Auto review: Mazda MX-30 EV is long on style and handling, short on range

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The Mazda MX-30 is ZOOM! ZOOM! the brand’s first electric vehicle and it brings Mazda mojo. It’s sleek, feature-packed, and fun to drive.

It’s also an illustration of why electric vehicles are niche vehicles.

Entering Telegraph Road out of Lone Pine, I threw the front-wheel drive MX-30 into a 90 degree turn and it turned wonderfully. I stepped on the right pedal and the front motor responded instantly with a satisfying electric WHIIRRRRR! – the instantaneous and gentle torque which throws the electric vehicle forward.

In a recent test drive, I turned heads with the pretty look of the MX-30. “Ooooh, I really like the design,” said my friend Laurie, dwelling on the sculpted taillights after rolling down her driveway. But Laurie won’t be giving up on her gasoline Mazda CX-30 anytime soon.

That’s because the MX-30 and CX-30 share the same platform, and thanks to its gasoline-powered powertrain, the CX-30 is the best all-rounder.

In today’s luxury electric vehicle market, most electrical devices are built on skateboard decks housing huge batteries. They are capable, fun, and expensive. The average Tesla transaction price is $ 55,000. The Silicon Valley automaker’s billion-dollar brand is built on luxury technologies that push the boundaries, like autonomous driving, live updates and jaw-dropping acceleration.

Its success has prompted governments to force electric vehicles on everyone, not just luxury buyers who can afford Tesla. But to make electric cars mainstream, they must compete at $ 35,000 – the average market transaction price (when not disrupted by chip-induced supply chain shortages) – not $ 55,000. .

This is where the MX-30 plays, and it’s a dismal second behind its gasoline sibling.

Pal Laurie’s Gasoline CX-30 Premium, at $ 29,875, is one of the best value in the subcompact SUV class. Leather seats, head-up display, adaptive cruise control, automatic headlights, blind spot assist, sunroof, 186 horsepower, 392 mile range, flatscreen TV (just kidding about the latter). It is a premium car in a mainstream badge.

My MX-30 Premium Plus tester matched his stride, except… it had 143 horsepower, 100 miles of range and cost $ 38,550. Oh.

Laurie is environmentally conscious but couldn’t figure out the MX-30 compared to her beloved CX-30 (her third Mazda). Advocates of electric vehicles never tire of pointing out that most drivers do not drive more than 30 miles per day. So what’s all the fuss about reach?

It is true that most of Laurie’s business customers are within Mazda’s 100 mile radius. But, um, anything beyond that requires a load. Even his University of Michigan alma mater would be risky, especially in cold Michigan weather. She makes occasional trips east, say, to New York City to visit family – a trip that would take, well, forever in the MX-30. She, like most people, needs the versatility of gas.

In its niche electric segment, however, the MX-30 is an intriguing little piece.

Along with the BMW X1 (heady company), the CX-30 is already the best small utility I have driven. The MX-30 amplifies its inherent balance with its battery strapped low between the wheels in the belly of the vehicle – removing the heavy gasoline engine from the nose. The extra weight of the 35.5 kWh battery is obvious – the MX-30 weighs 420 pounds more than its gas counterpart – but its location lowers the center of gravity by 2.1 inches.

With no six-speed transmission to cut it off, the electric motor felt great around town. All the couple, all the time.

Buyers will notice that the Mazda not only lags significantly behind the CX-30, but also against direct competitors such as the Chevrolet Bolt and Hyundai Kona EV, with a range of over 250 miles. This is a problem, because the Chevrolets and Kona will be able to effortlessly go to, say, Lansing and back on a single charge.

The MX-30’s low battery helps Mazda maintain ZOOM! ZOOM! legacy (Mazda’s new slogan is actually “Feel Alive” – but give me the old “Zoom! Zoom!”) with nimble handling and a 45% stiffer chassis. But Bolt and Kona are no slouch in the material handling department either.

Mazda, aware of its battery shortcomings, tries to distract attention from its style and affordability.

My $ 38,550 tester costs $ 2,400 under a comparable Bolt EUV and $ 8,225 less than the Kona EV. And that’s before you spend about two thousand dollars on each vehicle to outfit your garage with a 240-volt charger so you can charge overnight (Mazda is giving a useful boost of $ 500 to help buy a charger. ).

This relative bargain, however, could be erased by Washington’s punishment of foreign automakers. Only electric vehicles made in the United States and assembled by the UAW currently receive a tax credit of $ 12,500 under massive climate legislation, while the small-battery Mazda is thrown a bone more small $ 7,500. Ouch. Small consolation: the subsidy at least makes the price of the MX-30 more competitive compared to the petrol CX-30.

While Bolt and Kona both stares blankly at you, the Jedi Battle Droid cutie Mazda brings that Rodney Copperbottom joy. Then it borrows a bit of luxury from Rolls Royce – cabinet doors that open to the interior. What, no red carpet?

The interior raises the bar above the CX-30’s already magnificent desk space. The console has plenty of storage in the basement for m’lady’s purse – or for charging a phone. A second 7.5-inch touchscreen completes the high-dash remote control display with climate controls. The whole console is cork-lined (Mazda started out as a cork maker, you don’t know) – aimed at the green crowd.

But as with its battery size, the interior space lags behind its competition. Rear legroom – 30.1 inches compared to the Bolt’s 36.5 inches – is tight for six-footers like me.

Mazda recognizes the MX-30’s niche status and only offers it for sale in California (so impatient Michiganians have a long drive home from the dealership), which currently accounts for about half of EV sales. There, green is religion and the MX-30 should find an audience of upscale urban buyers with a lifestyle that fits the bill.

Beyond that, the MX-30 drew my friend Lauri’s attention to the fact that Mazda is in the electric game if it ever comes up with an EV as convenient as its gasoline lineup. It’s a mountain EV makers have been trying to climb since Henry Ford’s gasoline-powered Model T overtook Detroit Electric sales over 100 years ago.

Mazda MX-30 2022

Vehicle type: Small, battery-powered front-wheel drive SUV

Price: $ 34,465 ($ 38,550 based on testing before the $ 7,500 federal tax credit)

Power plant: 35.5 kWh lithium-ion battery driving the front electric motor

Power: 143 hp, 200 lb-ft of torque

Transmission: One-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 9.6 seconds (manufacturer); top speed, 90 mph

Weight: 3,655 lb

Fuel economy: EPA estimated range, 100 miles

Report card

Tops : Handling improves compared to the already agile CX-30; cool cabinet doors

Low : Bonus of $ 10,000 for a quarter of the autonomy of its gasoline brother

Globally: 3 stars

Mazda MX-30 is the brand’s first battery-electric vehicle.

Henry Payne is an auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at [email protected] or Twitter @HenryEPayne.


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