2021 Mazda MX-30 E35 Astina review

Mazda took its sweet time in joining the electric vehicle market, but is the MX-30 Electric worth the wait?

What we love
  • Quiet and refined cabin ambience
  • Excellently presented cabin with quality materials
  • Fun driving experience

What we don’t
  • Overpriced
  • Compromised SUV shape
  • Lack of range

Introduction

Unlike rival manufacturers that have wholeheartedly embraced electric power, Mazda has dipped its toe into the EV space a little more judiciously. First unveiled in 2019, the MX-30 is the brand’s first electrified vehicle.

It launched in Australia in early 2021 as a mild-hybrid before being made available a few short months later as a full-electric. Confusingly, there are relatively few ways to tell the differences between the two, with both mild-hybrid and full-electric variants sharing the same body and styling.

This means a set of wacky ‘freestyle’ doors (a throwback to Mazda’s RX-8), while Mazda says the MX- in the car’s name references the sporting characteristics of its MX-5 sports roadster. There are even cork accents in the interior to signal Mazda’s origins as a cork manufacturer. These are considered parts of Mazda’s plan to embrace the future by referencing its heritage.

But Mazda’s not exactly making it easy to get involved in electric vehicles. The small SUV-bodied 2021 Mazda MX-30 Electric is sold as a single variant costing $65,490 before on-road costs (or $70,967 drive-away in metro Melbourne). That places it among some lofty competition including the Hyundai Kona Electric, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Mini Cooper SE, and Mercedes-Benz EQA.

To do battle with the above, Mazda fits the MX-30 Electric with a 107kW/271Nm electric motor powered by a 35.5kWh battery. This set-up sends power to the front wheels only, and Mazda says it can travel 200km between charges on the widely accepted WLTP cycle. That’s down on rivals such as the Hyundai Kona Electric , which can travel more than 450km to a charge in Extended Range models.

It leaves a bit of a sour taste reading these specs after hearing the price, but the Japanese manufacturer intends the MX-30 Electric purely as a stylish city car for younger folk with eco-conscious minds. In terms of equipment, that cohort can expect to be rewarded with adaptive LED headlights, a head-up display, 12-speaker Bose stereo system, sunroof, 360-degree cameras, heated front seats and steering wheel, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Leading into 2022, it feels like the MX-30 Electric has come onto the scene a bit late, and a bit half-baked, but read on to get a grasp on what it’s like to spend some time in the MX-30 Electric.

Key details 2021 Mazda MX-30 E35 Astina
Price (MSRP) $65,490 plus on-road costs
Colour of test car Polymetal Grey
Options Three-tone paint (silver roof rails, black roof) – $1490
Price as tested $66,980 plus on-road costs, $72,532 drive-away (Melb)
Rivals Mini Cooper S E | Polestar 2 | Hyundai Kona Electric

Inside

An aspect I immediately noticed of the MX-30’s cabin was the wide-opening front doors that afford an almost 90-degree aperture. It makes it incredibly easy to get inside the front row, even if the stretch to get into the back seats is a bit more of a struggle.

From the outset, it looks like a beautifully styled space. There are interesting design motifs just about everywhere you look. Whether it’s the floating centre console, the flip-up storage shelves covering the cupholders that are finished in cork, or the array of digital displays that show everything from air controls to EV information.

All surfaces are covered in quality materials with a nod to sustainability. The door card uppers are recycled PET plastic, the seats are a blend of leatherette and cloth, and the aforementioned cork is pinched from the leftovers of cork bottle-stopper manufacturing.

It’s a comfortable place to spend time. The front seats afford good side support and a comfortable cushion to spend extended periods of time, while all screens are within easy reach of the driver or passenger.

There’s a decent amount of storage in the centre console, whether it’s in shelf mode or configured for cupholders. Under the floating centre console portion is more storage and USB ports for charging devices. The door pockets are relatively shallow, but can be used for extra loose items and thin bottles.

Things become a bit less agreeable after jumping in the second row. Even though they’re a cool talking point, the suicide doors will become a pain to open often – this car is much better suited to couples than families. There’s just a small amount of room for your feet, and the door card pokes into your leg space making the area feel a bit claustrophobic.

Cargo space stands at just 311L in the boot.

2021 Mazda MX-30 E35 Astina
Seats Five
Boot volume 311L seats up
Length 4395mm
Width 1795mm
Height 1555mm
Wheelbase 2655mm

Infotainment and Connectivity

The familiar Mazda Connect infotainment software does service in the MX-30 Electric through an 8.8-inch screen mounted atop the dash. It’s one of my favourite systems to use, mostly because of the intuitive layouts for menu systems and nifty shortcuts surrounding the rotary dial that controls the whole ordeal – no touchscreen here.

The sound system is a beauty, with strong, resounding bass and clear outputs that will make you love listening to your tunes. The maps are also a nicely presented feature. However, you can use smartphone mirroring if you’re fonder of the Apple CarPlay/Android Auto screens.

There’s a 7.0-inch digital instrument display ahead of the driver to show various information, while a head-up display makes it easy to glance your speed on the go.


Safety and Technology

Mazda was awarded with a full five-star ANCAP safety rating for the MX-30 Electric utilising stringent 2020 safety protocols.

In addition to a strengthened chassis (with respect to the lack of a B-pillar), the MX-30 is fitted with a suite of active safety features including autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, front and rear cross-traffic alert, driver attention monitoring, and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go.

The MX-30 Electric is fitted with 10 airbags throughout the cabin.

2021 Mazda MX-30 E35 Astina
ANCAP rating Five stars (tested 2020)
Safety report Link to ANCAP report

Value for Money

It’d be hard to construe the Mazda MX-30 Electric as good value for money, though you could say that about a great many electric vehicles currently – unless you’re playing the long game.

But the single-spec MX-30 Electric E35 Astina is quite expensive for what it is, and for what it offers you. This is why Mazda has positioned it with far more flair than some rivals such as the Hyundai Kona Electric. The Australian arm of the Japanese manufacturer only expected to sell 100 of them when it launched.

Those who do buy one will be paying $1273 through capped-price servicing at 12-month/15,000km intervals (whichever is first). The battery is warranted for eight years, while the rest of the car is backed for up to five years (unlimited kilometres) after the initial purchase date.

For its week on test through suburban Melbourne, the MX-30 Electric returned a 16.6kWh/100km energy consumption, putting it ahead of Mazda’s official 18.5kWh/100km claim.

At a glance 2021 Mazda MX-30 E35 Astina
Warranty Five years / unlimited km
Service intervals 12 months or 15,000km
Servicing costs $1273.79 (5 years)
Energy cons. (claimed) 18.5kWh/100km
Energy cons. (on test) 16.6kWh/100km
Battery size 35.5kWh

Driving

Unless you spend a majority of your time journeying between the home and office, the MX-30’s battery status will be a constant presence in the back of your head. You’ve only got just over 200km to play with (Mazda says 224km on an ADR cycle), which is best deployed in around-town environments where charging infrastructure is more common.

But it’s around the city where the Mazda MX-30 does its best work. While not quite as darty and lithe as the MX-5 that Mazda would have you believe, controlling the MX-30 is fun and is about as normal to drive as a conventional combustion-powered car. The small battery obviously doesn’t impact weight as much as its rivals.

The car plays a simulated dorky sound to emphasise how hard the motor is working (in place of an engine noise) – which I disliked at first – but I grew to enjoy the aural integration depicting how hard you’re accelerating or decelerating. Apart from that, the MX-30 cabin is a serenely quiet place, joined by a comfortable ride profile that handles bumps and imperfections with a tight but compliant nature.

Its small stature is easy to place on the road, and rounding corners is pretty fun and rarely lurchy, but vision outside the cabin is not great. The enclosed second row gives little way to view out the back, and the side mirrors take some getting used to for their weird magnification.

The MX-30 Electric’s meek 107kW/271Nm outputs don’t delight on paper, and they feel as such in practice. That wild surge of electric power that some associate with electric vehicles is lacking. Overtakes must be a bit more measured than you’d expect from an EV. That said, it’s entirely perky enough for around-town duties, and the instantaneous nature of the torque delivery should prove handy in zipping across roads.

The car has five modes of brake regeneration that can be controlled using the paddles behind the steering wheel. Of note, there’s no obvious ‘one pedal’ driving mode (like its EV rivals have) that strengthens the regenerative braking to the point that you don’t have to use the brake pedal.

When it comes time to charge up the MX-30 Electric, a 20–80 per cent charge takes nine hours using the supplied AC wall-plug charge cable, three hours using an AC home charging box (extra cost) at 6.6kW, and 36 minutes using a 50kW DC public charging station (charge cable costs extra).

Key details 2021 Mazda MX-30 E35 Astina
Engine Single electric motor with 35.5kWh lithium-ion battery
Power 107kW
Torque 271Nm
Drive type Front-wheel drive
Transmission Single-speed automatic
Power to weight ratio 74.2kW/t
Weight (kerb) 1442kg
Turning circle 11.4m

Conclusion

While compromised in some areas, the MX-30 is an unconventional first go at an electric vehicle and paves the way for improvement next time around.

Ignore the shortcomings of the lofty entry price and lack of usable range, and the MX-30 actually presents as an enjoyable electric vehicle with flair and fashion, which would make you feel great about your purchase.

I will say that I’ve been beginning to notice an increasing amount of MX-30s throughout Melbourne’s city, though whether it’s the more affordable mild-hybrid or the expensive full-electric remains to be seen… I suspect it’s the former.

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