Mazda MX-30 Takami driven: BEV right now

David Linklater
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Photos / Supplied


Base price
Maximum power kW
Maximum torque Nm
0-100 km/h
  • Striking style
  • Elegant interior
  • Beautifully composed on the road
  • Still relatively expensive
  • Compulsory sound generator
  • M Hybrid model dilutes eco-cred a bit

“Rightsizing” is a favourite term for Mazda. In the context of its petrol cars, it’s the Japanese maker’s answer to the current obsession with downsizing capacity/cylinders to improve efficiency, then boosting it with other technologies (turbocharging, for example) to achieve the desired performance.

Mazda passenger models tend to have larger-capacity petrol powerplants than the competition; a case in point is the Mazda3, a small car with up to 2.5 litres under the bonnet. The company argues that’s the appropriate-size powerplant for a family car, and paying more attention to the fundamentals of low friction and light weight ensure efficiency. That’s partly what SkyActiv technology is all about.

When it comes to Mazda’s first Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV), the MX-30 Takami urban SUV, that rightsizing argument works in the opposite way. It has a 35.5kWh battery that gives 200km range (WLTP figures). Doesn’t seem like a lot.

While many BEV manufacturers are intent on giving their models similar range to combustion-engined models, Mazda reckons smaller batteries and smaller range make much more sense for a city-based electric car.

Smaller batteries are cheaper of course, and with an average daily commute of less than 30km in New Zealand, the argument is that an urban car simply doesn’t need a huge range.

Using figures from the Sustainability 2019 study by open-access publisher MDPI, Mazda also argues that with the CO2 accumulated in manufacture taken into account, a small battery passes the “break even” point where it makes less environmental impact than a petrol engine in half the time of a large one (albeit still around a third of the way to its end-of-life point).

Mazda’s not alone in this approach. The Mini Electric has a similarly modest range. So too does the Honda e. Hyundai has just introduced a 39kWh version of its Kona Electric (the standard model is 64kWh). Although all are smaller cars than the MX-30.

Apologies for the slightly didactic opening, but it puts some important context around Mazda’s newcomer.

Which is a great little thing, by the way. Think of the MX-30 as an electrified left-of-centre eco-centric equivalent to the CX-30 SUV; the two even meet in the middle, because the pure-electric BEV MX-30 is joined by a petrol-electric mild hybrid version (M Hybrid Limited, $45,990). The CX-30 already features mild hybrid tech in the top SkyActiv-X Takami version.

In the future we may also see batteries of varying size supported by rotary range-extender engines. No specific timeline for this technology yet, but it’s real: we saw it showcased at a preview-drive event for the MX-30 in Norway back in 2019.

That’s exactly what the “MX” badge is about. We know it best from the MX-5 sports car, but in fact it’s a long-standing Mazda designation for models that innovate or explore new segments.

The MX-30 is not conventionally pretty like many of Mazda’s mainstream models, but a lot more edgy… without tipping over into EV eccentricity. The most quirky feature is also a familiar one from some other Mazdas: the “Freestyle” rear-hinged rear doors. We could also mention the BMW i3, but won’t.

The individualistic design is supported by some some standout colour schemes – topped by “three-tone” (when two is just not enough) Ceramic Metallic or Soul Red Crystal liveries, where the body is the core colour, the exterior details are black and the roof a light grey. It looks cool.

Mazda does really nice interiors, but the MX-30 might be its nicest of all. There’s little that’s BEV-specific about the layout: the instrument-panel charge meter looks like a petrol gauge and there’s even a conventional gearlever.

But it’s beautifully executed and the use of sustainable materials in what Mazda calls the “industrial vintage” character of the cabin is impressive. Think “vegan leather”, fabric made from recycled PET soft drink bottles and even a centre console finished in recycled cork – a nod to Mazda’s beginnings as a cork manufacturer in 1920.

It’s no secret that Mazda has been somewhat cynical about BEVs in the past. So it’s not surprising that it emphasises that the MX-30 was designed to retain the dynamic virtues of a conventional ICE car: linear acceleration, composed cornering and communication with the driver. Or “engineered to a feeling” as the company blurb puts it.

Don’t look for cheeky BEV 0-100km/h antics: the throttle, or “electric motor pedal” as Mazda calls it, is progressive and the power comes on smoothly, accompanied by a muted hum from a sound generator. The company argues this artificial noise gives more connection between car and driver by underpinning the acceleration and enabling “natural speed control”.

You can drive in a conventional manner with motor-pedal, coasting and brake, but the driver can also dial up the regenerative braking technology with the paddle shifters for something closer to “one pedal driving”.

The MX-30 flows over Kiwi backroads with a relaxed gait. Having the lightest possible battery helps with handling of course, although being a BEV it’s still pretty hefty: 1645kg at the kerb. Nonetheless, it’s nicely controlled and responsive to the wheel, helped along by Mazda’s proprietary G-Vectoring Control (which imperceptibly trims the power in corners to help keep the driver’s chosen line) and a low centre of gravity.

First impressions suggest the MX-30 is one of the most quietly impressive BEV efforts around – well-rounded enough to appeal to current ICE drivers, even.

It’s a relatively expensive proposition at $74,990k, but then most BEVs are. And with the new Government rebate of $8625, it’s a much more palatable $66,365. That’s for Takami specification, which comes with every conceivable comfort, convenience and active safety feature.

Mazda NZ is also sweetening the deal with an Early Adopter Package for the first owners that includes a free $2000 Wallbox home charging unit (not including installation), and easing the BEV anxiety of first-timers with an eight-year/160,000km warranty on the battery, in addition to its usual five years free servicing/vehicle warranty package.

ENGINE: 35.5kWh Battery Electric Vehicle, single motor
POWER: 107kW/271Nm
GEARBOX: Single-speed automatic, FWD
RANGE: 224km (NEDC)
PRICE: $74,990


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