Mazda MX-30 electric SUV review: a perfect storm of range anxiety

Japanese automakers have been late to the electric vehicle game across the board, offering a limited number of EVs and plug-in hybrid models as both demand and the market in the US grow.

Just this year, Mazda released its very first North American EV model, the 2022 Mazda MX-30 SUV, with rumored plans to release a rotary range-extending engine to the model line in January of next year.

I spent a week with the small, stylish, and fun to drive all-electric vehicle, and while it’s got some really thoughtful design-forward looks and it’s great on the road, Mazda’s first all-electric crossover is, sadly, a pretty big disappointment.

The good: stylish and fun to drive

The 2022 Mazda MX-30, like nearly every Mazda, is stylish and good-looking. In a world of egg-like blob-shaped EVs, the Mazda MX-30 — with its swooping hood and cabin lines and lovely, thoughtful interior — stands out.

On both sides of the MX-30, there are reverse hinge-style doors similar to those that used to grace the now-discontinued four-door Hyundai Veloster. In order to open the rear doors and access the small back seat space, you need to first open the front door, then open the rear half door. There’s no quick and easy way around this, which means that tossing something into the back seats requires opening two doors instead of one.

Mazda’s first all-electric crossover is, sadly, a pretty big disappointment

In spite of this quirk, the reverse-opening doors make for easy egress when climbing into the back seat, and since the floor height inside is relatively low, it’s really easy to sit comfortably in the rear. 

Even with its compact footprint, the interior of the MX-30 feels quite spacious, with just enough room in the second row for most adults to sit comfortably and not be bolt upright. At five feet, seven inches tall, I can sit comfortably with plenty of legroom behind the driver’s seat without having to pull my knees to my chest and get in and out of the rear seats with ease. A long drive back there would be uncomfortable, however. Just in case your back seat passengers need to adjust the driver’s seat to get in and get comfortable, there are controls on the back of the seat to slide it forward or back, and there are a couple of USB-C ports for passengers to plug into.

The materials that Mazda has chosen to adorn the inside also stand out. The company has included greener materials like cork, recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, and leatherette throughout the modern but relatively simple interior. In many ways, the 2022 Mazda MX-30 reminds us of the forward interior design of the BMW i3 with its swooping and unique cork dashboard and felt-like surfaces.

Cork is on the interior of the door handle, the modular and foldable center storage area, and the lower bin area beneath the gear selector. The test vehicle I had came in a lovely gray cloth interior with brown contrast stitching down the center of the seats, which really played up the cork accents around the interior. Fold the flat space near your hip in the center console up and out, and there are cupholders beneath. Fold those flaps back, and you have a flat spot to put your phone or other small items, and they won’t shift around when you drive.

In a world of egg-like blob-shaped EVs, the Mazda MX-30 — with its swooping hood and cabin lines and lovely, thoughtful interior — stands out

While cork may seem like a strange choice, especially given its porous nature (don’t spill things on it or the cork will stain, and oils from your skin can start to attract dirt that can make it look grubby over time), Mazda says that designers intentionally chose the material since the company was a cork manufacturer more than 100 years ago. 

The door sills at the base of the windows where you rest your elbow are made of recycled PET bottles, which gives them a felt-like texture. That soft-touch material makes the interior of the Mazda MX-30 EV seem luxurious and warm despite a minimal dash layout and few buttons. 

The center of the dash is graced by an 8.8-inch infotainment display that is clear and crisp on bright and sunny days and a lower seven-inch touchscreen that controls the HVAC system in the MX-30. Both are well within reach of the driver and passenger, and the top screen can be controlled via the knob just below the gear shifter. The driver’s instrument panel is also a digital seven-inch cluster. Integration of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is seamless if wired, and you’ll still have to use a blend of apps and maps to find the closest chargers and discover whether they’re online. 

The adaptive cruise control is just fine, though I could have done without some of the more aggressive alerts on the MX-30. Blind spot detection is both sensitive and conservative. Even if you have plenty of space to make a lane change, the alarm bells will go off like you’re about to drive into the side of a semi. The seat belt reminders are also somewhat infuriating and go off for an inordinate amount of time when you first climb in.

On the road, the MX-30 is characteristically Mazda. The battery pack that underpins the vehicle is heavy enough to make the small crossover feel planted while not weighing it down. In true EV form, it’s quick off the line thanks to its 200 pound-feet of torque and solid when making a pass on the highway. The MX-30 gets 143 horsepower and is front-wheel drive only, using an 80.9kW motor to power the wheels. While that may not seem like much, it’s plenty in LA traffic. Wind noise is minimal, even at speeds over 70mph. And because Mazda has made and sold so few of the California-only MX-30, it’s rare to see one on the road. 

The bad: nowhere near enough range

The 2022 Mazda MX-30 gets a 35.5kW battery that will get you an EPA-estimated 92 miles of range combined, making the MX-30 one of the shortest-range EVs on the market. For comparison, the 2022 Nissan Leaf with the smaller battery gets 111 miles of range combined, according to the EPA.

In places like Los Angeles, where driving across the metro complex takes you anywhere from an hour and a half to four hours (depending on traffic), that minimal EV range is nowhere near enough. Add in the fact that the 35.5kW battery pack can take only a max charge of 50kW, and you’ve got a perfect storm of range anxiety and infrastructure issues, which I experienced firsthand. 

The MX-30 is one of the shortest-range EVs on the market

My first day with the MX-30 was a cold and rainy one in the Los Angeles area. I hopped in and drove out to Glendora and back, a round trip of 80 miles door-to-door, and what I thought would be a perfect test of the comfort and range for Mazda’s first foray into the EV space. The battery was fully charged as I hit the road, showing a full 100 miles of range. 

By the time I got back, the car had gone into turtle mode, where an image of a turtle shows up on the dashboard when there are fewer than 10 miles of range left. Turtle mode limits performance to maintain range. Luckily, I was able to duck off onto surface streets and find an available 50kW charger to get 10 minutes of charge, boosting my range to around 30 miles remaining. 

Of course, weather and driving conditions affect range, but if this is going to be a real and viable vehicle for normal people to use, I wanted to test it as a normal non-EV-owning person might use it. Sadly, that first trip out proved that, in spite of its spirited driving dynamics and great-looking interior and exterior, the exceedingly tiny range is a real problem for anyone using the MX-30 for more than just commuting to and from locations with available and dedicated chargers at each end. 

Mazda MX-30 EV at a charging station.

Then, there are the charging issues. While the MX-30 can take a DC fast charge, it’s limited to 50kW max. That’s fine since there are a lot of 50kW chargers in the LA area, but many of them in my area don’t work. While that’s not Mazda’s fault, it certainly underlines just how bad the current public EV charging infrastructure in the US is. 

The exceedingly tiny range is a real problem for anyone using the MX-30 for more than just commuting

One Saturday morning, I went out to charge at the same charger I’d used two days before and found that, in the intervening time, the charger had been broken, and no one had come to fix it. I trundled off, firmly in turtle mode once again, to another charger that, according to all of the apps I use, appeared to be in working order. But that one had a broken card reader. I landed at least temporarily on a ChargePoint charger putting out a measly 6.48kW, where I plugged in while I tried to find a working 50kW charger nearby.

Once I located one that looked like it was working, I tried to stop the charge and get on my way. Sadly, the ChargePoint charger I had chosen had some kind of software glitch in the midst of my charge that required me to call the company and have them stop the charge. Then, I had to do a series of lock / unlock sequences on the Mazda to get the cord to finally release. Three hours and six chargers later (not even kidding), I finally had 80 percent charge. 

Sadly, the combination of minimal range and poor public charging served to underline the limited capabilities and range of the MX-30. All in, it’s clear that a sub-100-mile range EV is just not a feasible option for those of us who live in cities and don’t have dedicated charging at home, especially not with the current public EV charging infrastructure. While plenty of BMW i3 fans have mourned the loss of the quirky short-range EV, the MX-30 feels like it’s just plain late to the game and still playing by the range rules that governed the early days of EVs. 

A sub-100-mile range EV is just not competitive or practical in most cities or situations, especially when you consider the rest of the EV landscape and affordable vehicles like the 250-plus-mile range Bolt EV. 

The Mazda MX-30 looks great, is fun to drive, and has plenty of spunk for a city get-around, but if you don’t have dedicated, functional charging at both your start and end points, the minimal range is just not enough. Add in the fact that the 2022 version started at $34,645 for the base trim and climbed as high as $38,650, and the value proposition becomes even less appealing.

A sub-100-mile range EV is just not competitive or practical in most cities or situations

For 2023, Mazda has raised the prices on the MX-30, with a base of $35,385 and $38,395. You can get a Bolt EV with more than 250 miles of range for a starting price of $26,595, and it charges on that same 50kW DC fast charger, regaining around 100 miles in 30 minutes. (Side note: for 2023, Chevy reduced the price of the Bolt EV by $5,900.) In contrast, the MX-30 regains only 80 miles in about 36 minutes, according to Mazda. 

While Mazda has made a three-step commitment to going more electric by 2030, the company’s first foray here in North America is a disappointing one, and it certainly appears to be half-hearted.

Considering that Mazda “sold out” of the 2022 models, with a total of 324 models sold in 2022 in California, I sure hope that the new MX-30 with a range extender (which is still somewhat TBD) is actually somewhere in the future for the North American market. Either that or the company needs to really consider the range in its next EV if it hopes to be competitive in the growing market. As much as I enjoyed driving the 2022 Mazda MX-30, it leaves a lot to be desired. 

Photography by Abigail Bassett for The Verge


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