Parkers overall rating: 3.9 out of 5 3.9

White 2021 Mazda MX-30 side elevation with Freestyle doors open

Update 1: welcome to Parkers

Proving that cars which are difficult to define bristle with appeal

It’s an incredibly difficult car to pigeonhole, Mazda’s MX-30.

Simply labelling it as an SUV or an electric car tells only part of its story, for it’s also city-focused, an enjoyable companion on winding back roads, useful for families with young kids as well as being coupe-esque in shape.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that without a clear identity that Mazda couldn’t possibly hope it would fulfil any of its roles particularly well, yet almost a thousand miles in, its keys are proving to be the ones I grab the most often.

White 2021 Mazda MX-30 front three-quarter

To determine whether this is more than just a honeymoon period, I’ll be running the Mazda for Parkers over the next 12 months, seeing whether it can really fit in with my life, given neither me or my family set-up are the primary target market. 

Which MX-30 are you running?

Somewhat unusually, Mazda expects the top-selling MX-30 to be the range’s flagship – the somewhat ambiguously titled GT Sport Tech – so that’s what I’ve opted for here.

After the £2,500 government plug-in car grant has been deducted, it retails at £30,345. That’s £2,300 more than the mid-ranking Sport Lux and £4,300 pricier than the entry-level SE-L Lux.

2021 Mazda MX-30 dashboard

I’ll be poring over the intricacies of the trim levels in a future update to determine which MX-30 represents the better value, but at this early stage it’s worth noting that the GT Sport Tech is the only model in the range that comes with the following equipment:

>> Adaptive LED headlamps

>> Electric tilting and sliding glass sunroof

>> Front wiper area de-icer

>> Heated steering wheel  

>> LED tail lights

>> Upgraded safety equipment including Cruising Traffic Support (CTS), Driver Monitoring (DM), Front Cross Traffic Alert (FCTA) and Smart Brake Support – Rear Crossing (SBS-RC)

>> 3-pin plug socket on the dashboard

>> 12-speaker Bose surround system audio upgrade

Given the generosity of the levels of standard equipment, extra-cost options are few and far between – in fact, of the two available, I only plumped for one.

At £1,500 the three-tone paint option – Ceramic metallic bodysides, Dark Grey metallic roof arches over the side windows and a Brilliant Black roof centre – seems somewhat extravagant, but for me this is the MX-30 looking its best. It brings the post-grant deduction price of this one to £31,845.

White 2021 Mazda MX-30 three-tone paint close-up

Combined with the unpainted plastic wheelarch and lower bodywork mouldings, the pale paint of the main fuselage looks lower and longer, making the MX-30 difficult to judge size-wise in isolation. For reference, it has an identical footprint to Mazda’s more practical CX-30 SUV.

And the option I didn’t go for? Mazda charges an extra £200 for a dark brown and grey interior colour-scheme, but I prefer the pale grey and copper finish it has as standard. It complements the exterior better and makes the interior feel less dour, particularly in the back. 

What’s right-sizing all about?

Fitting the MX-30 with a battery capacity of just 35.5kWh does seem a misstep, with ‘right-sizing’ being the marketing line trotted out to defend it.

Not so, says Mazda – it’s all about making the MX-30 carbon neutral much sooner in its life, plus most people only cover shorter journeys most days – in which case, hauling a big battery around doesn’t make much sense.

Whatever you think of it, it automatically ensures that in terms of range – Mazda quotes 124 miles in the official test – it’s more of a rival to Honda’s e and MINI’s Electric Hatch rather than similarly sized SUVs in the shapes of Peugeot’s e-2008 and Vauxhall’s Mokka-e, both of which have a real-world range close to 200 miles.

If you know from the outset that you’re regularly going to be taking journeys of more than 100-120 miles, then the Mazda’s going to be a right pain, not right-sized. But if you don’t, and you’re happy to spend about an hour recharging in order to complete occasional long journeys, then there’s little reason why it couldn’t work. 

Those Freestyle doors – just a gimmick?

Most friends and family I’ve shown the Mazda to so far are initially wowed by the MX-30’s door arrangement, where the slender pair of rear ones are hinged at the back, and can only be used when the front ones are already opened.

In reality, a cool as they look, they’re only really acceptable because of its coupe-aping roofline – if it was an SUV of more conventional proportions, such as the CX-30, then the doors would open, well, conventionally.

2021 Mazda MX-30 front and rear seats

As an alternative to a three-door car, which the MX-30 would otherwise be without them, they do make sense . Two smaller doors on each side take up far less space to open in tight car parks than the much longer doors normally associated with three-door models.

Only scrabbling smaller kids and lithe, flexible adults can get into the back via the narrow gap without moving the front seats forward. If you’re ferrying at least two other adults about most days, while whoever’s in the back should have ample legroom, it’s a faff getting them in and out. 

Positive first impressions

Despite those idiosyncrasies – or maybe because of them – life with the Mazda’s proving enjoyable so far, not least because of how it drives.

Progress is brisk enough to annoy hot hatch drivers as you pull away from a slow bend, but it doesn’t feel needlessly quick, with the neck-snapping acceleration of some other electric cars. Besides, hooning EVs around really does deplete the battery, reducing range as a consequence.

White 2021 Mazda MX-30 grille detail

It's engaging, though – there’s a useful degree of feedback through the steering, the weights of the controls feel reassuring and the handling itself is neat and tidy, allowing swift cornering with little drama.

So far, the indicated range seems accurate at any given moment, with no sudden drop-offs that I’ve experienced in other electric models, and while 2.8 miles for every kilowatt hour (kWh) of battery isn’t stellar, that includes a lot of national speed limit driving.

There’s one slightly annoying development, though – a buzzy, platicky vibration from somewhere near the rearview mirror. I’ll need to get that looked at before I’m cranking the Bose speakers right up.   

Mileage: 968

Energy efficiency: 2.8 miles/kWh

White 2021 Mazda MX-30 rear three-quarter