Mazda MX-30 Review 2023 | Top Gear
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Saturday 9th December
The MX-30 is an interesting if muddled car, and one not quite as deft to drive as its name suggests

Good stuff

Stylish exterior, cool cabin, funky doors

Bad stuff

Uninspiring to drive, pitiful EV range, poky packaging


What is it?

Yet another small crossover. But don’t click away just yet, because while the MX-30 happens to be Mazda’s first fully electric production vehicle... that you can also have with rotary power. Yep, it's a throwback to the days of the RX-8 coupe. Of sorts.

But there are lots of clues Mazda’s doing things differently here. The name, for starters: MX is usually the prefix of coupes and roadsters, most notably the MX-5. So affixing it here inevitably means sporty expectations, even if the badge has its origins in the phrase 'Mazda eXperimental'.

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Then there’s the rear-hinged back doors (check out the gallery above), which again apes the RX-8. An odd choice, given that car’s unfashionable thirst for fuel and oil. But much like the retro styling of the Honda e, it’s an immediate talking point.

Electric versus rotary power... what's the difference?

Well, the MX-30 EV claims a rather limited 124 miles from its 35.5kWh battery. In our experience, it's more like 106. 

Mazda’s done the sums and worked out that smaller batteries have a significantly friendlier CO2 footprint over their lifetime, and ‘break even’ with an internal combustion engine after far fewer miles. It’s also researched its target buyers and concluded they don’t need any more distance from a full charge.

If you want to go further, you’ll be needing the MX-30 R-EV. But before you get too excited, you should know that the 830cc single-rotor engine is essentially a range extender, and at no point does it ever drive the wheels. Instead it acts as a generator to keep the 17.8kWh battery topped up.

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Mazda claims a combined range of over 400 miles, 53 of which come from the battery alone.

As ever, there’s an app to help keep you on top of battery charging: in the full EV a 20 to 80 per cent charge now takes around 25 minutes thanks to a 2022 upgrade lifting the max charging rate up from 40 to 50kW on the kind of DC charger you often see at service stations now. On a standard 7kW AC home wallbox, you’re looking at something like five hours for a full top-up.

Interesting. Is it unique inside too?

Mazda claims it’s a five-seater, but the rear is best reserved for little ‘uns. Meanwhile the interior itself keeps it firmly in Honda e hunting ground.

While not quite as revolutionary in its layout, its mix of vegan seat materials, plastics made from recycled PET bottles and actual cork trim give it a firm hipster-brunch-spot vibe. Brixton better watch out.

What's the competition like?

There's really two camps here. On the one hand you've got the Fiat 500, Honda e and Mini Electric in the small-premium-car-with-naff-range segment.

On the other, you've got the Kia Niro EV, Jeep Avenger, Hyundai Kona Electric, Renault Megane E-Tech ElectricPeugeot e-2008, and Vauxhall Mokka-e in the small-SUV-with-decent-range portion of the market.

Prices start from £31,250, whether you go EV or R-EV. Given the pitiful full electric range, we reckon that one's a no brainer...

What's the verdict?

Reviving rotary power looks like an attempt to address the EV's limited range. Desperate times, desperate measures?

Mazda first launched the MX-30 as a fully electric car before reviving rotary power in what looks like an attempt to address the EV's extremely limited range. Desperate times, desperate measures?

Either way, don’t be fooled: despite the name the MX-30 is nothing special to drive regardless of what fuel you put in it. Its big USPs are the smart interior and those wacky doors, otherwise it's very ordinary indeed.

We like that electric and rotary power are identically priced, but even if you're not bothered by the pitiful range, what else has the EV really got going for it? And if you’ve got your heart set on an electric car specifically, well, there are far better alternatives out there.

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