The striking MX-30 heralds Mazda’s return to building left-of-centre vehicles that march to the beat of their own drum. Or in the case of this E35 Astina, the whoosh of its own electrics.
Now after a full road test and a week behind the wheel, is there more to the foxy MX-30 Electric than obsessing about its 200km range?
It’s easy to quickly dismiss the MX-30 E35 Astina when analysing its on-paper prowess. Or in the case of its 200km WLTP combined range, its apparent lack in that department. A long-range EV this most certainly is not.
If you’re focusing purely on the numbers, however, then I feel like you’re missing the point of this car. The MX-30 E35 might be near-identical in size (apart from standing 30mm taller) to a CX-30 but its electric heart lies very much in the same category as an electric Mini SE’s, for example. And that means a urban-focused range limit (233km in the Mini’s case) based on the fact that a smaller battery means less bulk and superior agility.
Mazda has made its first-ever electric vehicle very much a weapon of choice for crowded cities like Tokyo, Los Angeles and Seoul, as well as the average peak-hour grind in Australia’s busiest urban centres. Indeed, the MX-30 Electric’s urban WLTP claim is actually 265km, thanks to the benefits of regenerative braking in topping up battery charge, so the busier the city, the greater its range. Yet even in a large rural town, the MX-30 Electric’s realistic 200km combined distance is effortlessly doable over several days, or perhaps even a working week.
That leaves plenty of opportunity to test its 36-minute DC charging time (using a 50kW fast-charge station) to go from 20-80 percent, or if you have a garage or carport that can accommodate an AC charge box, three hours for the same 20-80 percent charge boost.
We managed to go from five- to 100-percent charge in 75 minutes using a public fast-charger in a shopping-centre carpark – plenty of time to have a coffee, do the groceries, or even go to the gym (post-lockdown!).
It’s worth noting that a Tesla Model 3, which kicks off at about $5000 less, can charge at much faster 170kW DC speeds using Tesla’s Supercharger network – and the forthcoming Polestar 2, which also commences under $60,000 before on-road costs and rebates, offers 115kW charging.
So while the MX-30 Electric requires an element of time management that doesn’t affect ownership of its petrol equivalent, the concept of plugging in is something we’ll need to get used to. And as charging infrastructure expands, frustrations about where to plug in will simultaneously reduce …. along with any range anxiety about the MX-30 Electric.
One of the joys of driving an electric car is the silky smoothness and instant gratification of its battery torque. So in contrast to the rev-happy petrol-engined MX-30, the EV version is surprisingly effortless in the way it goes about its business.
Punch from a standing start is keen without being urgent. Mazda claims 9.7 seconds to 100km/h for the MX-30 Electric, which is noticeably quicker than the 114kW/200Nm 2.0-litre MX-30 M Hybrid, though its top speed is limited to 140km/h, which is purely academic in most countries anyway.
While the Electric’s 107kW and 271Nm mightn’t seem like much – especially given its 1600kg-plus kerb weight, making it around 160kg heavier than its petrol sibling – there’s an easy-going smoothness to this MX-30 that suits its bubble personality and entertaining dynamics.
Speaking of bubbly, there’s the sound the MX-30 Electric makes when accelerating, which is fed through the stereo speakers and sounds very much like a contemporary take on the 1960s spaceship in The Jetsons cartoon.
It’s unswitchable but it’s also not offensive either – just faintly chirpy and quietly happy, much like the MX-30 Electric itself.
Having the 35.5kWh lithium-ion battery (of which only 30kWh is useable) embedded in the floor does wonders for the MX-30’s dynamics. Featuring the same suspension arrangement as a Mazda 3 (struts up front, a torsion beam at the rear), the MX-30 definitely inherits the hatch’s cornering keenness and delightful chassis balance.
You can feel the rear wheels being involved as much as its front pair when tracing a line through a corner, and the MX-30’s steering is a pleasure too – firmly weighted, consistently responsive and nicely direct. For such a fashion-forward coupe-SUV, there’s a level of athleticism here that’s both satisfying and infectious.
Same goes for the MX-30’s ride on its standard 18-inch wheels, which can be a little firm at low speeds but smooths out nicely at 60km/h and can be genuinely supple at three-digit speeds. Thanks to its comparatively modest overall weight (for an EV), the MX-30 has no trouble demonstrating excellent body control over challenging undulations or through lumpy corners.
Continuing that pleasingly natural feel are its brakes. Despite the regenerative effect of lifting off or coasting – adjustable over five levels of intensity – there’s an easy progression to its pedal feel that buries any fears of it acting like a light switch.
The safe, reassuring feel of the MX-30’s driving dynamics is backed up by its plethora of active-safety systems. Highlights include 10 airbags, driver attention alert, front and rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, rear AEB, rear cross-traffic AEB and junction AEB.
The MX-30 also features Mazda’s ‘cruising and traffic support’, that attempts to maintain a safe distance from other vehicles, though its judgement can sometimes be a little amateur.
The beauty of the MX-30’s cabin is that it manages to be identifiably Mazda, with all that implies – superb steering wheel, classy dashboard design, super-crisp instruments, rock-solid build quality – but introduces a whole new level of detail flair.
The MX-30’s chic factor is enhanced by a liberal use of cork (made from tree bark, not trees) around its floating centre console and inside its door handles, as a nod to the company’s 1920 origins as Toyo Cork Kogyo in Hiroshima.
There’s also a felt-like material along the door tops and centre inserts made from recycled PET plastic bottles, and cloth seat trim made from up to 20 percent recycled thread and a very convincing ‘vintage Maztex’ brown leatherette that looks very much like real leather and is made using water rather than solvents.
The MX-30’s RX-8-inspired ‘Freestyle’ doors enable unimpeded access to an interior that’s surprisingly comfortable for four people, though very much favours the front pair. The very comfortable driver’s buckets feature heating and 10-way electric adjustment with two-position memory, and while the front passenger only gets manual adjustment, it doesn’t detract from seating comfort.
The rear bench (which Mazda describes as “couch-like”) isn’t anywhere near as supportive but it does offer decent forward vision, despite the MX-30’s sweeping roofline and small side windows. And when you fold the backrests, they sit almost flat and expand the 366-litre boot to an impressive degree. As a two-person weekender, the MX-30 is amply spacious.
While the Astina’s 12-speaker Bose premium stereo with 231-watt amplifier sounds really strong, and the 8.8-inch multimedia screen looks terrific when Apple CarPlay (or Android Auto, each wired to the USBs hidden down in the cork tray hiding beneath the centre console) is filling its widescreen expanse, the Mazda stuff embedded in there isn’t so speccy – particularly the EV-related displays and information. The best trick up its sleeve is by how much you could extend the car’s range if you turn the climate-control off!
At least the 7.0-inch HVAC touchscreen works well, with simply arranged controls and easy accessibility.
We’ve already mentioned the MX-30’s WLTP combined range (200km) and urban range (265km), but what did we get out of it?
By the time the MX-30 Electric made it back from our test loop, it had covered 172.6km and had 12km (or five percent) of battery charge left – meaning around 185km in total.
That involved at least 40km of cruise-controlled 110km/h driving with the air conditioning on, but then it also included an 80km/h trip home with the climate control off to ensure the MX-30 could make it to the fast-charging station!
Admittedly, when driven with caution the MX-30 proved excellent at conserving energy – what was going to be a 65km drive with only 54km showing on the range indicator became a successful arrival with 12km to spare – and when it was whizzing along at the freeway limit, it did so with ease.
Mazda says the MX-30 Electric should be serviced every 12 months or 15,000km, which is par for the course these days, and that its five-year service plan is priced at $1273.79.
The MX-30’s warranty is also pretty standard, with five years/unlimited-kilometre coverage and five years’ roadside assistance included as well. The lithium-ion battery is covered by an eight-year/160,000km warranty.
Would the MX-30 Electric be a better car if it could go 300-400km instead of 200km on a full charge? Absolutely. But that would only be a genuine concern if it was your only car.
The point of the MX-30 Electric, much like the smaller but similarly priced Mini SE, is that it’s a city EV with a city-focused range. And at 265km in full gridlock, or a real-world range of 200km, it’s completely liveable. If you don’t think that’s enough, buy a Hyundai Kona Electric.
But the MX-30 Electric is about more than just electric range. It’s a delight to drive, a delight to sit in, and a surprisingly practical SUV to boot.
Pity that the Electric version costs so much, however – $65,490 before on-road costs, or over $70K once it’s on road, not even including the $1490 worth of tri-tone paint worn by our Polymetal Grey test car. And that it looks so much like the regular MX-30 G20e Astina (starting at $45,629 before on-roads)…
The MX-30 Electric has a personality of its own and deserves its moment in the sun … even just 200km of it.
Variant tested E35 ASTINA
Key specs (as tested)
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