Mazda MX-30 M Hybrid 2021 first drive review

Moving Well | Tim Nicholson | Posted on 31 March 2021

Tim Nicholson gets behind the wheel of Mazda’s newest model line, the MX-30 hybrid.

It’s not every day that Mazda launches a completely new nameplate, so the MX-30 comes with a bit of buzz. It’s the first dedicated Mazda eco car line, comprising a mild hybrid version arriving in April, and a full battery electric version landing later in the year. The boldly styled MX-30 is a small coupe-style SUV with unusual freestyle rear doors (inspired by the RX-8 rotary sports coupe from 2003) that open rearwards to 80 degrees, and an interior that’s bathed in recycled and sustainable materials. So it’s not your typical compact SUV. In fact, the MX nomenclature – also used for the iconic MX-5 roadster and short-lived MX-6 coupe – stands for ‘Mazda Experiment’.

Mazda Australia says the MX-30 is a niche offering that will appeal to “design focused and environmentally friendly buyers”, including singles, couples and empty nesters. The M Hybrid should find about 200 new buyers a month – well off the circa-1000 sales a month of the related CX-30 SUV. The MX-30 will get a further boost when the EV arrives in a few months.

What do you get for the price?

The MX-30 M Hybrid is available in three model grades, starting at $33,990 before on-road costs for the entry G20e Evolve, then $36,490 for the G20e Touring and $40,990 for the G20e Astina. It’s between $1500 and $2500 dearer than equivalent CX-30 variants, so you’re paying for the unique design and mild hybrid powertrain.

It’s hard to pinpoint direct rivals to the MX-30 because of its quirky vibe, but people might consider the Mini hatch, Citroen C3 Aircross or other design-led small SUVs like the Nissan Juke, Ford Puma, or Toyota C-HR.

From the entry grade, Mazda has included a generous amount of standard equipment – including rain-sensing wipers, 8.8-inch Mazda Connect multimedia display, 7.0-inch multi-information meter display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, eight-speaker audio system with DAB+ digital radio and Bluetooth audio, satellite navigation, dual-zone climate control with touchscreen controls, auto-dimming interior rear-view mirror – and that increases with each higher model grade.

How safe is it?

The MX-30 M Hybrid and EV have been awarded a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating, achieving a high score of 93 per cent for adult-occupant protection and 87 per cent for child-occupant protection. An impressive list of safety gear is offered as standard across the range including 10 airbags, blind-spot monitoring, driver-attention alert, adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking, traffic-sign recognition, rear parking sensors and reversing camera.
 

Mazda MX-30 M Hybrid 2021
Mazda MX-30 M Hybrid 2021
Mazda MX-30 M Hybrid 2021

 

What’s it like inside?

Before we get to the inside, let’s take a look at the outside. The MX-30 takes Mazda’s Kodo ‘design language’ to a new level – it’s undeniably bold and might not suit everyone’s taste. The coupe-like roofline and upright windscreen make for an interesting silhouette. The clean design of the front end is visually striking, as are the circular tail-lights at the rear. You can option three different three-tone colour schemes, with a black roof and silver or grey pillars. The single colour option is our pick.

Inside, Mazda is pushing the MX-30’s green credentials with the use of recycled and sustainable materials throughout. Cork left over from the production of bottle stoppers is used on some surfaces. It looks cool and references Mazda’s beginnings as a cork manufacturer back in 1920. A felt-like fabric on door inserts and other parts of the cabin is made from recycled PET bottles, while the seat fabric sections use up to 20 per cent recycled thread. The outer sections of the beautifully designed contrast seats use ‘Maztex’ fake leather.

The MX-30 elevates Mazda’s already impressive, minimalist approach to interior design with the addition of a ‘floating’ centre console with storage underneath, and digital climate controls. It feels high quality and looks gorgeous. The only criticism of the front of the cabin is the size of the infotainment screen, which is wide enough, but too narrow.

The MX-30 just about matches the dimensions of the mechanically related CX-30, but the rear-door situation makes it an entirely different proposition. While they look cool and reference an iconic Mazda model, it’s a case of style over function. They’re easy to open but getting in and out is a chore. Once in the rear, leg room is tight and when the doors are closed, it feels dark back there because of the massive B-pillars which also cause a blind spot.

What’s under the bonnet?

The mild hybrid powertrain consists of Mazda’s 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine – also found in the CX-3, CX-30 and more – paired with a 24-volt battery with regenerative braking and an advanced engine stop-start system. The latter aids smoother, lag-free acceleration, according to Mazda. It’s front-wheel drive only and matched with a six-speed automatic transmission.

A mild hybrid differs from a regular hybrid system in that the battery is connected to the starter motor and alternator which allows the vehicle to shut down the petrol engine for short periods of time, such as when you’re coasting or at traffic lights. The battery recharges through regenerative braking and deceleration.

The MX-30 has a MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension setup and rides on 18-inch alloy wheels.
 

Mazda MX-30 M Hybrid 2021
Mazda MX-30 M Hybrid 2021

 

Is is efficient?

Regular hybrids usually boast impressive fuel consumption compared with their internal combustion engine counterparts. A mild hybrid, however, reduces the figures only slightly. The MX-30 M Hybrid has an official combined-cycle fuel figure of 6.4 litres per 100 kilometres. The CX-30 front-wheel drive auto, which uses the same engine but without the mild hybrid setup, drinks 6.5L/100km – a negligible difference. The MX-30 emits 150g/km of CO2 from the Euro 5 engine.

How does it drive?

Being based on the underpinnings of the excellent Mazda 3 and CX-30, it’s little surprise that the MX-30 is an engaging on-road performer.

It offers sharp steering and decent, if muted, acceleration. It’s difficult to determine the difference in responsiveness compared to the non-hybrid 2.0L CX-30 without a back-to-back comparison, but it’s quick enough off the mark.

The front-drive MX-30 didn’t miss a beat on slippery roads around the Yarra Valley for our launch drive. It feels stable and flat on patchy road surfaces. The ride quality is impressive, soaking up all but the sharpest road imperfections. As with other new Mazda models, the cabin is very well insulated from outside noise.

The MX-30 is fun to drive, but it doesn’t seem to hug corners as well as the all-wheel-drive 2.5-litre Mazda CX-30 G25 we drove last year.

Should I buy one?

If you’re after something that doesn’t look like every other compact SUV on your street, but you also value reliability and quality, then the MX-30 could be for you. But if practicality wins over quirkiness, stick with the more conventional, but still stylish, CX-30. Our brief time in the MX-30 has us intrigued, but we reckon the forthcoming EV version will be a more convincing proposition.