Motoring journalist Mark Gallivan test drives Mazda’s all-electric MX-30, which is due to hit Irish roads in 2021.

An all-electric Mazda. A crossover, even. And one borrowing the MX prefix from the cultish MX-5 roadster. Cue the roadster’s fans’ aghast at Mazda’s audacity in hijacking the sacred MX nomenclature for an all-electric crossover SUV.

It may have taken quite some time, but Mazda finally introduces its first all-electric car to the Irish market in early 2021.

“The MX-30 is a very soothing car to drive”

Positioned as a five-door crossover SUV here are the facts: the MX-30 First Edition is priced from €32,295 (going to press) with freestyle doors (no central B-post door mountings) that open at 82 degrees at the front and 80 degrees in the rear.

Power and performance

Mazda launches the company’s e-Skyactiv engine tech using a small 35.5 kWh lithium-ion battery with a limited 200 km/ 262 city (WLTP) range. Charging is from AC power by rapid charging and develops a modest 145 PS/271 Nm torque. Nimble rather than BMW i3 slingshot fast the MX-30 takes 9.7 seconds to reach 100 km/h. Mazda is taking a gamble launching an all-electric crossover SUV with a tiny 200km range when others do better.

When I spoke with Mazda Ireland, they said the MX-30 would be marketed as a second car for buyers using it for shorter trips. The jury is out on where this limited range strategy pays off with Irish buyers and the rather limited on-street charging network.

And that should be that. Here is another new all-electric car parachuted into an already crowded marketplace: no bother in reading any further. Except this is Mazda.

The Hiroshima Company is, give or take, the Saab of Japanese car makers. Mazda like to do things differently, has always been on the cusp of premium and certainly dogged in resisting the necessity of turbos in their engines. When it launches a new all-electric car to a model range that includes the last trident of affordable two seat roadster fun we should sit up and take note.

Mazda gave Irish journalists an advance test in a left-hand-drive pre-production MX-30 on Irish roads before it arrives here in the first quarter of 2021. It is aiming to sell 12,000 units globally and a realistic 130 Irish sales. The car’s pricing and 200 km (124 miles) battery range places it directly against the Mini Electric and the Honda e. The new MX-30 may cause an upset being a more grown-up, more sensible family BEV than either the Honda e or Mini Electric pretend to be.

Aside from the exceptional MX-5 roadster the MX-30 is now looks like being the best car that Mazda makes. Some new cars come and go, many never hit the target, but the MX-30 feels like an electric car that was made for drivers forced into a life of grey all-electric eco driving.

The MX-30 is a very soothing car to drive. It’s not Tesla Model Y blistering fast and buyers should be fine with that. The controls – the steering, pedals and suspension – flow with a treacly smoothness. Body roll is well checked and Mazda has added artificial engine sounds that sample a muted acceleration from a petrol car.

The sound is subtle but cleverly acts as an audible guide marker for the driver instead of the silly Space 1999 sound effects used elsewhere.

The potential lunacy of a Tesla’s explosive acceleration in cities begins to pall when driving on short commutes. This is the battleground that Mazda sees the MX-30’s slotting into the world.

Elegant design, outstanding cabin

Interior of Mazda MX-30.

The time taken to get the MX-30 to the market shows and this pre-production car, even with the odd squeak from the door card, is evident. It’s a more polished car than the Mini Electric and less self-conscious than the Honda’s e cutesy curiously. It trounces either of them for practicability and beauty – Mazda has designed one of the most elegant looking crossover SUVs I’ve seen in years.

Getting into the MX-30 is done in the conventional way with the front doors. Once opened the rear door opening latch can be accessed and the rear hinged door allows awkward cabin access that is a squeeze to get in. Don’t mistake the MX-30 for a regular crossover, the rear dimensions are tight. Rear legroom is 765mm compared with 1,058 in the front and the sloping roof reduces the headroom by 42mm.

Interior of Mazda MX-30.

The MX-30 resisted the temptation to throw the tech kitchen sink into the cabin. Up front the dashboard and centre console use traditional buttons, gloriously clear analogue instruments with thin needles that are a simple joy after the Casio watch shockers that manufacturers seem to be serving up to us nowadays. The information displays are controlled by an iDrive inspired rotary wheel atop of the centre console.

The console itself is floating and viewed from the side, it’s suspended like a bridge between the lower centre console and secondary touchscreen. At the base of the centre console, cork is used to represent the origins of Mazda manufacturing past. A tactile delight along with the fabric materials that are derived from recycled plastic bottles, it’s a Mazda triumph.

Calming, easy to understand and beautifully presented – this is how to design a wonderful cabin. Other manufacturers please take note.

Verdict

To summarise, the MX-30 is hampered by a small 200km range from a 35.5kWh battery and rear seating capacity is restricted. You may also be better off in the Peugeot e-208 with a 340km (WLTP) range. Or you may be satisfied with the MX-30’s range and confident it fits into your life just fine.

If that’s the case the Mazda MX-30 (crummy electric range aside) answers so many of the criticisms I have about crossovers, including many all-electric cars today. The new MX-30 is striking yet elegant, has an intriguing four-door design, is smooth and hospitable to drive and surprises with a delightfully traditional cabin yet is affordably priced. The Mazda MX-30 does not arrive in Ireland until early next year. Get yourself in line now, it’s another MX winner.

You’ll like: It’s a joy. Looks, driving dynamics, weight of controls, light on its feet for a crossover SUV, sheer cabin charm at this price.

You’ll grumble: Restricted 200Km (real world range). Rear access and space tight.

By Mark Gallivan

Published: 6 November, 2020

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