First Drive: Mazda MX-30
The Mazda MX-30 challenges EV conventions and if you can live with the range, it will offer an interesting alternative to rivals, says Martyn Collins.
SECTOR: B-SUV PRICE: N/A FUEL: N/A CO2: N/A
Mazda cars have been known for their impressive engineering; you only have to look at the iconic Wankel rotary engines fitted in the sporty RX-7 and RX-8. The latest demonstration of its engine technology is the fuel-sipping, 2.0-litre Skyactiv-X engine fitted into the 3 range and more recently the CX-30 small SUV.
Well, not before time and perhaps slightly behind the curve, the Japanese company has set its sights on the EV market – with the MX-30 coupé that was revealed at the most recent Tokyo show.
Outside, the MX-30 debuts the third strand of Kodo design, the ‘Human Modern Design Concept,’ which looks the most conventional and SUV-like. Squint and the MX-30 almost looks like a coupé version of the CX-30. The most interesting parts of the design are the suicide rear doors, or ‘freestyle’ doors as Mazda calls them, and the metal detailing around the rear.
Drives of the MX-30 production version are a little way off yet, but Mazda invited Fleet World to drive one of just three prototypes to give a flavour of their new EV.
The MX-30’s clever e-Skyactiv all-electric underpinnings are in the same footprint as the recently launched CX-30 SUV, so outside this prototype looks like a matt black-wrapped version of Mazda’s latest mid-sized SUV.
Inside, the illusion of being in a CX-30 remains, although there are lots of blanked switches and more warning lights than desirable on the dashboard. I put the automatic gear selector into drive, and move off in almost eerie silence. I say almost, as there’s an artificial sound emitted through the speakers when accelerating or slowing down for the benefit of the driver. It has not yet been decided whether this feature can be turned down or even switched off, though. Then it’s the linear, eager acceleration which is to be expected with 140hp performance.
On the curvy test route, the precise steering with plenty of feel is noticeable. The MX-30’s handling is tidy with plenty of grip, although there’s a little body roll because of the SUV silhouette. This prototype rode well on the test route too, although we were told Mazda is still tweaking the setup. In terms of character and handling characteristics, even though this was a prototype, it didn’t feel much different to standard Mazda petrol and diesel models – which is the idea.
For me, the only question mark on the drive, is the brakes. They were hard to modulate on this prototype, with the brake feel corrupted by the regenerative braking function. Feeling very ‘on-off’, we were told this too will have some finessing before production.
Will the expected 124-mile range be enough for fleets? Well, current research says it is, based on average journeys. After driving this prototype, you have to admire Mazda’s alternative take on the all-electric car formula. Although the forthcoming plug-in version with added tiny Wankel engine range extender might be a safer bet.
It’s too early to draw any formal conclusions on the MX-30, but the Mazda will be a keen driving alternative to other EV models.
KEY FLEET MODEL: N/A
STRENGTHS: Keen drive and stylish interior
WEAKNESSES: Will the predicted 124 mile range be enough for fleets?