Car reviews - Mazda - MX-30
Unique packaging, use of different interior trims, comfortable ride, solid NVH levels, good equipment levels.
Room for improvement
Engine desperately needs more torque, hybrid system mild at best, poor rearward visibility from B and C-pillars.
Mazda bolsters compact SUV portfolio with charming and unique MX-30 M Hybrid
31 Mar 2021
MAZDA has long been a strong performer in the compact SUV space, with a long track record of success thanks to its CX-3 crossover, and more recently the slightly larger CX-30.
However the Japanese brand believes there is room for another small SUV entrant, the off-beat MX-30, which by mid-year will herald the arrival of Mazda’s first all-electric vehicle in Australia.
For now, however, the brand is launching the MX-30 with its M Hybrid powertrain, spread across three different variants.
So how does the latest member of Mazda’s compact SUV portfolio stack up?
First drive impressions
While immediately identifiable as a member of Mazda’s SUV line-up with the Kodo design language present, the MX-30 also sports its own unique design touches, starting with a narrow, frameless front grille, circular headlight cluster, and coupe-style rear end with a two-tone roof design, which on high-end versions can be had in a three-tone scheme.
But the signature design element of the MX-30 is the ‘Freestyle’ rear doors last seen on the RX-8 sportscar, which contribute to the overall off-beat styling of the new model.
The result is a vehicle that looks perfectly suited to the MX-30’s target market – young, urban buyers who are after something more than the cookie-cutter SUV.
Moving inside the cabin, the unique design touches continue, with the MX-30’s green credentials reflected in the use of sustainable materials, including fabric made from recycled plastic bottles on the upper door trims and cork on the centre console, itself a callback to Mazda’s origins as a cork-making company.
The varied trims add a differentiation of colour to the cabin and work well with the angular interior design, giving the impression of a vehicle that is at the same time futuristic but grounded in nature.
Even on the base-level Evolve, the MX-30’s interior finish feels fairly premium, with well-upholstered cloth seats and a user-friendly layout.
Although there are a number of cool materials used inside, we would have liked to see a little less black plastic used, particularly on the centre console around the gear lever.
Much of the MX-30’s cabin will be recognisable for those who are familiar with the inside of a new Mazda, with the exception of the all-new air-conditioning cluster, which has been changed to a floating touchscreen display mounted atop the centre console, hiding a storage tray with various charging inputs.
With the help of shortcut buttons either side of the screen, operation of the HVAC controls is simple and easier than a system that uses the touchscreen only.
Speaking of the trend of switching to touchscreens, we are pleased that Mazda has retained the rotary controller and shortcut buttons for the touchscreen display, which makes navigation simpler and more precise when on the move.
The screen is integrated nicely into the dashboard, while all variants come as standard with satellite navigation, DAB+ digital radio and a 7.0-inch instrument cluster display.
From the outside, with its narrow Freestyle doors it could be easy to mistake the MX-30 as a car with barely-usable rear seats, however apart from a fairly snug amount of legroom, the rear pews are relatively comfortable for adults.
The major drawback of the MX-30’s unique packaging is the resulting lack of vision around the B- and C-pillars, which increases the driver’s blind spot and makes for some slightly more uncomfortable lane changes.
Before the arrival of the all-electric powertrain option in the middle of the year, all versions of the MX-30 are powered by a 2.0-litre SkyActiv-G petrol engine producing 114kW/200Nm, driving the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.
The petrol mill is supplemented by a 24-volt integrated starter-generator (ISG) which the brand says helps refinement and can extent the length of start-stop engine deactivation.
While a smooth and pleasant engine to drive when pushed gently, the SkyActiv-G mill feels underpowered, particularly for torque, with a deficiency of grunt when accelerating that leaves the engine having to work harder than it should in normal driving situations.
When accelerating up hills the little four-pot has to work overtime, which makes us wonder why the torquier SkyActiv-X compression-ignition petrol engine (132kW/224Nm) wasn’t used instead.
The hybrid element of the engine could have also been more pronounced, with the 24-volt ISG contributing little in the way of fuel-saving or power delivery apart from slightly extending the length of time the petrol engine is shut off when coming to a stop.
However once up to speed, the SkyActiv-G engine proved to be smooth and quiet, with few complaints, although those looking for a bit of performance thrown into their small SUV should probably look elsewhere.
The MX-30 is the third Mazda vehicle on sale in Australia to utilise the brand’s new-generation small-car architecture along with the Mazda3 and CX-30, and the results are clear to see.
While Mazdas of the past have suffered from a tinny build feel and average noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels, the MX-30 steps things up with a well built and quiet cabin, with minimal noise intrusion from the road and engine bay.
Even travelling at high speeds, the cabin is a pleasant place to be, making for a marked improvement over previous compact Mazdas.
The new platform also has benefits elsewhere. Despite employing a more basic torsion-beam rear suspension set-up, the MX-30’s ride comfort is commendable, dealing well with bumps and imperfections at both high and low speeds.
On-road composure is excellent, with the feeling that the car has a larger footprint than it actually does.
Handling-wise, the MX-30 has a light and easy steering feel and handles bends in a way typical of Mazdas with a nimble attitude.
Mazda isn’t expecting large sales volume with the MX-30, with a targeted sales figure of around 2400 units per year.
The MX-30 seems well suited to provide a more niche offering in the segment with some personality and panache, in a package that stands out well from the pack.
The addition of the EV will add an extra element of appeal to the MX-30, and hopefully some much-needed torque as well.
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Model release date: 1 April 2021
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