Mazda MX-30 – Waiting for the Wankel

Mazda is a brand that likes to do things its own way and isn’t afraid to go against the mainstream of other automakers. It has its undeniable advantages, and this Japanese automaker is very likable to a lot of people because of this strategy. At a time when other automakers are moving to small-displacement turbo engines, Japan’s Mazda is saving atmospheres with its innovative SkyActiv technology, and in a decade when other automakers are developing more compact and cleaner-burning combustion units, it is introducing all-new inline six-cylinder engines, complete with a new architecture featuring a more purist rear-wheel-drive system. I applaud it for its courage and proudly count myself among the fans…
But even Mazda, recognising both traditional technology and values, had to tune into the electric wave if it wanted to sell in the EU without fat fines. And so back in 2019 it unveiled its first electric car, conceptually built with a vision of the future of the internal combustion engine – the Mazda MX-30.
Since the current model year isn’t so much a facelift as it is a refresh and revamp of the current car, we didn’t even see changes to the body and interior. There are some new colours and wheel designs, and I have to admit that this sand colour (Zircon Sand Metallic) suits the MX-30 perhaps best of all. S with the rear doors reversed, as the RX-8 coupe had before, the look didn’t need to change in any way after less than three years on the market, as the MX-30 still looks modern.
The interior offers excellent ergonomics, a comfortable driving position and plenty of recycled materials. A very nice detail is the cork-lined parts of the cabin. Firstly, it is a natural material, but it is also an elegant reminder of Mazda’s early history. Don’t expect much space in the back, and unless there’s plenty of room around the car, you’ll get pretty sick crawling around in there. The price for the fancy design is then a worse rearward view. I’ve already gushed about the design and practicality in a previous test, so now let’s move on to those changes in the tech…
The Mazda MX-30 still has a relatively small lithium-ion battery pack with a capacity of just 35.5 kWh. It weighs “only” 300kg and even that should reduce the ecological impact, according to the manufacturer, and it plays into the hands of the driving characteristics as well. Finally, it should also reduce production costs. Much of this is true, of course, except that the fact also remains that you’ll pay just over €36,000 for a base Mazda MX-30, and the top of the range with add-ons will hit the €45,000 mark. And for that money you get a car with a paper range of just 200 km. In effect, for that amount you’re buying a car designed solely for city shunting and the occasional trip to the neighbouring village. Once you go on longer routes, you’ll have to put up with the fact that you’ll either be going very slowly or that you’ll be charging every now and then – if there’s anywhere to charge it.
Related post:  Mazda CX-5 100th Anniversary – A queen with the right heart
We had the upgraded Mazda MX-30 out for a test drive in a week when the morning temperatures, while not below freezing, still stayed below 10 degrees. With a fully charged battery, the car promised a paltry 160km and in highway mode, after a slight warm-up, only 100km. Just enough to cover the route to work and back. One can then forget about any non-work or family activities if one doesn’t have a free charger at work and a Wallbox at home. Yes, the MX-30 can reward itself with exemplary efficiency and you can make it run for 12 kWh/100km and theoretically stretch the range to 250km, but for that one would have to have really exaggerated eco/masochistic tendencies and other road users would have to be exaggeratedly considerate in turn…
Another problem in winter is the heating, which works very strangely on the MX-30. The car either feels like it heats too little or, on the contrary, unnecessarily much. We didn’t find any normal automatic mode during the whole week, and so we constantly had to adjust the heater manually while driving. In AC mode, the range drops by some -10 to -20km and so the AC offers an Eco mode to increase the range, but this is unusable in cold weather as the car doesn’t heat at all in this mode. The Eco mode is thus apparently only for summer weather, when the car uses the air that flows from outside to “cool”.
Of course, the Mazda MX-30 offers the option to heat up the interior before you leave while it’s still plugged in. In the case of this EV, given the generally low range, this is a very welcome and useful feature, although it’s not uncommon in the EV world. Worse is when you need to use the car randomly throughout the day, or when you don’t have a daily scheduled departure and don’t know what time to set the preheat for. As part of the upgrade, Mazda has also upgraded the charging to a maximum output of 50kW, which is equivalent to the charging power of some larger plug-in hybrids, and by EV standards, that’s really no mean feat. Even though the MX-30 has a relatively small flashlight, you still don’t have a charge within minutes, and if you want to charge from, say, 20 to 80%, you’ll spend at least 30 minutes on a 50+ kW charger. A new feature is an on-board 11kW AC charger, which can speed up charging from wallboxes.
Related post:  Mazda 3 Sedan - a hard classic
From a domestic 230V socket, it’s again only for “docking” overnight, as the 3.6kW output is of course an extremely slow charge. If the MX-30 had some sort of 150kW on-board charger, it would already be very interesting to compare with normal refuelling in a combustion car. But with that kind of power, the battery in turn would probably suffer more due to high charging ramp-up and spikes.
Drivability is a strong point of all Mazda models, and the MX-30 is no exception. Thanks to its relatively light weight for an electric car, which is just 1645 kg, and low centre of gravity, the car also manages a very brisk pace in corners. However, given the range, you will appreciate more the comfort of the chassis, which is of a high standard. The electric motor has apparently not been changed and so the driver has a power output of “only” 107kW / 145hp and a top speed limited to 140km/h, which on our motorways causes more than one problem when needing to overtake quickly or to get into a lane. Accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h in 9.7 seconds also doesn’t give too much hope for adrenaline-fuelled driving.
Just for the record – it looks like, judging by the space under the front hood, that the addition of an internal combustion engine (even if only as a generator) was envisioned from the start. There would certainly have been room for a conventional Skyactiv-G or Skyactiv-X petrol two-litre, but we’ll have to make do with the currently announced newcomer in the form of the e-Skyactiv R-EV, with 125kW/170hp, which will actually be a production hybrid with extended range and smaller battery for EV powertrain.
When the Japanese revived the famous MX name late last decade, they dedicated it to their very first mass-produced electric car. Mazda itself says in its slogan that the MX-30 is a so-called “Second Family Car”. And I can’t help but agree with that, because the Mazda MX-30 is a stylish and exclusively urban electric car that will entertain you immensely with its design and unconventional doors. Just need to have some other form of long-distance transportation in the home fleet…