The 2021 Mazda MX-30 Hybrid is an interesting and important entrant in what is now a crowded space globally.
Interesting, in that we expected the electric version to arrive either ahead of the hybrid or at least at the same time. And important because there is no doubt whatsoever that a move to hybrid, and eventually full electric, is where the market is taking buyers. Whether they like it or not. This car is Mazda's toe in the water.
Hybrid vehicles – whether they be ‘closed loop’ like what Toyota has traditionally done, or plug-in like plenty of other brands, often cop a bad rap. Seen as an interim technology, they don’t get the plaudits they deserve for aiding fuel efficiency, or for the cases where they deliver a useful electric-only range.
In the real world, though, and the way we drive right now in 2021, there is a strong case to be made. The system Mazda has opted for here, though, is a 'mild hybrid', which we'll look at a little closer below as well.
Therefore, the question to be answered by the MX-30 Hybrid is less about whether it lives up to Mazda’s zoom-zoom drivability and affordable premium philosophy, and more about whether it can deliver real-world efficiency to match the funky styling.
You can read our pricing and specification guide, or Susannah’s prototype experience as well, beyond our first-drive review here. A quick check of the main facts, then, with pricing first. Three models make up the Mazda range, with the G20e Evolve starting from $33,990, the G20e Touring starting from $36,490, and the range-topping G20e Astina starting from $40,990, all before on-road costs.
The 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine is paired with a 24-volt mild-hybrid system and makes 114kW at 6000rpm and 200Nm at 4000rpm. The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and then FWD. Weighing in at 1492kg, the MX-30 certainly isn’t a lightweight by any means, but it’s not a super heavyweight either.
Claimed fuel use is 6.4L/100km on the combined cycle. We tend not to test fuel use on launch drives because we can’t control the driving scenarios, but we saw mid eights for most of our country drive loop.
One reason the fuel efficiency isn't as stark as you might expect is the fact that this system is a mild hybrid. It doesn't work in the same way that Toyota's hybrid drive system does, for example. It isn't meant to either, but it's worth making the point here in any case.
Mazda's system uses a small Integrated Starter Generator (ISG), which captures energy that, according to Mazda, would usually be wasted during braking. The system captures and then stores that energy to power the vehicle's electrical systems, in theory reducing the load on the system and saving fuel in the process. It can, under ideal situations, also power the car's electrical systems.
That's as simple as the explanation can be, and in effect it means that the system employed here won't be as efficient in fuel-usage terms in the real world as the system you might be used to that Toyota uses. There's no doubt, though, that this kind of technology is another step toward more efficient ways of capturing and using any energy that would have previously gone into the ether.
|2021 Mazda MX-30 M-Hybrid|
|Engine||2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine with 24V mild-hybrid system|
|Power and torque||114kW @ 6000rpm, 200Nm @ 4000rpm|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||6.4L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||8.5L/100km|
|Boot volume||311L (Wagon)|
|ANCAP safety rating (year tested)||Five stars (2020)|
|Warranty||5 years/unlimited kilometres|
|Main competitors||Toyota C-HR Hybrid, Subaru XV Hybrid|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||From $33,990|
The first thing you will notice about the MX-30 is its styling. Or ‘design language’ as car companies like to call it. There’s no doubt the design provides a solid link to Mazda’s past, especially so the rear-hinged doors that hark strongly back to the RX-8. Mazda calls them ‘freestyle doors’ and they are nothing if not useful. More on that in a minute.
Despite the up-to-date styling, Mazda has promised from the outset that the MX-30 will blend that nod to the past with modern finishes and drivetrains. Features like the three-tone exterior colour scheme, cylindrical LED headlights and the doors make for an attractive presence out on the road.
Beyond the funky trimming – like the environmentally friendly cork inside the centre console – the MX-30 feels a lot like the CX-30 from behind the wheel. That is, it feels and presents exactly as we expect a Mazda to. The cork is an interesting touch, and the floating centre console is useful and practical, along with the new 7.0-inch touchscreen, which controls the air-conditioning.
The cabin is fully synthetic, with recycled PET materials also featuring. It doesn’t present as or feel tacky, though. Rather, it looks and feels pretty avant-garde when you first take it in.
The MX-30 certainly delivers on Mazda’s recent history of accessible premium, though, inside the cabin. It’s quiet and insulated, with the only road noise we heard detectable at highway speed on coarse-chip surfaces. Getting into and out of the cabin is easy thanks to the doors, which open broadly to such an extent, you wonder why all manufacturers aren’t doing it.
The front doors open to 82 degrees, in other words almost square, while even the rears open to 80 degrees. Getting into the second row isn’t as easy as the front, but it’s a practical occasional space or for short trips around town. Once you’re in, there’s more room than you expect from the outside. Where the second row does present a challenge is for tall occupants. That said, however, if you need to transport tall passengers in the second row regularly, this isn’t the SUV for you.
The drive out on the open road is again pretty much as we expect from Mazda. The engine is willing and competent, and while there’s some engine noise that enters the cabin, it’s not harsh or jarring. The gearbox is smooth at just about any speed, and it works neatly around town when you’re on and off the throttle constantly. Stop/start works well enough, but as with most systems, I’d be turning it off every time I started the MX-30 if I were an owner. Personal preference that one.
If you’ve never driven a hybrid vehicle, or don’t pay much attention to the seat-of-the-pants sensation, the MX-30 is so smooth you probably won’t notice anything going on around you. It’s inoffensive and unobtrusive at all times, regardless of the road speed or what you’re asking the drivetrain to do.
If you go into an MX-30 test drive expecting it to feel like you’re behind the wheel of an MX-5, you won’t get quite what you expect, but it will impress. It’s got that signature connected feel that Mazda takes pride in, it rides neatly and isn’t easily upset on bumpy roads, and it’s punchy enough to make a drive enjoyable.
It’s not a sports car, and that’s the challenge for any manufacturer in this segment. Trying to make a compact SUV behave like a sports car isn’t the easiest engineering feat in the world. Especially when the weight comes into play.
Still, the MX-30 does what the buyer will expect without too much fuss. It’s a balanced and comfortable all-rounder, with the chops to do what buyers want it to do. It’s not as efficient as it might be in the real world, but it’s more efficient than it would be without the hybrid system.
The fact that Australian buyers love this segment as much as they do, not to mention hybrid technology, which they are moving to in increasing numbers, bodes well for the 2021 Mazda MX-30. It’s a solid offering and delivers on the promise we expect from Mazda. It's also a stylish counterpoint to sometimes bland design in the small-SUV ranks.