Swearing that he has undergone an EV epiphany, Iain Robertson takes an extended drive in a far from range-extended EV but reveals that he actually gets what Mazda intends from its beguiling and brutally honest coupe-like newcomer.
Make no bones, I remain as fearful of EV range anxiety as anyone. It is a potential problem that cannot be erased, regardless of the over-enthusiasm of EV protagonists, mainly because carmakers are prepared to lie about their figures that are based largely on laboratory projections but not actual on-road experiences. On first acquaintance with the latest Mazda MX-30, its pitched 124mls (or up to 165mls urban) looks pitiful in comparison with the firm’s own mega-efficient petrol power units.
Yet, when its UK boss, Jeremy Thomson, stated the case, he was keen to underscore MX-30’s role as a primary mode of transport for commuting, while using a (in his case) diesel-powered Mazda CX-5 for longer trips. He is not lying and, for the average two-car family, while some operational juggling will prove essential, it makes sense. Naturally, it is a different matter for the single car user but Mazda admits that, with limited numbers being imported, an MX-30 might not be such a logical first choice.
However, the most recently launched Honda e, a teensy urban runabout possessing a full-width electronic dashboard and an abundance of cutesy detailing is not merely 70% the size of the MX-30 but is also a few Pounds costlier (£30,210 Honda e Advance vs. £29,845 MX-30 GT Sport Tech, grant applied). Given this choice of urban runabout, in terms of space, style, comfort and price, I would opt for the Mazda incontrovertibly.
Yet, my choice is made simpler by Mazda’s innate desire to make the MX-30 easier and more familiar to drive than almost any EV alternative, which can become a little wanky with over-anxious design teams desperate to make their marks by way of purported ‘innovation’. My customary method of cabin entry relies on adjusting seat and steering column to their most extreme settings, to accommodate my two metres of height, making finer adjustments once in the seat. As with all Mazdas, the driver’s zone is very accommodating and exceptionally comfortable.
Apart from the raised centre console, against which padded section my left knee rests, the driving position is entirely conventional and depressing the ‘start:stop’ button fires-up a fairly conventional electronic dashboard, which can be personalised using a small button in its lower left corner. Without an engine noise to accompany the process, selecting ‘Drive’ using the left palm-filling lever and depressing the accelerator pedal gently effects motion.
When mobile, even though it uses a drive-by-wire throttle, the MX-30 emits a muted but not objectionable speed-related ‘engine’ tone. Its acceleration is brisk, despatching 0-60mph in a modest 9.3s, which can be modulated by using the ‘one-pedal’ option`, accessed via the left-hand paddle (behind the cross-spoke) through a pair of settings, with one arrow being less severe in brake energy recovery terms than the double arrow. Not having to rely on the normal brakes for cross-country foraying is surprisingly enjoyable and the brake-lights do illuminate, once the car passes through coasting state into energy recovery mode, on either of the settings.
What marks out the MX-30 as something a bit special lies in its chassis management. For a start, the battery pack weighs a mere 310kgs, less than half the weight of many EV packages. While the dimensions do limit its storage capacity, by not having to lug around two tonnes of motorcar, it can cover (pro-rata) more miles and, typically, it will take 35 to 40-minutes to recharge it to 80% efficacy level at a public fast-charger. However, that 1.6-tonnes kerbweight needs less electronic management to maintain an even keel.
Across country, the MX-30 handles supremely well. Its light but efficient steering provides a decent amount of true feedback to the driver’s fingertips, even though his fingers may lack definition (thanks to copious scrubbing over the past year) to grip the non-leather steering wheel wrapper…more on which in a moment. Both spring and damper rates are at genius level, providing that artful combination of resilient and silken ride, superior bump absorption and amazing body roll control. No matter how hard the car is pushed, beyond the moderate adhesion level of its tyres, composure remains eminently strong. Only the most severe of transverse ridges in the road surface result in an audible ‘crash’, which also pinpoints the overall rigidity of the car’s frame.
Yet, it is the minor electrickery that provides the additional safeguard. If you have never before heard of ‘chassis vectoring’, in brief I can tell you that it involves the application of multi-directional motion sensors that gather information to be read by the vehicle’s ‘brain’. Some systems use both brakes and engine to make minute adjustments. It is clever stuff but it is what allows even an average SUV to corner confidently. Mazda calls the system employed on the MX-30 ‘Electric G-Vectoring Control Plus (e-GVC Plus)’ which applies electric motor torque to optimise the front-to-rear load shift that occurs during cornering, in order to improve overall stability. It works together with the car’s Skyactiv-Vehicle Architecture, which is tailored specifically to complement the smooth power delivery of the e-Skyactiv drivetrain.
While the electric motor delivers the equivalent of 145bhp, the MX-30’s top whack is a modest 95mph. In legal reality it needs no more. However, Mazda is very clear about the environmental impact of its newcomer, as it prefers to talk in vehicle life terms. As a result, it is not an ‘emissions-free’ vehicle, even though it may be rated dumbly as such. However, no animals, whether sustainable, or not, died to furnish it. The dash-top is like a padded skindiver’s suit, while the door cappings are produced from recovered PET bottles, with a similar woven alternative for the seats. It is all very tactile, of brilliant high-quality and Green, with a capital ‘G’.
Conclusion: It does take a lot to please me but the new Mazda MX-30 achieves a lot more than mere satisfaction. It drives beautifully. It handles supremely. It is comfortable and sporty. I have a new hero and, while I can scarcely believe it, it is an EV possessing a modest range and I would be delighted to fit one into my motoring life.