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One of the electric car movement’s biggest industry critics joins the fray

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It’s a mark of how widespread the car industry’s adoption of EV technology has become, and how quickly it is expanding, that even the firms that have eyed it with considerable – and very public – circumspection are now, perhaps even somewhat reluctantly, getting on board.

With the introduction of this week’s test subject, the new MX-30, famously independent of spirit Mazda acknowledges one key fact. That while the whole life-cycle carbon emissions associated with electric cars may not make them (for now, at least) as sustainable and environmentally responsible as some clearly believe them to be, the company simply cannot stay on the right side of tightening emissions legislation without ‘going electric’ to some extent.

Relatively light for an EV of this size, the MX-30 consequently feels nimble and dynamic to drive. You’re not going to mistake it for an MX-5, clearly, but it’s certainly among the dynamically sharper of electric crossovers

And so here we are. Much as we are unlikely to hear any big announcements from Hiroshima declaring an intention to drop combustion engines from its cars entirely within this decade, the firm’s electric duck has been broken and its first production EV is now on sale.

Quite apparently, the MX-30 is a new kind of Mazda for more reasons than one. Rather than following its South-East Asian neighbours and simply dropping batteries and an electric motor into an existing production model, the company has clearly given its designers free rein with this car.

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They have opted for a fashionable modern compact crossover body to suit the urban environment in which this car is most likely to be driven; but they’ve also used clever references to other memorable compact Mazdas of recent times – from the famous Mazda MX-5 roadster to the 1990s-era MX-3 coupé – to give the MX-30 some recognisable family DNA.

The marque also promises that a relatively light kerb weight (for an EV), together with Mazda’s perennial focus on turning out big-selling cars with distinguishing handling allure, has made this one of the best-handling and generally most appealing small electric models yet to emerge. Here’s where we find out how seriously to take those claims, and whether it's among the UK's best small electric cars.

The MX-30 range at a glance

Just the one electric powertrain is currently available on MX-30s in the UK, but a range-extender variant (supposedly using a rotary engine) is expected to join the line-up at a later date.

As for trim levels, the SE-L Lux model represents the entry-level offering. This is followed by First Edition and Sport Lux, while our GT Sport Tech test car is the range flagship. All MX-30s feature a 35.5kWh battery, which lends a claimed range of up to 124 miles.



2 Mazda MX 30 2021 road test review hero side

Mazda’s established position on the flawed reasoning that has motivated so many of its rivals to put big, heavy and expensive drive batteries in their electric cars may have rather forced the company’s hand when the time came to decide exactly how much energy storage the MX-30 would offer.

More likely, though, it was the chicken that came before the egg, as Mazda made an argument to prepare the ground for a car that it knew would come to market in a key position of weakness, by pointing out the folly of EVs with more battery capacity than they often required.

Mazda’s ‘freestyle’ doors, last seen on the RX-8 sports car, make a return on the MX-30. The front ones overlap the rears; and because the doors swing to only 80deg or so, passengers are best boarding one at a time.

Whatever the sequence of events, the MX-30 is not an electric car to relax our collective furrowed brow as regards the looming spectre of range anxiety. With an all-steel platform chassis adapted from that of the current Mazda 3, it is driven by a 143bhp AC synchronous electric motor up front and under the bonnet, which powers the front axle directly. Suspension is via struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear.

The car has just 35.5kWh of gross battery capacity in cells surrounded by a protective crash structure, and carried underneath almost the full length of the cabin floor between the axles. That is precisely as much as the Honda E that we road tested last year had, but is 30% less than a Peugeot e-2008 offers.

But so what, you might think, if the MX-30 delivers the weight advantage expected of it? Well, put rather bluntly, it doesn’t. When we placed it on the Millbrook scales, our top-trim MX-30 GT Sport Tech test car weighed in at 1663kg: 25kg heavier than the e-2008 GT Line we tested in 2020, and also more than 120kg heavier than the considerably smaller Honda E.

The MX-30 is clearly a car that has been engineered with good structural rigidity in mind. It has a challenging pillarless construction and ‘freestyle’ doors (rearwards- hinged rear passenger doors with overlapping front ones) very much like the old RX-8 sports car. And yet, B-pillars or no, it’s also sufficiently strong to have recorded a five-star Euro NCAP crash test result.

Still, kerb weight numbers like those we’ve just explained do throw Mazda’s credibility into question when it claims that the MX-30 is ready to wield any kind of dynamic advantage over its rivals. So what else might be here to tempt us in?


10 Mazda MX 30 2021 road test review cabin

The MX-30 may have a slightly raised, crossover-style ride height and seating position, but the car’s low and curving roofline certainly makes it look quite compact on the outside. You duck slightly on your way into the driving seat. If you’re getting into the back, the rear side door is released by a handle you’ll find low down inside the front door aperture.

Although both doors open quite wide, occupants will struggle to board both rows of seats simultaneously as they might in a conventional five-door car. Second-row space is tight for adults, although fine for smaller children.

Thoughtfully designed raised ‘floating’ centre console provides a decent amount of lower-storey storage. Cork lining is shaped cleverly, too.

In that respect, the MX-30 is a closer notional rival for a BMW i3 or a Honda E than a full-sized four-seater. Judge it on boot space instead, however (341 litres under the loadbay cover), and the Mazda can be considered markedly more practical than those smaller cars: it is able to swallow pushchairs or buggies with just a little space to spare.

In the front, apparent quality levels are high, and cabin ambience is classy and tactile, but alternative with it. Our test car had cloth upholstery made in part out of recycled plastics, but it didn’t show any compromise to perceptible quality, while natural cork finds a rare modern automotive application as lining for the car’s centre console and around its interior door handles. Cork parts manufacture is a key part of Mazda’s corporate history and, because it’s natural, renewable and can be harvested without tree-felling, the material was considered ideal for the MX-30. It certainly looks unusual in the car; a little antiquated perhaps.

The MX-30’s instruments are pleasingly simple – more instantly readable than stylish, but all the better for it – and its controls are well placed and easy to use, a large, chunky-feeling shift lever giving you something reassuringly substantial to grab onto when engaging drive. The car’s touchscreen heater controls are complemented by a few well-chosen physical buttons, too, which are welcome where usability is concerned.

Infotainment and sat-nav

Mazda takes a pleasingly minimalist approach to its infotainment systems, but not to the extent where functionality becomes impaired.

There’s no main touchscreen here; instead, you need to use the rotary controller, which is mounted on the centre console, to navigate your way through the simply laid out operating suite. Responsiveness is very good, as is graphical sophistication. This is a very easy system to learn – although the lack of a touchscreen does mean that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t quite as easy to use as they might otherwise be.

Standard equipment on the GT Sport Tech model we tested is good. In addition to those smartphone mirroring suites, you also get satellite navigation, DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity. The Bose surround sound system is also very impressive. Audio quality is clear and surprisingly powerful.


The MX-30’s slightly relaxed performance level comes as something of a surprise. Sure, at very low speeds it still responds to a prod of the throttle with near-immediate keenness (the 20-40mph dash takes just 2.6sec – helpful if you need to dart around a stationary bus), but past this point it never really feels quite as zippy as you might hope a supposedly driver-focused EV would.

The car’s test results on Millbrook’s mile straight confirm as much. A 9.1sec run for 0-60mph is by no means unforgivable for any small, mid-market car, and it lines up nicely against Mazda’s claimed 9.7sec 0-62mph time. But compared with the likes of the Mini Electric (0-62mph in a claimed 7.3sec) and Peugeot e-208 (8.1sec), the Mazda’s performance is just a little ordinary-looking.

I like that you can effectively disengage the car’s regenerative braking altogether. It means you can freewheel really easily – particularly when you’re travelling downhill

Even next to the Honda E – another design-led urban EV with a small-capacity battery – the MX-30 comes off second best; the Mazda’s Japanese compatriot was able to cover off the 0-60mph dash in 7.9sec. But of arguably greater significance are the cars’ 30-70mph performances. Where the Honda required 7.6sec to accelerate up to motorway speeds, the Mazda was a whole second slower. When accelerating on a wide-open throttle, then, the MX-30 can feel just a bit pedestrian; and the slightly generic, hollow, synthesised whirring noise that the car makes doesn’t add much in the way of flavour or charm to what it does on the road.

Nevertheless, this is still a very smooth, easy car to operate. There are no drive modes to worry about, although you can switch between five different levels of brake regeneration via the paddles on the steering wheel. In their most forceful setting, you can adopt a comfortable, near- as-dammit one-pedal style of driving, which is ideal for inner-city environments. Conversely, bump the right-hand paddle twice and you can effectively freewheel on a trailing throttle, which aids efficiency at open-road speeds.

The MX-30’s braking performance is good. It needed 46.3m to haul itself from 70mph to a standstill on dry Tarmac, versus 44.5m in the Honda (which was shod in Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres). The pedal is smartly calibrated, offering good feel and a smooth, progressive uptake in response as the car slows.


33 Mazda MX 30 2021 road test review cornering front

By daring to stick an ‘MX’ badge on its tailgate, Mazda is, as much as anything else, showing some notable dynamic ambition for its inaugural production EV. On fast, technical roads, there is perhaps the merest sniff of an Mazda MX-5 about the way the car conducts itself – but it’s a tenuous connection, for sure.

With 2.75 turns between locks, the MX-30’s steering is quite relaxed and measured in its directness, but it’s accurate and weighted really nicely; light without feeling vague or aloof. Very MX-5, in other words.

It doesn’t feel like the MX-30 really bites into hairpins, but grip and stability are good nonetheless

Combined with a controlled degree of lateral cornering roll and sturdy front-end grip, the MX-30 is a really easy car to get into a good flow with. It never feels like it will rotate or even become agitated or unstable with a mid-corner lift of the throttle; and, it being front driven, you won’t ever see the rear end even threaten to step out under power. It just corners neutrally, and with an appealing, friction-free kind of willingness and energy.

Mid-corner bumps can cause the car to lose its composure momentarily, though. Meanwhile, such moderate response rates don’t make the MX-30 handle with the same conspicuous vim and vigour you’ll find in a Mini Electric, even if at pace there’s still some scope for fun.

You do have to be on one of those faster, flowing country roads to see the MX-30 at its best, however. On bumpier stretches, it lacks the good close body control to really impress. Given the fact that real-world range is limited, it’s tricky to shake the suspicion that most owners won’t ever experience what the Mazda really has to offer handling-wise unless and until they find good out-of-town driving roads with rapid chargers positioned just-so.

Around town, where the car’s relaxed steering can come across as slow, the MX-30 feels rather ordinary; forgettable, even. More steering effort is needed to get its nose to tuck in around roundabouts, where the likes of the Peugeot e-208 and Mini Electric feel far keener and more obviously agile. Here, it would be nice to have seen a bit more of that Mazda magic present itself in the sorts of environments where the MX-30 will be used for the vast majority of the time.

After its slightly forgettable performance around town, it was surprising to see just how keenly the MX-30 took to Millbrook’s challenging Hill Route. Though the limited power reserves prevented the car from accruing anything approaching big speeds, guiding it through the course’s tighter twists and turns proved to be an enjoyable experience.

You can better interact with its delicate, precise steering, and really feel the car settle on the outside tyres as you tip it into quick corners.

There’s a good amount of front-end grip to be found, and no sense of the car’s electronic stability systems breathing down your neck. True, this car feels set up for a secure, surefooted style of handling, and perhaps a bit more adjustability wouldn’t have gone amiss. But given the sacrifices Mazda has made in terms of this car’s range, it’s reassuring to see that the MX-30 is still capable of showcasing some dynamism.

Comfort and isolation

Despite employing a relatively simple torsion beam at its rear axle, the MX-30 is a decently composed and smooth-riding EV.

At low speeds, the car is suitably supple, its suspension capable of soaking up most impacts with minimal crashing or thumping. Only on particularly rough, pockmarked stretches of road does its secondary ride start to pitter-patter about a bit more conspicuously, with most of that disturbance being focused – somewhat unsurprisingly – at the rear axle.

High-frequency undulations on faster roads are arguably what cause the MX-30 the most grief. Here, it feels reactive and animated; a bit less willing to breathe with the surface changes underwheel.

It would be unfair to label the MX-30 uncomfortable, but equally inaccurate to suggest it had a particular talent for body control over really testing surfaces taken at speed.

Still, the MX-30 offers a comfortable driving position that’s pleasingly adjustable, and seats that offer good levels of support. Forward visibility is very good too, although those freestyle doors and chunky pillars do obscure your over-the-shoulder view a little. The cabin is nicely hushed at motorway speeds, too. Our microphones returned a reading of 66dB at 70mph, which compares well with the Honda E’s 68dB effort.


1 Mazda MX 30 2021 road test review hero front

At the time of writing, our range-topping MX-30 GT Sport Tech test subject was priced from £29,845 after the government’s £3000 plug-in car grant (which has subsequently been reduced to £2500 for cars under £35,000). That figure puts it on a level with the flagship Honda E (£29,660), and makes it ever so slightly more affordable than fully loaded versions of the Peugeot e-208 (£30,975), Mini Electric (£31,100) and Vauxhall Corsa-e (£31,160). Standard equipment levels are excellent, and the Mazda doesn’t give anything away to its European rivals in terms of material appeal and perceived quality.

However, that 35.5kWh battery makes for a WLTP-certified range of just 124 miles, on which score the Mazda is outperformed by every single one of those alternatives, as well as all of the higher-riding crossover-class electric options it might be compared with. Both the Peugeot e-208 and the Vauxhall Corsa-e push claimed range past the 200-mile point, while even the Mini betters the Mazda by a claimed 15 miles.

The MX-30 outperforms the Honda E and Mini Electric for residual values by a fair margin, according to our experts

With an average test economy of 2.9mpkWh, the MX-30’s projected real-world range as tested was only 103 miles. Against the Honda E (which returned an average economy of 3.1mpkWh for a test range of 110 miles), that too is a disappointing showing. Even if prospective owners are committed to the idea of using this car as a dedicated short-range commuter, then – and with DC rapid charging possible at only 40kW – there might clearly be times when that lack of range would become a source of frustration.



35 Mazda MX 30 2021 road test review static

Mazda clearly had a more challenging time than most car makers in launching its inaugural production EV.

An elevated focus on driver engagement has long played a huge part in the Hiroshima firm’s corporate identity, and over the years this has been successfully leveraged to set Mazda apart from so many of its competitors. The added weight that inevitably comes with electrification is arguably the greatest threat to such a position, though, and so it was unsurprising that Mazda would be so up front about its decision to equip the MX-30 with a smaller, lighter battery pack than rivals, in a bid to preserve at least some of its hard-earned dynamic soul.

Smart looks and a plush interior, but the first Mazda EV deserved a bit more than the MX-30 delivers

Sadly, the gamble hasn’t paid off. While the MX-30 certainly has a degree of dynamic pep, it isn’t readily accessible or convincing in urban environments, where the car’s limited real-world range will effectively confine it. The MX-30’s pace is slightly lacklustre, too.

Even with a comfortable ride, abundant style and no little material appeal about the cabin, the MX-30 remains a tougher car to recommend than it needed to be. It is not without appeal, but is not quite the true, all-electric Mazda ‘MX’ we were promised.


James Attwood

James Attwood, digital editor
Title: Acting magazine editor

James is Autocar's acting magazine editor. Having served in that role since June 2023, he is in charge of the day-to-day running of the world's oldest car magazine, and regularly interviews some of the biggest names in the industry to secure news and features, such as his world exclusive look into production of Volkswagen currywurst. Really.

Before first joining Autocar in 2017, James spent more than a decade in motorsport journalist, working on Autosport,, F1 Racing and Motorsport News, covering everything from club rallying to top-level international events. He also spent 18 months running Move Electric, Haymarket's e-mobility title, where he developed knowledge of the e-bike and e-scooter markets.