Tested: 2022 Mazda MX-30 EV Sparks Interest but Comes Up Short
Mazda has been slow to jump into the electric-vehicle pool, but now it’s here, albeit at the shallow end. The 2022 MX-30, a CX-30-size all-electric SUV, offers much of what Mazda is good at—an artful interior, a stylish exterior, and responsive steering and handling. All of which makes it more baffling that Mazda didn’t take advantage of electric-motor torque and power delivery to create a truly sporty compact people hauler, choosing instead to dial back the performance and range, resulting in an SUV that quickly runs out of zoom-zoom.
The MX-30 starts out promising, with a very different look from the CX-30 it’s based on. Rather than its sibling’s big five-pointed grille and upright liftgate, the MX-30 has the high, small grille and smoothed fascia we’re starting to associate with EVs and a hatchback-like rounded rear. It continues to cosplay as a coupe by hiding the rear doors—which hinge at the back, like an early-’00s extended-cab pickup (or like Mazda’s RX-8). Swing those doors wide and admire the airy interior, available in a white-leatherette-and-gray-fabric combo or, in the Premium Plus trim like our test car, an optional darker interior in black and cocoa. Both are lovely, and both use a variety of recycled fabrics such as woolly felt on the door panels and sustainable natural materials such as cork, which lines the floating console.
The cabin is well equipped, with even the starting trim getting a power moonroof, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, and multiple charging outlets. Phones connect quickly, with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto supported, and stow neatly beneath the console. The recycled felt on the doors and the tweedy seat materials not only are fashionable, but colors, material, and finish designer Simona Merker assured us that the plush textiles and the cork-lined door handles and trays are just as durable and easy to clean as more common automotive interior plastics and leathers. The seats are a little firm beneath their center racing stripe, but the seating position is good, and they offer eight-way adjustability with power lumbar support and seat-position memory. The back seats are a bit cramped due to the curve of the roof, and entry through the smaller doors is tight. But there is decent legroom for adults, and egress is easy thanks to powered front-seat position buttons on the seatbacks. It’s also rather quiet inside, allowing only a hushed 70 decibels of noise to enter the cabin at full thrust and a luxury-car-like 66 decibels at a steady 70 mph.
If you get the feeling that we’re lingering over the interior trappings to avoid taking the MX-30 on a drive, well, you’re right, because things get a little disappointing once you’re in motion. It’s not that the MX-30 is unpleasant to pilot—quite the opposite. It rides lightly over bumps and broken pavement, and it turns easily, aided by Mazda’s electric G-Vectoring Control Plus, which adjusts torque and braking at barely perceptible levels to control weight transfer and improve handling feel. This is technology that Mazda uses on its gas-engine cars, but the nature of electric-motor tuning makes for even more precise programming. As a result, the MX-30 takes corners with commendable poise, despite weighing 381 pounds more than an all-wheel-drive CX-30. We drove the latter out to the MX-30 drive program, and while its handling remains a favorite among small SUVs, the new MX-30 feels more composed—and better than its 0.84 g of skidpad grip suggests; for reference, the CX-30 posted 0.85 g. Those returns are fairly average in the small-SUV class, with Volkswagen’s single-motor ID.4 managing 0.85 on the skidpad too. In braking, the MX-30 and the ID.4 tie, both stopping from 70 mph in 166 feet, compared to the CX-30’s 174 feet. The Mazda’s brakes feel good on the street, even when not in panic-stop mode, with regen levels easily adjusted on the fly via the steering-wheel paddles.
So what’s the problem? If your usage case for an EV is what Mazda predicts—30 miles of daily commuting on largely flat terrain, plugging in at work and at home—then there is no problem. But if you want to take advantage of the MX-30’s engaging driving dynamics in a hilly area or enjoy a weekend road trip in its cozy seats, you’ll run into a couple of complaints. Mazda’s EV is currently only available with a single motor making 143 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque. It’s zippy enough around town, but on the highway, or even some of the wider, meaner streets of Los Angeles County, you won’t be passing any Teslas—or even Chevy Bolts. At the test track, it took a lazy 8.7 seconds to get the MX-30 up to 60 mph. The CX-30 does it in 7.6 seconds, while other similarly sized electric SUVs such as the single-motor ID.4 and the Hyundai Kona Electric do it in 7.6 and 6.3 seconds, respectively. It’s even worse at freeway speeds: Accelerating from 50 to 70 mph takes 5.3 seconds, which feels like an eternity on an onramp. Top speed is a mere 91 mph. This sluggishness is somewhat expected given the MX-30’s $34,695 starting price, which is slightly more than a Chevy Bolt EUV’s yet less than what it takes to unlock the ID.4 and Kona. Our well-equipped example cost $38,600. We tend to accept a certain lethargy in small gas engines in return for fuel economy or a low buy-in price, but electric motors need to make up for their lack of fun noises with fun acceleration. The drivetrain in the MX-30 feels detuned, maybe to stretch the range of its small 32.0-kWh battery pack, which leads us to our next performance demerit.
The argument can be made that the average owner doesn’t need more than 100 miles of range, but we aren’t going to make it. It’s 2022—we’re seeing 500 miles from electric cars, and 200 miles should be expected. The MX-30 offers an EPA-estimated 100 miles of total range; we made it only 70 miles in our 75-mph highway test. Even worse, the MX-30’s 76 MPGe for those 70 miles of highway driving is less efficient than far more powerful EVs. The Model S Plaid got 91 MPGe in the same highway test, for example. Recharging at a Level 3 charger, it can get 80 percent topped up in 36 minutes; this takes 2 hours, 50 minutes at a Level 2. Our ride from home to the test-drive site and back wouldn’t have been a possible round trip in the MX-30. Mazda does offer 10 days of no-cost loans of other vehicles from its fleet for the first three years of ownership, but who wants to swap cars any time you want to leave your neighborhood?
Some of the MX-30’s limitations might be explained by taking a bigger-picture view. Mazda is a small company, it’s offering the car in the global market, and the single motor and small battery offer the modularity to go hybrid or even back to a gas engine. There’s no frunk under the hood, which could easily be home to any powerplant combination. We already know there are plans for a plug-in hybrid with a rotary-engine component—maybe that will offer all-wheel drive and a little more zoom. In the meantime, plug the MX-30 in and pet the seats while it charges.
2022 Mazda MX-30
Vehicle Type: front-motor, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 2+2-door hatchback
Base/As Tested: $34,695/$38,600
Options: Premium Plus package (passive entry, heated steering wheel, blind-spot monitoring, 360-degree parking view, cross-traffic alert), $3010; ceramic metallic multi-tone paint, $895
Motor: permanent-magnet synchronous AC
Power: 143 hp @ 4500 rpm
Torque: 200 lb-ft @ 0 rpm
Battery Pack: liquid-cooled lithium-ion, 32.0 kWh (C/D est)
Onboard Charger: 6.6 kW
Suspension, F/R: struts/torsion beam
Brakes, F/R: 12.8-in vented disc/11.9-in disc
Tires: Falken Ziex ZE001A A/S
215/55R-18 95H M+S
Wheelbase: 104.4 in
Length: 173.3 in
Width: 70.7 in
Height: 61.5 in
Passenger Volume: 86 ft3
Cargo Volume: 21 ft3
Curb Weight: 3674 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 8.7 sec
1/4-Mile: 16.8 sec @ 83 mph
90 mph: 20.6 sec
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 8.8 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 3.3 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 5.3 sec
Top Speed (gov ltd): 91 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 166 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.84 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 80 MPGe
75-mph Highway Driving: 76 MPGe
Highway Range: 70 mi
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 92/98/85 MPGe
Range: 100 mi
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