over themselves to promote their all-electric developments, the fiercely independent Japanese marque’s main priority remains the perfection of the petrol engine. However, it’s still found time to entertain the electric-car lobby with this, the MX-30.

The newcomer is a compact all-electric SUV that you can think of as a rival for the Tesla Model Y and Volkswagen ID.4. However, it has been created with a radically different theory to those vehicles.

Put simply, Mazda isn’t interested in the battery and range arms race that’s unfolding across the industry. The power pack is just 35.5kWh in size, and the maximum range on a single charge is 124 miles, a figure that most rivals will almost double.

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Mazda’s theory is that electric car batteries are dirty to manufacture, which undoes much of the good that zero-emissions driving delivers. Plus they’re heavy, which often spoils the way a car drives, and they’re expensive, making buying an EV a harder decision than it ought to be. As a compromise, Mazda believes the MX-30’s smaller battery addresses these issues. Research estimates that 95 per cent of the car’s target customers drive fewer than 60 miles a day, and by that thinking, a 124-mile range should be enough.

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The main selling point of the MX-30 is its design. It looks unlike anything else in the Mazda line-up, while the rear-hinged back doors are a nod to the RX-8 sports car, and are an eye-catching touch. In practice they nail the brief of looking cool, but mean getting in the back is slightly compromised, and you can’t open the rear windows.

Up front, things are great, though. The cabin is comfortable, looks and feels modern, and the tech is sharp, too. Touchscreen controls for the climate settings won’t be for everyone, but the central eight-inch infotainment display is as good as anything we’ve seen, quick to respond, and kitted out with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

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On the move, you’ll notice that Mazda has given the MX-30 a synthetic engine sound to break the silence and attempt to make driving this electric SUV feel natural. As you press on, it’s clear that this is an EV that petrolheads could easily get used to.

The small battery means it’s relatively light when compared with electric SUV rivals, at just over 1.6 tonnes, and that’s hugely beneficial to the way the MX-30 drives. The steering is well weighted and precise, the braking feel is natural, and the suspension set-up isn’t compromised by battery weight. The result is an EV that not only rides well, but handles well, too. There’s a distinct absence of weight pulling the car around in corners, and it comes neatly to a halt too, without excess battery mass delaying the car’s deceleration. As in most EVs, the strength of the brake regeneration can be altered on the fly, using paddles mounted on the steering wheel.

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The electric drive system is a little underwhelming, though. With 143bhp and 271Nm of torque, there are faster electric cars out there, and the MX-30 doesn’t really leap off the line with the instant urgency of most EVs. It feels more like a modestly powered petrol or diesel SUV, and has a 0-62mph time of 9.7 seconds, with top speed electronically limited to 87mph.

Charging technology is comparable with many other modern EVs. The MX-30 supports 50kW rapid charging, and that small battery means that an 80 per cent recharge is possible in around half an hour. With a mid-drive pit-stop, you could use this as a longer-range EV, rather than just a commuter car as it’s mostly intended.

Mazda will sell 500 First Edition cars in 2021 from £27,495, after government incentives. It means the compromise you make on maximum range is offset by the MX-30’s price, which will be even lower when the full line-up is revealed.

Model:Mazda MX-30 First Edition
Price:£27,495 (incl govt grant)
Engine:Electric motor, 35.5kWh battery
Power/torque:143bhp/271Nm
Transmission:Single-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
0-62mph:9.7 seconds
Top speed:87mph (limited)
Range:124 miles
On sale2021
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