After a year in our possession, it’s time to hand the MX-30 back to Mazda – and to sum up what we’ve learned after living with the uniquely-shaped EV for the last 12 months.
Let’s start with the positives. When the MX-30 first arrived, I wasn’t at all convinced by its crossover-slash-coupe looks – I thought it was a niche that, quite frankly, didn’t need to exist. A year on though, I’ve grown to like its shapely body and rough-and-tough plastic body cladding. I suspect it’s one of those cars whose design is a smidge ahead of the curve, and will age pretty gracefully as a result.
Then there’s the cabin. I’m forever banging on that Mazda is the king of interior design – at least for their price point – and nowhere is that more true than in the MX-30. Not only is it well built and attractive to look at, with an interesting mix of recycled and unusual materials, but it’s typically well thought out too. Rivals might attempt to wow you with their walls of touch screens, but in day-to-day use, the MX-30’s sensible ergonomics beat them hands down.
I’m also a big fan of the MX-30’s infotainment system. It’s not heavily laden with extra features, but it’s attractively designed – feeling properly integral to the car – and blissfully easy to use while on the move. Perhaps most importantly of all, it works flawlessly: quick to start up, and without any of the teething troubles that plague plenty of manufacturers’ efforts these days.
Another typical Mazda trait is the way the MX-30 drives. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s quite a stretch to suggest the MX-30 handles like Mazda’s famous soft-top of a similar name, but for a tall-ish electric crossover it’s not half bad. My biggest takeaway, however, is how downright luxurious it feels against rivals like the Vauxhall Mokka-e and Nissan Leaf. There’s an air of solidity and refinement to the MX-30 that’s missing from the majority of circa-£30k electric cars – and that’s worth bearing in mind if you’re asking it to soak up the miles of a daily commute.
Now for the not-so-good bits. The elephant in the room with the MX-30 is, of course, its battery – and 12 months on, I can report that it’s very much still its Achilles’ heel. Much has been said about Mazda’s ‘right sized’ battery gambit, but the reality is, its small capacity feels like it was born out of technical and financial limitations rather than anything else.
We’ve kept an open mind over the last year, and have used the MX-30 as we’d use a normal petrol-powered car – sometimes to the Mazda’s advantage, sometimes not so much. Short journeys are of course where the MX-30 is happiest – instantaneous torque around town, no noisy engine to warm up, and absolute pennies to run. The whole experience is a joy.
Long journeys, on the other hand, are completely impractical. Even with all the stars aligned, and perfectly positioned chargers along your route, the MX-30 simply doesn’t rapid charge quickly enough to make progress. Mazda says going from 20% to 80% charge will take 40 minutes – which sounds reasonable until you realise that only equates to around 60 miles of added range (on a good day). So in practice, for every hour you sit on the motorway in the slow lane, you’ll need to stop for another 40 minutes – near enough doubling how long it takes to get anywhere.
I’m not talking Land’s End to John O’Groats here either: even something like Dartford to Heathrow Airport and back would be beyond the MX-30’s comfortable real-world range. An e-Corsa meanwhile, would do it with 50+ miles to spare.
There have been a few other foibles along the way too. As I’ve mentioned before, the MX-30’s ‘freestyle’ barn doors aren’t particularly practical, and on our car they began to rattle irritatingly after a few thousand miles. Our car’s alarm seemed to have a mind of its own too – something I could only fix by manually disabling it on the key every time I locked the car.
So, how can we sum up our time with the MX-30? A great to drive, nice to sit in EV for around £30k, but fundamentally flawed not just by the size of its battery, but the speed at which it’ll charge. It’s a car we would have no hesitation recommending – or even buying ourselves – as a second car; one which doesn’t have to be burdened with travelling more than 90 miles at a time.
In reality, you’ve got to really want the MX-30 to warrant picking it over its other rivals with bigger batteries – particularly something like an MG ZS, which now offers a tantalising 270-mile range for around the same cash.
Pick the MX-30 though, and you’re guaranteed one of the best-handling, most refined EVs for the money, with an interior that shames even German premium marques for look and feel. Now please Mazda, just give it a bigger battery would you?