Electric cars, I’ve decided, are a bit like buses. You wait years for a new one to arrive, and then half a dozen turn up at once. That’s how it’s felt in the last 12 months, anyway – suddenly it’s not just Nissan, Renault, Hyundai or Kia dipping their toes into the EV water, it’s pretty much everyone.
Enter this: the new Mazda MX-30, which we’ve got the pleasure of looking after for the next 12 months. It’s Mazda’s first-ever EV and, you have to admit, it looks a bit more on-trend for 2021 than some of the five-door-hatchback-shaped rivals I could mention. It’s a sort of coupe-slash-SUV – think of it as a three-door, rakishly-styled version of the CX-30 crossover and you’d be about right.
Except, it’s not quite a three-door… Mazda, being ever the non-traditionalist, has also popped in a set of backwards-opening barn doors – an idea pilfered from its RX-8 coupe of a few years ago. It’s all very clever and should make getting into the back just that teensy bit easier.
Inside it’s very much Mazda business as usual: a well-designed, well-built cabin that feels far more premium than it has any right to for the money. There are even some delightful MX-30-specific touches too – bits of cork (yes, cork) here there and everywhere, and fabric on the doors that wouldn’t be out of place on a Habitat sofa.
As with the 3, pretty much any trim level is decently specified, but we’ve gone with the GT Sport Tech – partially for the 12-speaker Bose stereo, and partially for the handy three-pin domestic socket that should help us get on with some work while on the move.
Before I get a telling off, despite all this we haven’t broken the bank: entry-level cars start at around £26,000 after the government grant, and ours is just a shade over £30,000. That’s only a smidge more than the equivalently specced petrol CX-30, or indeed a decidedly less premium MG ZS EV.
So, where’s the catch? It’s that traditional EV elephant in the room, I’m afraid – the range. Officially, it’s a not-so-whopping 124 miles – some 60 miles less than the cheapest Vauxhall Corsa E, Kia E-Niro or Hyundai Kona Electric. The rationale, says Mazda, is that they’ve analysed the needs of the average driver and decided that a smaller battery pack is the way to go.
There’s certainly some logic behind that decision – a smaller battery means lower weight, and therefore better handling and more miles squeezed out of each kilowatt. It’s also quite a bit better for the planet, and makes the whole thing cheaper to buy – so, great news all round, then? Well, we’ll certainly see if that’s the case over the next few months.
I’ve already stretched the MX-30’s legs on a couple of long journeys and, from a range point of view, it’s not the ideal tool for the job. Real-world motorway range has worked out at around 100 miles on a full battery in good conditions – i.e without a power-thirsty heater or air conditioner switched on.
As with any reasonably-priced EV, though, you have to go into the experience with open eyes. The MX-30 is never going to work as a direct replacement for a petrol or diesel car that’s frequently driven long distances – but then neither are any of its rivals.
To the MX-30’s credit, too, it’s a very accomplished motorway cruiser – just perhaps not a long-distance one. High-speed ride quality is excellent, and the cabin stays as serene as you’d expect a car without a grumbly engine would.
Around town is where the MX-30 really comes into its own, though. It’s not exactly tiny – so don’t expect Honda e-levels of manoeuvrability – but it’s infinitely more enjoyable to be zipping out of junctions on instantly available electricity than trying to coax a petrol or diesel engine to wake up.
It’s also, I can report, pretty miserly with electricity around town. A six-mile trip to Tesco and back barely puts a dent in the range – to the point where, thanks to the free 7kW charger, I arrive home with more charge than when I left.
Some positives and negatives so far, then, but on the whole, I’m looking forward to spending the next year with the MX-30. As we transition back into our pre-pandemic ways of travelling around the country more, though, it’ll be interesting to see how that comparatively small range fares…