Mazda MX-30: Quite The Edge Case EV Crossover
Limited production numbers, in a single market, with a cabin as small as its range.
The EV market needs more practical options, particularly at more attainable price points. With Tesla gobbling up much of the electric market share, plenty of buyers are getting priced out of its lineup, as prices keep moving up. Ford introduced the new Mustang Mach-E earlier this year, and I loved it when I tested its mid-level configuration in addition to the hotter--and much more expensive--GT variant. Chevrolet has a decent Bolt model that I also reviewed in its previous generation, and though it has had a few challenges in the recall department, it's still good.
All of these EV models I've tested push well past $40,000, with prices going up a bit higher depending on performance, range, and equipment you select. This leaves people with more modest incomes left without affordable EV solutions. Mazda decided to introduce the MX-30 as a solution. A quirky crossover, the MX-30 has PHEV and fully electric powertrain options, with something for the driver who likes the fun and practicality of Mazda, while also being a bit more green. As a California-only offering at its launch, I had a chance to check out the fully-electric Mazda MX-30 in Los Angeles. It left me asking a lot of questions.
The Important Numbers
This fully-electric Mazda MX-30 is a four-seat, four-door crossover EV that is based on the CX-30 platform. Powered by a pint-sized 35.5 kWh battery pack connected to a 80.9 kW drive motor, the electric Mazda MX-30 produces 143 horsepower and 200 lb-ft (271 Nm) of torque churning the front wheels. Mazda will also offer a plug-in hybrid version that revives the classic rotary engine as a battery generator (rather than a drive unit), in addition to an MX-30 model equipped with a more conventional hybrid setup.
Designed to be a city car for younger buyers and smaller families, the Mazda MX-30 makes some compromises in the size and range department. Because of its smaller battery size, EPA estimated range for the all-electric MX-30 is a tiny 100 miles. This figure is less than half the range of the similarly priced base model Chevrolet Bolt, Volkswagen ID.4, and (slightly more expensive) Ford Mustang Mach-E. Like its competition, the MX-30 does offer DC fast charging capability.
Depending on your location, the Mazda MX-30 is eligible for plenty of EV tax rebates, helping buyers spend up to $7,500 less. Base price for the reasonably equipped base model Mazda MX-30 starts at $33,470, which is about the same price as a nicely optioned Mazda 3 (which I reviewed early this year). The Premium Plus trim level I tested adds a stack of safety upgrades, keyless entry, a heated steering wheel, and a Bose premium audio system to hit a total MSRP of $38,550 after destination.
The City Cruising EV
Continuing the trend of making cars that are fun to drive, the Mazda MX-30 is a zippy little electric crossover. Thanks to battery power at your disposal, the MX-30 is quick when you apply the slightest touch of your right foot on the accelerator. Power delivery isn't too forceful, partially because there's only 143 horsepower available, but that's not terrible for a commuter and errand runner. I just wish the engineers at Mazda allowed the MX-30's power output to feel a bit more fun when the mood strikes, but understand how that would negatively affect the range.
Coping with corners, whether 90º city intersections or back road curves, is effectively fun in the Mazda MX-30. Steering feel is nicely connected, requiring a perfect amount of input to get the MX-30 to turn in. Attribute this to Mazda's electric G-Vectoring Control Plus system that applies the brakes and modulates throttle at undetectable levels to keep body roll to a minimum.
Ride quality is great, with a suspension that's tuned to provide just enough response over the streets. The MX-30 exhibits all sorts of driving characteristics you expect from Mazda, a refreshing departure from what most people expect from affordable cars focused on peak economy. Braking sensations are good, considering there's regen working as you apply the pedal, and I like that Mazda allows adjustments to the regen via the steering wheel paddles.
Street parking spot may or may not have been intentional.
The overall design of the MX-30 is doing its best to make a crossover look more like a coupe, and the "Freestyle" doors are a throwback to the RX-8 sports coupe. Mazda gives the MX-30 an interior that incorporates a nice mix of sustainable materials, styled along its Kodo design philosophy. The MX-30's press release describes this cabin design as a new "Human Modern" concept that combines the appeal of futuristic design with a sense of familiarity. I think it's basically a cool extension of what already makes a Mazda nice to spend hours inside.
Storage space in the hatch isn't great, but you can stash two roller bags or plenty of groceries in there if you remove the pouch which contains the portable charging cable. Because of its hatch design, your stuff in the back is exposed to prying eyes thanks to Mazda not including a cargo cover as standard equipment. I was shocked to learn this when I picked up the MX-30, so my luggage was on display when I tried to grab lunch after getting into town. If you want to keep your stuff safe in the back of the MX-30, you'll need to spend an extra $175 in the accessories department. Not cool, Mazda.
Challenges As An EV
Mazda states that because most drivers average under 30 miles on a daily basis, it designed the MX-30 for that person, and only gave it 100 miles of range on a full charge. If you don't own a home with a secure place to charge, your time in the MX-30 is going to involve plenty of range anxiety. If you need to run a few errands over a weekend, you'll need to plan your route and charging accordingly, which is awful. I can't comprehend how a new car sold in 2021 can offer such a tiny range. Adding a more comfortable range wouldn't have involved a dramatic price nor curb weight increase.
With a 120V household charger included as standard equipment, you'll likely want to charge the MX-30 at home on a daily basis. If you're an apartment dweller without a charger at your disposal, you'll have to rely on the public charging infrastructure. In Los Angeles--where I tested the MX-30--charging networks are lacking. Particularly when seeking a DC fast charger that can charge the MX-30 from 20% to 80% in just 36 minutes. Because DC fast chargers are rare in Los Angeles, MX-30 drivers are left to rely on Level-2 chargers, which take several hours to recharge the paltry 100-mile range. If you're able to spot a fast charger, you'll be sad to learn the MX-30 can only charge at up to 50 kW, leaving plenty of the newer, faster chargers being installed having capabilities the MX-30 can't take advantage of.
Mazda partners with ChargePoint to provide MX-30 owners a $500 charge credit, in addition to access to its charging network. The challenge is getting a publicly available spot to charge the MX-30. Mazda intended the fully-electric MX-30 to only be sold in California, which is a state with painfully underserved charging needs. Opening the ChargePoint app may display hundreds of charging stations around LA, but a quicker inspection of any location will reveal that most are secured in private parking lots or inside office building garages that aren't available to the public without either having a parking contract or paying an obscene fee to park while charging.
The Pros And Cons
Making an affordable EV look sporty is something few manufacturers are pulling off, and Mazda did a nice job tidying up the exterior of the MX-30. The coupe roofline may take out a hint of storage space in the back, in addition to some headroom for the back seat passengers, but the silver contrasting panel for the roof is cool. The fascia used on Mazda's new crossover EV may remind you of the Mazda 3 too, which is a good thing.
MX-30's interior treatments include a nice mix of the switchgear, steering wheel, and infotainment spotted in Mazda's 3 sedan and hatchback. I like the use of soft recycled fabric components weaved into the seats and door cards, and appreciate the bits of cork lightly placed within the MX-30's cockpit. As a total package, the MX-30's interior is nicely executed inside a car that's playing as a low-cost EV alternative, and is a good place to spend time while you wait for it to charge.
The rear legroom is compromised, and may barely squeeze kids back there. For a car not much smaller than the last generation Chevrolet Bolt I reviewed, the rear seat has no useful purpose for people, and is only worth stashing backpacks on. Mazda's doors may look cool, and remind you of the RX-8, but the practicality for rear seat access is lacking. Because of the pillarless design and thickness of the beams for the rear doors, the right side joints create a massive blind spot, which is troublesome when navigating a busy city like Los Angeles. The door handle for rear seat occupants relies on the front passenger opening their door before the rear door can open enough to let them out. I have no idea how this design passed the concept phase and made it into production.
I appreciate that Mazda includes a pair of outlets for mobile phones, but there's nowhere to put one that makes it easy to grab your phone nor keep it stable. I found myself using the larger tub-shaped compartment under the shifter, which wasn't exactly practical. The slots which surround the floating shifter console look like a cool spot to stuff things, but they're tiny, so you're only going to stick a pen there. I wish the Mazda designers thought about more practical spaces and uses inside the MX-30's cabin. This is another department where the Ford Mustang Mach-E is much better.
Who Does This EV Really Serve?
Mazda shook things up by introducing the MX-30. It's a smaller production run EV that's trying to offer a low-cost model to more buyers looking to make the switch. The styling is cool, the fit and finish quality is high, and the value is good... except in one major way. As plenty of the MX-30's competitors offer considerably higher range, this Mazda barely gets 100 miles when you're driving slowly and barely using the on-board resources. My biggest concern is that I can't figure out who the Mazda MX-30 is really marketed to.
People seeking an affordable car of this sort are likely not homeowners, especially in California, so they'll have to frequently rely on few public chargers across fragmented networks. If someone wants a less expensive EV that's still decent to drive, I suggest going with an EV option that has double the range of the MX-30, in the form of the Chevrolet Bolt or the Volkswagen ID.4. Should you want a much more fun EV crossover that offers significantly more range, a more spacious interior, and better driving dynamics, spend a few grand more, and put a Ford Mustang Mach-E in your driveway.