Mazda CX-30 2021 x20 astina (awd) m hybrid

2021 Mazda MX-30 M Hybrid and Electric review: Quick drive

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At first glance, it's tricky to distinguish the all-electric MX-30 from its mild-hybrid counterpart. But take it for a spin, and you'll know where your heart lies.
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Australian Mazda shoppers will soon encounter an all-new offering on local showroom floors, with the imminent arrival of the MX-30 small SUV.

Boasting a distinctive design that's a nod to Mazda's history – from the RX-8-inspired freestyle doors to the cork accents on the interior – the MX-30 will blend heritage with future-proof powertrains.

It will touch down in its first iteration as a mild-hybrid, with the MX-30 M Hybrid going on sale from April 1st, 2021.

Later, it will be joined by the full electric MX-30 – which will likely land in a single specification grade before the end of 2021 – with Mazda Australia also expressing interest in bringing an extended-range electric model here sometime in 2022.

Ahead of the M Hybrid's official local launch, CarAdvice was granted early access to two pre-production pilot vehicles for a quick test drive at Holden's former Lang Lang proving ground in Victoria.

Although both pilot vehicles had not been subjected to final tuning and production requirements, they offered a solid glimpse as to what to expect from the respective top-spec offerings in both mode line-ups.

The Mazda MX-30 M Hybrid is powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine, paired with Mazda’s own ‘M Hybrid’ mild hybrid system and sending power to front wheels via a six-speed automatic.

Meanwhile, the MX-30 EV features a 35.5kWh lithium-ion battery pack with a 107kW/271Nm electric motor. It's also front-wheel drive, with a single-speed automatic transmission.

Mazda claims the car can be recharged from 20 to 80 per cent battery capacity in three hours on a 6.6kW AC socket, or in 36 minutes on a 50kw DC fast charger.

Engine configuration2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine with mild-hybrid system35.5kWh lithium-ion battery with electric motor
Power and torque114kW @ 6000 rpm, 200Nm @ 4000 pm107kW @ 4500-11,000rpm, 271Nm @ 0 - 3243rpm
TransmissionSix-speed automaticSingle-speed automatic
Drive typeFront-wheel driveFront-wheel drive
Kerb weight1492kg1654kg
Fuel economy (combined cycle)6.4L/100kmN/A
Cargo volume311L311L
Ground clearance (laden)180mm130mm
Electric rangeN/A224km (200km WLTP)

Behind the wheel of the M Hybrid, existing Mazda owners are likely to find it feels somewhat familiar, with the MX-30's dimensions closely mirroring that of the CX-30 small SUV already on sale.

Styling is the key delineator between the MX-30 range and the rest of Mazda's line-up, with both variants scoring unique aesthetic additions such as an optional three-tone exterior colour scheme, a floating centre console with cork accents and a new 7.0-inch lower touchscreen to access the climate controls.

Otherwise, those unfamiliar with a mild-hybrid powertrain are unlikely to notice much difference straight off the bat.

Moderate engine noise is detectable in the cabin but far from intrusive, although it can begin to sound a bit challenged as you ascend to higher speeds, though any vibration remains virtually non-existent.

The M Hybrid system lowers the car's fuel consumption by recovering energy from vehicle deceleration and cutting in to shut down the engine before the car comes to a stop, but you likely won't notice all of this behind-the-scenes action thanks to the smooth transitions.

The handling has Mazda's trademark engaging feel, with moderately weighted steering that's both easy to manage and agile.

At higher speeds, the steering does lose some of its edge when tackling corners and could benefit from more precision, but it's perfectly suited to around-town driving.

Ride comfort is good, but you will notice the reverberations from some road irregularities making their way up through the cabin, with the car splitting the difference between hatchback and all-out SUV.

Visibility is respectable for a car of this size thanks to the elevated driving position, although rearward visibility is impeded by the rear passenger headrests, but the head-up display in our test car, plus the dash-mounted upper infotainment screen, were perfectly placed for use while on the move.

There's plenty of power on tap from the engine, and it's delivered smoothly and efficiently from a standing start by the six-speed automatic which shifts through gears without complaints.

Switching into the Sport drive mode will offer drivers a more pronounced engine note and slightly quicker throttle response, but few would accuse the M Hybrid of being "sporty".

In fact, at higher speeds, you might notice some body roll from the M Hybrid despite its smaller stature, with the freeway handling feel tending more towards a medium SUV than a hot hatch.

Switching into the MX-30 Electric, it immediately feels like the lighter, more nimble car – despite weighing in at roughly 160kg more than the M Hybrid due to its electric powertrain.

However, the placement of the battery – low underneath the floor at the front of the vehicle – actually adds to the dynamic driving feel, with the lower centre of gravity eliminating some of the body roll present in the M Hybrid.

Mazda has gone to great lengths to avoid the new-age trap other manufacturers have fallen into, where powertrains are given quirky robot noises and traditional switchgear is swapped out for futuristic buttons.

Internal-combustion-engine devotees will be immediately comforted by the subtle sound of an engine – or engine-adjacent – noise being emitted through a sound generator, which increases and decreases in line with acceleration and deceleration.

Mazda also made a pointed decision to keep a traditional gearstick in lieu of a reworked gear shifter, and the instruments cluster mimics that of a conventional car, but provides live information on battery consumption and whether the vehicle is using power, or recouping charge.

It's also not quite like other electric cars in on-road feel, either. While EV aficionados may crave that instant torque off the line and the ensuing 'warp-speed' sensation it creates, the MX-30 is a little more measured in its power delivery.

Of course, acceleration is quicker and more effortless than in the M Hybrid, but it's subdued compared to the sensation you'd experience in, say, a Tesla Model 3 or a Mini Electric.

The electric offering sits lower to the road than the mild-hybrid and the body certainly feels flatter and more evenly balanced, with more agility on offer that can make the steering feel more accurate at higher speeds.

Like most other electric cars, the MX-30 Electric also employs regenerative braking to prolong battery life, using the friction from the slowing car to charge the battery.

You can manage the feel of this regenerative braking via the paddle shifters on the wheel and, while one-pedal driving is possible (meaning the slowing from decelerating is so effective you won't need to use the brakes), it's less of a drastic sensation than in other electric cars.

Despite this more demure take on an electric powertrain, the MX-30 Electric is indisputably the more exciting car to drive, with nimble handling and a quicker, sportier energy than its mild-hybrid counterpart.

According to Mazda, the electric MX-30 offers up to 200km of combined driving range on the WLTP cycle, which is notably lower than some of the MX-30's key competitors like the Hyundai Kona, which offers up to 449km on the WLTP cycle.

In both cars, access to the backseat is challenging for adult occupants. While the rear doors open up to 80-degrees, they sit quite far forward, meaning some passengers might have to contort themselves to comfortably get through the opening.

Once inside, the backseat has limited legroom and headroom, as opposed to the front seat which offers ample headroom and elbow room and feels light and bright with the inclusion of the sunroof on our test cars.

The MX-30 M Hybrid likely won’t struggle to find fans in Australia – we tend to love small SUVs, we know hybrid sales are on the rise and, all in all, it feels like a familiar Mazda product that will act as a gateway vehicle for Mazda buyers to enter the big, new world of electrification.

But while the MX-30 Electric certainly presents as the more engaging, exciting car when you're behind the wheel, it's likely to remain a niche proposition due to its measly electric range, which will quickly be outdone by key competitors.

It's something Mazda Australia is already aware of, with Marketing and Product Director Alastair Doak telling CarAdvice: “The MX-30 as a whole a niche product and then, probably, the EV is a niche within that niche [because] no one is really selling EVs in large numbers."

The yet-to-be-announced price will also play a huge part in the EV's popularity, given it's most likely to serve as a secondary city car for many buyers.

Regardless, the MX-30 range in its entirety is likely to speak to style-conscious shoppers and existing Mazda owners by being a little bit different – but not too much.

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