Mazda MX-30 road test: A battery-electric that’s loaded with missed opportunities

Mazda offers up a sporty-looking, city-loving electric vehicle – with limitations.

Mazda offers up a sporty-looking, city-loving electric vehicle – with limitations. Photo: Mazda

You’d have to be living under a rock not to notice electric vehicles are gaining momentum.

In Australia, recently announced Victorian and New South Wales government subsidies are helping with that.

So Mazda’s chosen a pretty good time to roll out its first battery-electric vehicle (BEV), not only in Australia, but globally.

It’s also a pretty good boost for EVs in Australia, as Mazda is the number two brand by sales – behind only Toyota – has a great reputation for affordable quality and many thousands of rusted-on buyers.

Being electric isn’t the MX-30’s only talking point. The ‘X’ in ‘MX’ stands for experimental and no doubt Mazda has had a fair old experiment. The rear-hinged rear doors are an obvious example of that, but there’s plenty more to consider here.

What is it?

The MX-30 Astina E35, to give it its full name, is a small five-door hatchback officially classified as an SUV. It’s priced at $64,950 plus on-road costs, which is not outlandish by current EV standards.

The problem comes when the price is married with the range. At just 200 kilometres between recharges, based on the globally recognised WLTP standard, the MX-30 goes about half as far as it really should.

Its combination of high price and short range is a bit confusing, because the battery is usually cited as the reason EVs are so expensive.

Mazda enters the EV market

Mazda’s offering is officially classed as an SUV – but is also pegged as a car for couples.

The MX-30 only comes with a 35.5kWh lithium-ion battery pack, which is about half the size of equivalently priced rivals such as the Hyundai Kona Electric, Kia Niro and Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus. These three all go more than 400 kilometres between recharges.

Mazda says the size of the MX-30’s battery pack has been arrived at because of environmental considerations. It argues the price can be attributed to things like a high equipment level.

Nevertheless, Mazda is being realistic about demand, expecting about 100 sales this year. Deliveries start in late August.

The small battery pack powers a 107kW/271Nm e-motor that drives the front wheels via a single speed automatic transmission.

Plug your MX-30 into a standard 240V, 10A power point and it will charge from 20 to 80 per cent in about nine hours. Upgrade to an AC wallbox or public charge at a maximum 6.6kWh and it will take about three hours. A DC fast-charge at up to 50kWh takes just 36 minutes. That’s an upside of the small battery pack.

Why is it important?

The MX-30 Astina E35 is the sole battery electric model in Mazda’s line-up. There are also three petrol-powered mild hybrid MX-30 models that start from $33,990.

FYI, mild hybrids provide a tiny bit of electrified assistance that marginally reduces fuel usage.

Next year an MX-30 BEV with a small rotary petrol engine will launch. The engine will act only as an electricity generator to extend the range between recharges.

Beyond that Mazda has announced a new family of EVs, plug-in hybrids and hybrids will launch by 2025 and its entire line-up will offer some form of electrification by 2030. Expect anything that makes sense as a business case to come to Australia.

So think of the MX-30 as an electrified school room for Mazda. It can figure out how to sell, service and support BEVs here without the pressure of a huge sales volume expectations.

That comes later.

MX-30 interior

Inside the Mazda MX-30 you’ll find a floating centre console – schmick.

What does the Mazda MX-30 get?

Equipment highlights include 18-inch alloy wheels, a glass sunroof, seat and steering wheel heating, 10-way power adjustment and two-position memory for the driver’s seat, an 8.8-inch non-touch infotainment screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connection, sat-nav and 12-speaker Bose audio. There are multiple USB ports, but no wireless charging.

You only get single zone climate control, the seat trim is an artificial leather called Maztex, there is no power tailgate and no spare tyre in the boot.

The MX-30 comes with a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, 10 airbags and autonomous emergency braking, which leads a family of driver assist systems that help avoid collisions front, rear and side.

Mazda backs the MX-30 with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and five-year roadside assistance. A five-year service plan is just $1273.79, which is far cheaper than what is usually charged for an orthodox vehicle with a petrol or diesel engine.

What do we like?

As is typical of battery electric vehicles, the MX-30 has lively performance at low to medium speeds. Combined with neat handling and the compact size that makes it great for nipping about the city and suburbs.

The interior, especially up-front, is a very nice place to be. The ‘floating’ centre console is the interior design highlight, but everything works pretty well and is where it should be.

Many of the interior materials are recyclable and/or made in an environmentally friendly way. There’s even recycled cork from bottle stoppers, reflecting Mazda’s origin as a cork maker.

Those rear-hinged doors really are a big talking point and another neat pointer to Mazda’s heritage, notably the RX-8 sports car, which had the same system.

Mazda's rear-hinge doors in action

What we don’t like

Take it as read the range between recharges is on the list of dislikes. That limits the MX-30 to an urban runabout role, something Mazda itself acknowledges.

And while the doors are cool to look at they aren’t as functional as rear doors hinged at the B-pillar. Access to the rear seat is pretty tight and once you get in there, leg and headroom is lacking for adults.

Mazda says the MX-30 is primarily a car for couples and the rear seat is a good reason why.

Buy it or not?

As a rational purchase the Mazda MX-30 Astina E35 just doesn’t add up. The price is too high and the range is too short.

But if you want a city runabout with plenty of driving character and also like the idea of being on the ground-floor of Mazda’s move to electrification then the MX-30 could be for you.

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