- Mazda's first electric vehicle
- Entertaining handling but weak acceleration
- 100 miles of range is poor for a modern EV
- 2022 marks the debut of the MX-30
Until now, Mazda didn't sell an electric vehicle, or even a hybrid, so the 2022 MX-30 is kind of a big deal. It represents the brand's first step into the world of EVs and what the company calls its "multi-solution electrification strategy." That's corporate speak for, "We've got more stuff coming, but it's not ready yet." But as the photos show, the MX-30 is a stylish introduction to Mazda's forthcoming EV lineup. Starting in the fall of 2021, Mazda will roll out MX-30 sales in California, with other markets planned for 2022.
The 2022 Mazda MX-30 is based on the company's popular CX-30 crossover. This puts it in direct competition with other small EVs such as the Hyundai Kona Electric, Nissan Leaf and Mini Cooper SE.
The MX-30 will be available as a purely electric vehicle with front-wheel drive. Its electric motor produces 143 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque. This is significantly less powerful than rival EVs. The Chevrolet Bolt, for example, makes 200 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque.
Prepare yourself for more disappointment, as the MX-30's 35.5-kWh battery pack will only power about 100 miles on a full charge. Even though 100-ish miles is enough for most commuters, it harks back to EVs built in 2015, not 2022. Most budget-friendly 2022 EVs can easily crest 200 miles and are better suited for longer trips.
To its credit, Mazda is offering a special loaner program to help compensate for the MX-30's limited range. This gives MX-30 owners access to another Mazda vehicle for 10 days per year for the first three years of ownership.
Another MX-30 version will arrive sometime in 2022, and this is where things get weird — or cool, depending on how much you're invested in Mazda's history. A plug-in hybrid is on the way, but unlike most hybrids (in which the engine can power the wheels directly) the engine will be used as a generator/range extender, much like the one in the now-discontinued BMW i3. That means the wheels will always be driven by an electric motor, with power either coming directly from the battery pack or, if it's drained, by using a gasoline engine to power an electric generator, which replenishes the battery.
Notably, the engine Mazda has tasked with being the generator will be of the rotary persuasion, which is a nod to the company's long and unique history with that powertrain. Known for its smoothness and compact size — but not its fuel efficiency — the rotary is a curious choice for an onboard power generator.
Acceleration is atypical of a contemporary EV. There's no rush of initial acceleration; Mazda chose instead to program the motor to gradually introduce power in a way that feels more like a conventional gasoline-powered car. As a result, the MX-30 feels slow and anemic. Deceleration is similarly disappointing. The CX-30 doesn't have a so-called one-pedal mode where the vehicle slows quickly to a stop when you liftoff the accelerator pedal. Thankfully, the brake pedal feels natural even though it is completely computer controlled.
The MX-30 is blessed with the sporty handling that Mazda is famous for. With the battery pack in the floor, a lot of the vehicle's mass is lower than a typical gas-powered crossover. This lets the MX-30 slice through turns with ease and with minimal body roll. It encourages racy driving even with the low-rolling resistance tires that are generally ill-suited to these antics.
The MX-30 benefits from a smooth ride quality as well as front seats that will easily keep occupants cozy over its very short cruising range. The rear seats lack the headroom for anyone taller than 5-foot-9, and their rear-hinged doors require the front doors to be opened first. Those rear doors are a puzzling addition when you consider the standard CX-30's conventional doors are much more convenient.
Road noise is ever-present when the vehicle is in motion, but it's never unacceptably loud, even on coarse surfaces. Wind noise is essentially absent. Like some other EVs, the MX-30 emits simulated motor noises in the cabin to give the driver a better idea of how much is being demanded of the system. The low hum is quiet enough to be ignored, but the perceived direction of that sound ("staging" in audio parlance) makes it seem as though it's coming from a vehicle ahead. Odd, to say the least.
The MX-30's interior is a lot like the vehicle itself, with futuristic intent while still firmly rooted in current times. The dashboard looks similar to most contemporary Mazdas but is enhanced with touchscreen climate controls and a floating-style control deck that houses the gear selector and infotainment controller. The gear selector isn't all that intuitive as it has an awkward gate to the right to select reverse or drive. The climate controls can be distracting to use while driving compared to traditional physical knobs.
The cabin itself makes use of many sustainable and recycled materials, including an odd choice of cork (before Mazda got into cars, cork was its business). The rather rough cork surfaces adorn sections of the center console and inside the door handles. We're curious to see how they stand the test of time in regard to staining and crumbling. Two small cork panels flip up to reveal the cupholders directly in front of the armrest bin. That bin is open in the front, which allows objects to slide unnoticed from the cupholder area into the bin, so if you're missing your phone or facemask, check there first.
Mazda is sticking with well-established features for the MX-30. There's no hint of future autonomous driving features or gimmickry. Typical advanced safety and driver assistance features are standard or available. These include adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and blind-spot warnings. A new addition is a front cross-traffic alert system that warns of an impending T-bone accident.
The infotainment system uses the tried-and-true dial controller found in other Mazda vehicles. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration are standard. We'd suggest adding the optional Premium Plus package to take full advantage of the latest features. These include the aforementioned safety features plus keyless entry, premium audio and a surround-view camera system.
Cargo capacity behind the rear seats maxes out at 21 cubic feet, which is almost identical to the CX-30 and is about average for the subcompact crossover class. Personal item storage for front passengers is similarly average, with moderately sized bins, pockets and cupholders. There's also a larger tray area under the center console, but anything larger than a phone tends to roll out of it, which could be problematic if it rolls into the driver's footwell.
With a starting price below $35,000, the MX-30 is competitively priced against other short-range EVs that include the Hyundai Ioniq, Mini Cooper SE and Nissan Leaf. Buyers might also be eligible for the maximum state and federal tax credits. As further enticement, Mazda includes a $500 credit on the ChargePoint network that can be used at a charging station on the road or to purchase a home charging unit.
The MX-30's "unusually slow for an EV" theme also applies to its charging speed. DC fast charging is possible, but limited to 50 kW. That translates to a charge from empty to 80 percent in 36 minutes. A 240-volt home power station will take about three hours for the same charge.
You might expect that the MX-30 is at least frugal with its use of electricity, but that's not the case. Official EPA estimates weren't available at the time of our review, but we expect it to be around 36 kWh's worth of electricity used for every 100 miles of driving. This is more than most other comparable EVs. For comparison, a Hyundai Kona Electric uses only 28 kWh per 100 miles driven.
Mazda took the overly cautious route with the MX-30. It seems to have missed a lot of its potential for performance and the lack of one-pedal driving is a real letdown. Then there's the range, or lack thereof. The sharp handling and comfortable ride point to a brighter future for Mazda EVs, but the MX-30 simply doesn't make sense amid the current and future crop of competitors.