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First Drive

First Drive: Mazda MX-30 GT Sport Tech

The story: Mazda’s first production electric vehicle is a SUV-coupe based on the concept of smaller batteries making for lighter weight and better driving dynamics, although a much lower range than most EVs coming to market
Category:electric vehicle
Key rival:Honda e
Efficiency:Range: 124 miles
On sale:Spring 2021

Mazda’s first production electric vehicle is aimed very much at people considering the new Honda e or Mini Electric, in that it offers a similar range figure of just 124 miles from its 35.5kWh battery. That’s some way short of the 200+ miles that experts say people need to have confidence in relying on an EV as primary transport.

The MX-30 is a coupe-SUV model with what Mazda calls “freestyle” doors, where, as with the Mazda RX-8, the small back doors are rear-hinged and can be opened only when the front doors are ajar.

Mazda’s reasoning behind the range being lower than those of rivals such as the Hyundai Kona, Kia e-Niro, Peugeot e-208 and Vauxhall Corsa-e is that it wanted to maintain an agile and enjoyable driving experience, rather than loading its MX-30 with too large and heavy a battery. Nevertheless, it is a handicap at a time where range is a key driver of EV adoption, while the infrastructure, and real or perceived trust in that infrastructure, is still an issue for drivers.

First Drive- October 2020-Mazda MX-30- Image 11The MX-30’s interior features a ‘floating’ centre console that puts controls at the right height for the driver, looks neat and creates a large additional stowage area underneath. The console trays are also lined with cork harvested from trees without felling, while the door trim material incorporates fibres from recycled plastic bottles. But as well as being eco-friendly, it’s also a high-quality and nicely designed place to settle.

The rear seats are easily accessed via the freestyle doors (as long as you’re not in a narrow car park space), and rear space isn’t bad if you view the car as a coupe-SUV, with head and leg room a little limited, but acceptable for adults on shorter journeys given the car’s compact dimensions. In that context, the 366-litre boot is also a reasonable size.

The coupe roofline and requirement for thicker rear pillars to compensate for the lack of central door pillar does though mean rear visibility isn’t the MX-30’s strong point, especially with the narrow rear window also contributing.

First Drive- October 2020-Mazda MX-30- Image 13Heading forward, the 145hp generated by the electric motor doesn’t give the MX-30 the instant surge off the line as other vehicles manage, and despite this the car does seem to struggle for traction when pulling away on wet roads. The MX-30 also makes a slightly curious noise more akin to a petrol model when accelerating. The car feels as sharp and agile in corners as Mazda’s reputation has led drivers to expect, and the brand’s efforts to maintain a good driving experience have proven largely successful.

The brake-energy regeneration can be tailored to five levels using the paddles on the steering wheel, with the harshest setting providing enough deceleration that the actual brake pedal is rarely required.

Equipment levels are good across the three models, with the entry SE-L Lux car costing £28,490 before the £3000 Government grant is applied.

paul barker

The verdict

The MX-30 looks good, drives nicely, has a lovely interior, is fairy well-priced and is well-equipped. But that low 124-mile official range figure will be off-putting for many.