HAVE you ever had an idea so radical that people failed to grasp its reasoning and therefore dismissed it out of hand? 

And, after trying – unsuccessfully – to explain your brilliant idea you gave in and agreed to a compromise instead? 

Well, you’ll know how the designers and engineers of the Mazda MX-30 feel, then. 

The fully-electric MX-30 was a well-thought-out concept back in 2020. An EV that was designed as the perfect 2nd car. Its range of 124 miles meant it was perfect for the average commute as well as school runs, town shopping and general day-to-day use. 

Right-sized battery

Its relatively small battery (or “right-sized” as Mazda describe it) meant that the car was lighter and therefore more efficient. It was also much quicker to charge, meaning top-ups didn’t tie the car up for hours on end. A smart solution to fill a gap in the EV market. 

Its quirkiness didn’t end there though. Mazda aren’t afraid to ignore a box, never mind think outside of it, and the MX-30 came complete with “suicide” rear doors and some unconventional interior materials, including door cards made from re-cycled plastic bottles and a cork-topped centre console. Bravo, Mazda. 

However, the media focused on the one thing they presumed all potential EV-buyers were focused on: Range. 

Plug-in Hybrid, rotary engine

Inevitably, the point was missed, the lack of range was bemoaned, and the MX-30 didn’t get to shine like it deserved to. 

So along comes the compromise (albeit a planned one). A plug-in hybrid version (PHEV) that halves the battery size but adds a small rotary-engined generator whose sole purpose is to keep the battery topped up. The MX-30 R-EV becomes a purely electric-driven car that can no longer be criticised for a lack of range. Perhaps not a compromise after all. 

It then goes on to win the What Car? Best Plug-in Hybrid award for 2024. This is what Editor Steve Huntingford had to say about it: 

“The Mazda MX-30 R-EV combines fun handling with a well-controlled ride, while its classy and distinctive interior features one of the most user-friendly infotainment systems around. In the real world, we also found the MX-30 R-EV to be much more sparing on petrol than its larger PHEV rivals.” 

However, I still can’t help the feeling that the original MX-30 was misunderstood, but hey-ho, we now have the MX-30 R-EV which negates any range anxiety – no matter how unnecessary that anxiety should have been. 

Charging rates

But is the MX-30 R-EV the perfect family PHEV or still a decent 2nd family car only? Well, with a range now extending to over 400 miles, it compares favourably to any small or medium-sized petrol car with the added bonus that the Mazda can be driven on pure-electric for up to 53 miles – which should cover the majority of commutes, easily. 

DC fast charging is also available on the R-EV model, although most users will probably opt for the convenience of a home charger (where possible). Mazda currently offers a half-price PodPoint (link to review here) charger with any MX-30 R-EV purchase; saving you around £500. 

There are 3 grades of MX-30 R-EV, starting with “Prime-Line” at £31,495, “Exclusive-Line” at £33,495, while the range-topping “Makoto” will set you back £35,895. Each cost £3.5k more than the non-PHEV MX-30 EV. 

Each feature front-wheel drive, a single-speed automatic transmission and just 21 g/km CO2 emissions (WLTP combined). 

Charging the 17.8 kWh battery from 20% to 80% will take 4 hours 50 mins from a domestic plug, 1 hour 30 mins from a 7.4kW home charger and just 25 minutes if you’re out and about and manage to find a 50kW Rapid charger. 

Interior and Exterior features

The Prime-Line model I had on test was well equipped and featured 18in alloy wheels, an 8.8-inch Infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as front and rear parking sensors and a head-up display. 

The cruise-control is radar enabled and there is also a rear parking camera. Safety systems include Blind-spot monitoring and Driver Attention Alert along with Lane Departure Waring and Lane-Keep Assist. All good value for an entry-level model. 

The interior feels special not only because of the quality of materials used but also because the layout is different too. The floating centre console with the gear-selector and infotainment controls atop, looks premium, while the cork inlays give it an extra element of interest. 

The cork is a nod to Mazda’s roots, which began in 1920 with Toyo Cork Kogyo – a cork manufacturing company, based in Hiroshima. Mazda’s founder, Jujiro Matsuda, joined the company as a board member in 1921. 

The cork is harvested from trees, without felling, and then coated front and back to ensure durability. 

The rest of the cabin feels it will also endure, with a solid feel to the buttons and switches – something we have come to expect from Mazda. 

Practicality is good, with plenty of storage available, although I am still unsure about the innovative “Freestyle” rear doors. 

Rear space

I took a couple of colleagues to a conference in the centre of Edinburgh and while the MX-30 R-EV proved comfortable for the front passenger, the rear passenger didn’t like the idea that the front door needed to be open before the rear door could be released. There may have been an element of claustrophobia, not helped by the lack of legroom and the rear windows being rather small. 

However, initial fears about the ease of access to the rear proved groundless. With both doors open wide and the front seat slid forward (it automatically tilts, also) there was plenty of space to step into. Although, ultimately, a standard rear door is more convenient and quicker to use . . . 

EV or PHEV?

However, I remain a fan of the MX-30 in either its EV or PHEV form. I’ve driven both and preferred the purer EV for local, day-to-day use. 

The MX-30 R-EV provides more options and is now easily liveable with for everyday, every-journey motoring. But I found the small rotary engine to be quite vociferous when it kicked in and this detracted from the experience. 

Ultimately, it is up to your own personal needs which will decide which model to go for. Both drive like a Mazda – sharp steering and handling that isn’t class-leading but is markedly better than you might expect from a small/medium electric SUV. 

Both are powered only by the electric motor, so response when setting off from junctions and lights is excellent. In fact, the R-EV version is slightly quicker thanks to having 168 bhp on tap rather than the EV’s 143 bhp. But, in reality, you wouldn’t notice much difference. 

Ride quality

The ride is on the firm side, but the Mazda still managed to soak up most bumps well, while body-roll is kept to almost unnoticeable levels and is much less “bouncy” than some rivals. 

The Mazda MX30 R-EV is very good as a motorway cruiser, where the rotary-engine becomes less intrusive. Wind and tyre noise are also kept to a minimum. 

On A and B roads the Mazda’s sharp steering lets you enjoy the road more than you might expect. Steering feedback is surprisingly good, and the little Mazda holds onto corners very well. 

The 53-mile EV range of the MX30 R-EV is very useful when you consider it doesn’t take long to charge the small battery. You could find yourself hardly ever having to take a sip from the 50-litre petrol tank.  

So, a compromise or not? The Mazda MX-30 R-EV is an excellent PHEV in its own right and maybe I’m being unfair in branding it a compromise at all. It’s just an alternative that gives you more options. All of them good.

  • AT A GLANCE:   
  • Mazda MX-30 R-EV Exclusive-Line PHEV
  • OTR Price: £33,495   
  • Engine: EV and rotary petrol engine as generator  
  • Power: 168 bhp   
  • Transmission: 1-speed Automatic  
  • 0-62mph: 9.1 secs   
  • Top Speed: 87 mph   
  • EV driving range: 53 miles 
  • Range: 400+ miles
  • C02: 21 g/km  

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