Mazda is finally dipping its toes into the electric vehicle market in North America with the fully electric MX-30 and we were invited down to Irvine, California to spend a few hours with it. The compact crossover is aimed at one of the largest vehicle segments and was developed to offer an electric vehicle to urban commuters.
The Mazda MX-30 is a compact crossover vehicle with seating for 5 which makes it a lucrative format for small families. It was designed and built on Mazda’s existing CX-30 and Mazda 3 platform, replacing the combustion elements with a 35.5 kWh battery pack and a 107 kW / 143 hp front wheel drive motor. The compact battery pack was designed to improve the structural rigidity of the vehicle and its placement at the bottom of the vehicle results in a center of gravity that’s 2.5″ lower than the combustion version.
Mazda achieved the compact form factor of the MX-30 in part by utilizing a split door design. The standard front door opens first, revealing the door handle for the smaller rear door. Both open from the middle to expose the full interior of the vehicle. The design is aesthetically attractive, though it is sure to cause frustration for anyone making frequent use of the rear seat.
Out back, a rear hatchback opens to reveal a compact cargo compartment capable of stowing 21 cubic feet of gear. The split rear seats can also fold down, sacrificing passenger capacity for even more cargo.
As unfortunate as it is that the MX-30 was not designed from a clean sheet of paper from the ground up, the lower center of gravity still translates to a completely transformed driving experience. As if it were a magnet, the new pack creates an unnatural attraction to the road, absorbing the body roll that taller vehicles are prone to.
We took the MX-30 out into the canyons above our base in Irvine, California and it was a blast to drive around curves and tight blind corners on Live Oak Canyon Road. Wrapped in a canopy of oak trees, the road morphed into a visual tunnel with only the double yellow line to chart the path forward. It’s not a race car by any stretch of the imagination, but the MX-30’s front wheel drive electric motor provided a nice boost of torque as we accelerate out of each turn.
Around town, the MX-30 fades into the background, letting the driver simply drive. It’s a result of Mazda’s core design philosophy Jinba Ittai which translates roughly to “oneness between horse and rider.” It does what you expect it to, when you expect it to and little more.
The uninspired driving experience on freeways and city streets is what we’ve come to expect from a commuter vehicle, but it usually comes packaged in uber affordable vehicles like the VW Jetta, Toyota Corolla, or the Mazda 3. This is the big disconnect with the MX-30. It aspires to command a premium price, starting at $33,470, while only delivering budget range at only 100 miles per charge.
The Hyundai Kona Electric tips the scales at $34,000 and delivers 258 miles of range. The Hyundai Ioniq starts at $33,245 with its 170 miles of range and the admittedly more premium Tesla Model 3 packs a whopping 353 miles of range for $39,990.
Clearly Mazda knew all of this and still thought it was worth bringing the MX-30 to the market in 2022. This is a result of a fundamentally different design philosophy that puts vehicle lifetime emissions at the forefront and that translates to battery electric vehicles with smaller battery packs.
To date, Mazda has not released any electric vehicles in North America and yet, Mazda still takes second place in terms of the the lowest lifetime vehicle emissions behind Tesla. My colleague Jennifer Sensiba unpacked this in exquisite detail so I won’t belabor the point, but suffice it to say that Mazda is serious about reducing the lifetime emissions of its vehicles and that translates directly to the MX-30’s range.
Most other manufacturers build low and zero emission vehicles as a way to offset the much higher emissions of their heavy duty trucks (I’m looking at you, Ford, GM, and Dodge). Mazda doesn’t play these games and instead focuses on optimizing its vehicles to deliver the lowest emissions possible with the current technology.
Building a 100 mile range battery pack allows Mazda to keep vehicle total emissions down while providing customers with an extremely capable urban commuter. The average commute here in the US is around 30 miles which is easily accomplished in the MX-30.
Having said all that, the Mazda MX-30 is going to be a tough sell when put head to head against such affordable, long range offerings from the competition. When it comes time to charge, the MX-30 can tap into DC fast charging stations to recharge in 36 minutes at its maximum speed of 50kW, tap into a 240v, 6.6kW level 2 charger for 2.8 hours, or recharge from a standard 110v wall outlet in around 13.5 hours.
The fully electric Mazda MX-30 will be rolled out in California first with a national rollout following later in the 2022 model year cycle. For customers looking for more range, Mazda plans to introduce plug-in hybrid and standard hybrid variants of the MX-30 later in the 2022 model year cycle.
Featured image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica