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Driven: 2024 Mazda MX-30 R-EV. Image by Mazda.

Driven: 2024 Mazda MX-30 R-EV
Will the addition of a rotary-powered plug-in hybrid system make the MX-30 the car we always hoped it would be?

   



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2024 Mazda MX-30 R-EV

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The Mazda MX-30 has always been something of an oddity. Great in many ways, but hampered by a short range, it never really captured the imagination as a compact electric SUV. But now Mazda has brought in a plug-in hybrid version for greater versatility, and used it as an excuse to bring back the rotary engine ó something fans of the brand are bound to welcome. The question is, does it make the MX-30 a more compelling choice?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2024 Mazda MX-30 R-EV 170PS Exclusive-Line
Price: £38,150 as tested
Engine: 0.8-litre single-rotor petrol with 125kW electric motor
Battery: 17.8kWh lithium-ion
Transmission: single-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Power: 170hp
Torque: 260Nm
Emissions: 21g/km
Economy: 282.5mpg
Range: 53 miles
0-62mph: 9.1 seconds
Top speed: 87mph
Boot space: 332-1,137 litres

Styling

On the outside, the MX-30 R-EV looks much like the pure-electric version, but there are some subtle differences. You might expect an exhaust to be chief among these, but Mazda has hidden that behind the rear valance, so you're limited to some badges on the flanks and tailgate. Otherwise, it's pure MX-30.

And that's a good thing, because though the rear lights and tailgate are a bit fussy, while the lack of rear door handles (thanks to the RX-8-inspired suicide rear doors) is disconcerting when you spot it, the MX-30 is quite an attractive car. Cute without being cutesy and smart without being flashy, it's one of those cars that feels upmarket without needing to shout about it. And although the design is some strange cross between a coupe and a hatchback, it's hardly ugly.

Interior

Mazda's interior designers have quietly done very well over the past few years, and the MX-30 is yet another example of that impressive capability. The dashboard feels a little conventional, perhaps, but it's nicely made and stylish enough, while climate control is taken care of by a touchscreen in the centre console. The infotainment, however, uses a rotary controller to provide access to features such as the navigation and the phone connectivity systems.

Mazda has also lined parts of the car with cork, which is a nod to the company's heritage, as well as a tactile decorative solution, but the materials generally are very good. The cloth upholstery is lovely, and the leather feels nice and soft, while all the panels fit together smartly and the whole thing feels pretty premium and upmarket. It's quite a nice thing to sit in.

Practicality

The MX-30, whether hybrid or fully electric, is not the most practical car on the market, but then nor is it the largest. The compact dimensions have necessitated clever solutions, such as the RX-8-style suicide doors, which technically makes the MX-30 a four-door car, but only just. For starters, you have to open the front doors before the back doors, which limits their use somewhat, and the openings they expose aren't that massive. That said, there's no pillar between the front and rear doors, so access is easier than it might otherwise be.

Once you're in, rear cabin space is sort of acceptable, rather than brilliant, and it feels a bit claustrophobic because the windows are quite small, yet it's still comfortable enough.

Boot space isn't that spectacular, either, but again, it's enough to be getting on with. The 332-litre boot (assuming you have the Bose sound system fitted to this mid-range car) is smaller than you get from most family hatchbacks, but it's more or less comparable with cars such as the VW Polo and even the Kia Stonic SUV. So while it's perfectly usable, it's hardly massive.

Performance

The standard MX-30 was launched with great fanfare about ďright-sizingĒ the battery and providing the range drivers need, rather than the range they want. But the truth is, people want more than 200 miles of official range from their car, and every so often, they need that kind of range. The battery-powered MX-30 canít deliver that.

Which is where the MX-30 R-EV comes in, because it can deliver that kind of range. And although itís technically a plug-in hybrid, the system is a little more complex than all that.

In essence, the 170hp electric motor is the only thing driving the MX-30ís front wheels, and it gets its power from a lithium-ion battery that can be plugged in like that of any other electric car. So far, so electric, but the R-EV adds a 0.8-litre rotary engine to the equation, using internal combustion to keep the battery charged. So though you can plug the MX-30 in, you donít have to. You can just fill up with fuel, as you would in a CX-30.

Of course, that is not the most efficient way to run the MX-30 R-EV ó a 53-mile official electric range means youíre best off using the electric motor as much as possible and topping up the battery overnight at home ó but it gives the MX-30 flexibility thatís missing from the standard car.

Thatís the theory out of the way, then, so how does the system stack up in real life? Well, the smoothness is very impressive. Thereís very little vibration to tell you the petrol engine is running, and when youíre on the move, you sometimes have to check the digital instrument display to see whatís going on. But at speed, the engine makes a strange drone that will be deeply alien to those who havenít driven a rotary-powered car before.

And then thereís the range. Although Mazda claims 53 miles from a charge on the official cycle, youíre probably talking around 40 miles in the real world, and less on fast roads and cold days. Still, thatís enough for whatís intended as an urban and extra-urban runabout to cover things like shopping trips and the school run. And because the battery is fairly small, it doesnít take too long to charge.

Obviously, all that is true ó or even more true ó of the standard MX-30, but the R-EV system gives the car the flexibility to be used for occasional long journeys with five-minute fuel stops, rather than long charging breaks. If youíre regularly doing such journeys, this probably wonít be the car for you, because economy isnít great and the fuel tank is small, but as a back-up system in a car mostly used in town, it works really well.

Ride & Handling

Mazda likes to make quite a lot of its carsí handling characteristics, and with good reason. With the notable exception of the underwhelming CX-60, every car in Mazdaís range is one of the best-handling (or even the best-handling) cars in its class.

And so it is with the MX-30. The steering is beautifully precise and smooth, and the response is immediate. Thereís a bit more body roll than we expected in corners, but it really isnít bad for an SUV, and the grip is ample. This isnít a car thatís likely to be flogged to its limits on a country road, but itís surprisingly rewarding for those who try it.

The catch is that the MX-30 is not the most comfortable car in its class. Itís hardly harsh or unforgiving, but it just feels a little stiffer than some, and that tells over certain road surfaces. It just doesnít have the absorbency that you get from some of its rivals, but that doesnít make it unpleasant ó just a little less relaxing than some.

Value

The MX-30 R-EV starts at £31,250, which isn't bad for a semi-premium product with a clever powertrain. It's barely an more than a basic, 1.0-litre petrol VW T-Roc. And you get a sensible amount of kit for your money, with 18-inch alloy wheels, climate control and a reversing camera all included, along with satellite navigation, a head-up display and parking sensors at the front and rear.

Step up to the Exclusive-Line tested here and the price rises to £33,150, but that pays for a bit more kit. Smarter upholstery with leather trimmings, privacy glass and keyless entry are all present and correct. For a mid-range and relatively upmarket vehicle, it really isn't bad at all.

Verdict

The hybrid system in the MX-30 R-EV is a bit of an oddball. Although it's technically a plug-in hybrid, it really is more of a range-extender, allowing the MX-30 to operate with the flexibility of a conventional petrol car. But for day-to-day use, the electric motor takes most of the strain, and the car is at its best when used predominantly as an electric vehicle. It just so happens to have the added utility of the petrol engine, and that makes it a more useful vehicle for those who mostly stick to short journeys, but occasionally head further afield. In truth, and as likeable as the car may be, it will only really work for customers with a very specific set of circumstances.



James Fossdyke - 22 Feb 2024



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2024 Mazda MX-30 R-EV 170PS Exclusive-Line. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-30 R-EV 170PS Exclusive-Line. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-30 R-EV 170PS Exclusive-Line. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-30 R-EV 170PS Exclusive-Line. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-30 R-EV 170PS Exclusive-Line. Image by Mazda.

2024 Mazda MX-30 R-EV 170PS Exclusive-Line. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-30 R-EV 170PS Exclusive-Line. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-30 R-EV 170PS Exclusive-Line. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-30 R-EV 170PS Exclusive-Line. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-30 R-EV 170PS Exclusive-Line. Image by Mazda.








 

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