Auto123 gets in a first drive of the 2022 Mazda MX-30.
Montreal, QC - It's fair to say that Mazda is a bit late to the electric-vehicle game. Usually, when arriving late to a party or a meeting, it’s tradition to bring a little gift to make up for it.
In the automotive world, manufacturers come up with a little something extra that will attract people. In this case, Mazda came up with a lot less. More particularly, the MX-30 delivers less range than the competition for the same price. Not the best way to introduce oneself. With only 161 km of range, the MX-30 is competitive with EVs… from six or seven years ago.
We could forgive this shortcoming if the vehicle sold for half the price of the competition. But no - $42,150 is $4,000 more than the going price for the Chevrolet Bolt, which offers 417 km of range. It's hard to justify this approach from Mazda.
Mazda didn't do much original design work when coming up this vehicle. It simply used an existing gas-powered model and made it electric. The MX-30 has been around in a gas-engine format in Japan since September 2019.
We thus recognize the Mazda style at the front and at the back, though there are the “suicide” doors (that open in opposite directions), which remind us of the RX-8. And you also get a trendy roofline that gives the vehicle a coupe-like look.
When it comes to interior space, Mazda is sitting between two chairs here. While the front seats are spacious and comfortable, it's hard to say the same about the rear seats. Meanwhile, those rear doors are original, but they quickly become a problem if you park in a tight spot like a shopping mall or an underground parking lot, because you have to open two doors to let people out in the back.
The shape of the roof offers a touch of originality, but there’s a price to be paid. There's little headroom in the back and the slope of the roof reduces cargo space to 366 litres, which isn't much. Fortunately, the seats fold down to create 1171 litres of space.
Good on the tech front
All MX-30 models offer i-ActivSense, which includes cruise control with “Stop & Go”, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, front intelligent city braking support, front pedestrian detection, front intelligent braking support, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, driver attention alert and high beam control. Also of note is the Mazda Active Driving Display projected on the windshield, which includes a traffic sign recognition system and a navigation system.
Our GS version on test offered a standard 8.8-inch centre screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and an 8-speaker audio system. If you opt for the $47,150 GT trim, you get a 12-speaker Bose audio system, power sunroof, 360-degree display with front parking assist sensors, memory driver's seat (2 positions), and power-folding side mirrors paired with the memory seat feature.
The rearview camera display shows dynamic guiding lines while the auto-dimming mirror features HomeLink, and the cargo area has convenient lighting.
The seats are available in leatherette, either pure white with contrasting grey fabric or classic brown with black fabric. The fabric in both options features 20-percent recycled yarn. The MX-30 GT is available with a monochromatic exterior paint in jet black mica or arctic white. A two-tone exterior option is also available.
Not very powerful, but powerful enough
The MX-30 will only be offered as a front-wheel-drive variant with a 143-hp engine with 200 lb-ft of torque, which Mazda says keeps energy use down and makes for a more responsive ride. These numbers aren't impressive in and of themselves, but no one buys an electric vehicle to go street racing. This power available is well suited to the model; the Mx-30did not suffer from a lack of punch during our test drive.
The battery, of a capacity of just 35.5 kWh, is housed under the vehicle, which ensures a low centre of gravity and thus enhances the drive. You don’t really feel the vehicle’s total weight of 1,645 kg when driving.
This MX-30 drives like a sedan and the suspension system delivers a excellent level of comfort. You drive over a pothole, but you don't feel it. There are, however, two minor irritants in the driving experience. Mazda adds an electronic noise designed to warn others in the vicinity of the presence of a vehicle. This ever-present noise becomes annoying after even a few minutes. We can understand the usefulness of such a noise at low speed to warn pedestrians or cyclists, but the relevance of such a noise at all times is not justified; it should simply disappear beyond 50 km/h.
The other irritant comes from the five levels of brake regeneration. It works well but, even in the most aggressive setting, the MX-30 does not stop completely, remaining at a speed of 6 km/h. Why not go all the way and make for true single-pedal driving?
The 35.5 kWh battery can be charged from 20 to 80 percent in about 36 minutes with a Level 3 fast charger. It will take you about 2 hours 50 minutes with a Level 2 (240V/30 amp) public or home charger, or 13 hours 40 minutes with a Level 1 charger. Mazda guarantees the battery for eight years or 160,000 km.
The interior is built around a floating design for the central console that is very much of its time. The extra space is used in part to place the two standard USB audio inputs and optional 150W AC power outlet. At the front of the structure is a new 7-inch touchscreen that accesses the climate control system. The touchscreen also has push buttons on each side to operate the climate control. It still has too many sub-menus to be truly user-friendly, but it's a definite improvement over the previous generation's system.
The interior is both comfortable and well-designed, with environmentally friendly materials. The interior incorporates cork, combining the modern with the historical to pay homage to Mazda's origins as a cork manufacturer over 100 years ago. Plus, cork is one of the most sustainable materials available, as it can be harvested without harming donor trees. The seats in the front are comfortable and well-padded.
Is the MX-30 a good vehicle? Absolutely. Will Mazda succeed in making a breakthrough in the EV segment with it? The answer is no. Mazda says it wants to open a new horizon of electric vehicles for use not too far from home or as a second vehicle. It's like trying to a Jeep rival trying to sell a vehicle that isn't really off-road but can do some rougher roads – as long as they’re not too rough. Put another way, the pull-out sofa sounds great as an idea but it will never deliver as good a sleep as a real bed.
You have to understand that the notion of proximity is not the same in Japan as in Quebec. Going to see a friend 300 km away from home is not unusual here - but you can’t do it in a single go in an MX-30. And $42,000 is way too much for a second vehicle.
If there’s hope for the MX-30 here, it lies in the plug-in hybrid model that's coming for the 2023 model-year. It will offer the same 160 km of range with a rotary engine and a 9-litre fuel tank to allow you to go another mile when the battery is dead. A PHEV with 160 km of range? Now you’re talking.
Good road handling
We like less
Really small range
Cargo space is measly
Visibility and headroom in the back not so great