Mazda has been hesitant to enter the electric vehicle market, but it has officially entered, albeit at the shallow end. The 2022 MX-30, an all-electric SUV the size of a CX-30, embodies much of what Mazda is known for—an artistic interior, a sleek exterior, and responsive steering and handling. Which makes it all the more perplexing that Mazda chose not to leverage electric motor torque and power delivery to create a truly fast small people mover, opting instead to reduce performance and range, results in an SUV that swiftly runs out of zoom-zoom.
The MX-30 begins promisingly, with an appearance that is markedly different from the CX-30 on which it is based. Rather than its sibling’s large five-pointed grille and tall liftgate, the MX-30 features the high, tiny grille and smoother fascia that we’re beginning to identify with electric vehicles, as well as a rounded rear that’s almost hatchback-like. It maintains its coupe appearance by concealing the rear doors, which swing at the rear, similar to an early-’00s enlarged pickup (or Mazda’s RX-8). Swing open those doors and take in the spacious interior, which is offered in white leatherette and gray cloth combination, or a deeper interior in black and chocolate for the Premium Plus trim. Too are beautiful, and both incorporate a mix of recycled fabrics, such as woolly felt for the door panels, and sustainable natural materials, such as cork for the floating console’s lining.
The cabin is well-appointed, with even the base version including a power sunroof, a leather-wrapped steering column, heated front seats, and many charging ports. Phones connect fast and stow neatly beneath the console with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Not only are the recycled experienced on the doors and the tweedy seat materials fashionable, but Simona Merker, the designer of colors, materials, and finishes, assured us that the plush textiles and cork-lined garage doors and trays are just as durable and easy to clean as more conventional automotive interior plastics and leathers. The seats are a tad stiff beneath their center racing stripe, but they give a comfortable seating position with eight-way adjustment with power lumbar support and seat-position memory. Due to the curved roof, the rear seats are somewhat cramped, and access through the smaller doors is difficult. However, adults will find adequate legroom, and egress is made simple by powered front-seat position switches on the seatbacks.
If you get the impression that we’re deliberating over the inside details in order to avoid driving the MX-30, you’re correct; things get a touch disappointing once you’re on the move. It is not that the MX-30 is difficult to fly—quite the contrary. It rides comfortably over potholes and broken roads, supported by Mazda’s electronic G-Vectoring Regulate Plus, which adjusts torque and brakes at imperceptible levels to control weight transfer and improve handling feel. Mazda already utilizes this technology in its gasoline-powered vehicles, but the nature of battery-operated tuning allows for even more exact programming. As a result, the MX-30 corners more confidently than the CX-30, despite its stated 420-pound weight advantage. While the CX-30’s handling remains a favorite across small SUVs, the new MX-30 seems even better. The electric SUV’s braking performance is also good, with regen levels easily adjustable via steering-wheel paddles.
So what is the issue? If your use case for an EV is as Mazda anticipates—30 miles of daily travel on mostly level terrain, charging at work and at home—then there is no issue. However, if you want to enjoy the MX-30’s engaging driving characteristics in a hilly location or take a weekend road trip in its comfy seats, you’ll run into a handful of issues. Mazda’s EV is now only available with a single 143 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque powertrain. It’s quick enough around town, but on the freeway or even on parts of Los Angeles County’s broader, meaner roadways, you won’t see any Teslas—or even Chevy Bolts. The sluggishness is surprising, especially considering the MX-30’s starting price of $34,645 is higher than the Bolt’s. We are accustomed to accepting certain lethargy in small gas engines in exchange for fuel economy or a low initial cost, but electric motors must compensate for their lack of pleasant noises with fun acceleration. It MX-30’s drivetrain seems lowpass filter, to maybe maximize the reach of its compact battery pack, which brings us to our next performance shortcoming.
One could argue that the average owner does not require more than 100 miles of range, but we are not going to make that point. By 2022, electric automobiles will have a range of 500 miles, and 200 miles should be expected. The MX-30 is EPA-rated for a range of 100 miles. It can be recharged to 80 percent in 36 minutes when using a Level 3 charger; this takes 2 hours and 50 minutes while using a Level 2 charger. Our round-trip ride from home to the test-drive location and back would not have been doable in the MX-30. Mazda may provide ten days of no-cost lending of other Mazda automobiles during the first three months of ownership, but who wants to swap cars whenever they want to leave their neighborhood?
Some of the MX-30’s shortcomings may be explained by taking a broader perspective. Mazda is a small corporation, but it sells the car globally, and the single motor and compact battery allow for hybridization or even reverting to a gas engine. There is no frunk beneath the hood, which could readily house any combination of powerplants. We already know there are plans for a plug-in hybrid with a rotary engine—perhaps this will include an all-wheel drive and a boost in performance. While it charges, plug it in and pet the seats.