By Steve Berry
I was recently invited by Mazda to the beautiful Broughton Hall in the Yorkshire Dales to check-out their first all-electric vehicle, the MX-30.
The weather wasn’t kind, with torrential rain throughout the day, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the team who were excited to share with us the delights of Mazda’s first fully-electric vehicle.
A compact SUV with some design quirks that set it apart from the rest, the MX-30 is designed not to win drag races or have the longest range in its class but to simply be the most practical solution to those wishing to introduce an EV into their lives which doesn’t have a hugely heavy battery to lug around.
Mazda are a little obsessive when it comes to eeking the most out of their cars without resorting to novel technologies or gimmicks. Lightweight solutions form part of their Skyactiv philosophy and when it comes to Mazda’s first EV, they’ve, unsurprisingly, taken a different path from their peers.
Yes, a smaller 35.5kWh battery may mean a range of just 124 miles (or 164 miles for pure city-driving), but the pay-off is that the weight-saving means the car is more fun to drive, the purchase cost can be kept down and charging times are shorter. A public fast-charge will take only around 35 minutes to charge the car from zero to 80%.
Mazda reckon that the average commute is just 26 miles, so the MX-30 will make a lot of sense for a lot of people. It is not meant to replace the family wagon that may be used to take the family on holidays or longer journeys, but rather to be the daily run-around as well as the perfect commuting vehicle.
Many families may buy the Mazda MX-30 as their second vehicle but then find that the savings on fuel are so immense that they will use it as their main vehicle whenever practical to do so.
And from what I experienced on my drive around a very wet Yorkshire Dales, you won’t mind using the MX-30 on a daily basis. It not only drives well but the interior is a lovely place to be sat.
Light and airy, the cabin is a little funky without becoming impractical. The lower console incorporates a 7-inch colour touch-screen air conditioning control panel, and in a nod to Mazda’s founding as the Toyo Kogyo Cork Company in 1920, the Mazda MX-30 features cork-lined centre console trays and inner side door handles.
Harvested from the bark of trees without felling, the use of cork and door trim materials that incorporate fibres from recycled plastic bottles, are perfectly suited to Mazda’s first pure electric production car.
The front seats are very comfortable and plenty of adjustment means a perfect driving position is found easily.
The “floating” infotainment screen is sharp and responsive and is controlled by a rotary knob behind the gear-selector rather than having to prod a finger at the screen. Much less distracting and no greasy fingerprints to deal with.
For full-on funkiness though, it’s the freestyle doors that take the prize and will probably be the main talking-point with your neighbours. While the front doors open forward, the rear doors open backwards – with no pillar between them.
You need to open the front door before opening the rear door but from a safety point of view – especially when it comes to children – this makes a lot of sense and will be welcomed by many parents.
The rear entry space isn’t big though, and it’s not easy for an adult to climb into the back of the MX-30 where room is quite restricted anyway. Kids will be fine but adults wouldn’t want to be travelling very far.
Boot space is only modest with around 366 litres but the split, rear folding seats do extend that capacity substantially.
Available across three generously equipped model grades – SE-L Lux, Sport Lux and GT Sport Tech, standard equipment on all MX-30s includes LED headlights with daytime running lights, reversing camera, Mazda Radar Cruise Control with Intelligent Speed Assist, navigation and head-up display. Each MX-30 comes as standard with a Type 2 AC charging cable and a socket for 50kW rapid charging.
The MX-30 range starts with the £25,545 Mazda MX-30 SE-L Lux. Marked out by 18-inch Silver Metallic alloy wheels, black door mirrors and a black grille.
The £27,545 MX-30 Sport Lux features 18-inch Bright Metallic alloy wheels and sees an increase in standard equipment with the addition of power seats, lumber support adjustment and smart keyless entry. There’s the option to choose the optional three-tone design on Soul Red Crystal or Ceramic Metallic main body colours.
The range-topping GT Sport Tech costs £30,345 and is equipped with a dark grey interior and brown artificial leather. Equipment tally includes a front wiper de-icer and a power and tilt sunroof, while inside a heated steering wheel and 12-speaker Bose surround sound compliment the generous standard specification.
I managed a couple of hours touring the Yorkshire Dales in the range-topping GT Sport Tech and despite the awful weather I found the ‘leccy Mazda to be sure-footed as well as refined, quiet and as easy as pie to drive.
Like most EVs, the Mazda MX-30 offers instant torque when you put your foot down and although the MX-30 has a modest 143 bhp it felt quicker than its official 0-62mph time of 9.7 seconds.
There’s definitely some fun to be had too, although don’t expect this electric crossover to corner flat around the country roads. Mazda have pitched the MX-30 just right between comfort and sporting with the relatively lightweight MX-30 feeling eager enough to trap-on when conditions allow but still managing to ride some of the rougher surfaces very well indeed.
But the greatest praise I have for the Mazda MX-30 is how quickly it changes your driving “ambiance”. It has a calming affect that is ushered in by the almost silent “swish” of the motor as you glide along.
It comes equipped with torque-vectoring that adds a little sparkle when exiting roundabouts and you may even get a little wheel-spin if your clumsy enough.
The brake pedal offers some regenerative “free electricity” and is variable via the flappy-paddles behind the steering wheel. Lift off the accelerator and the MX-30 will slow you down smoothly. One-pedal driving is achievable with a little practice and is something of a revelation when you master it.
I found the steering to be well-weighted around town and direct enough on the twisties, if lacking a little feedback – all similar to other cars of this ilk and perfectly acceptable.
All-in-all I found my time with the Mazda MX-30 to be very enjoyable indeed. It may not achieve the levels of fun of an MX-5 but it smashes it out of the park when it comes to simple driving-serenity that will undoubtedly help bring stress levels down on the daily commute.
The MX-30 could be your family’s new best friend – and being a Mazda, they’ll be reliable, too.
AT A GLANCE: Mazda MX-30 GT Sport Tech
OTR Price: £30,345
Engine: 35.5kWh Electric Motor
Power: 145 PS
Transmission: single-speed Automatic
0-62mph: 9.7 secs
Top Speed: 87 mph
Range: 124 miles (164 miles city driving only)
C02: 0 g/km