YOKOHAMA, Japan — The spunky MX-30, Mazda’s first mass-market electric vehicle, has quirky design details galore thanks to its one-size-fits-all approach.
It rides on a versatile platform engineered for a variety of electrified drivetrains, including a mild-hybrid version and a full-electric variant. And next up will be a rotary engine-powered offering that can run as a series hybrid or possibly a plug-in. The U.S. is expected to get both the EV and rotary versions as early as next year.
But the MX-30 is also a compromise car.
It is not quite a crossover, nor a hatchback. It technically has four doors, but it aims for a coupe feel, with rear doors that swing backward. And it comes in both all-wheel drive and front-wheel drive.
A test drive of the e-Skyactiv full-electric version here highlighted some of the design compromises of trying to serve multiple segments.
For starters, there is the wasted space. A dedicated EV might offer ample rear cargo space since there’s no gas tank. But the MX-30 EV still has to leave room for where the fuel tank would be, and as a result, its cargo area goes barely deeper than the bumper.
Because the layout also has to accommodate the awd mild-hybrid version, a propeller shaft tunnel runs between the seats — even though it isn’t needed in the EV version. So as competitors extol their flat floors and expansive interiors, Mazda’s EV has an unnecessary hump.
Up front, the EV has a half-empty engine compartment: Its electric motor and inverter occupy one half, while the other side is wide open to allow installation of the rotary engine for the range-extender version coming down the road.
There is also a gaping cavity leading to the center tunnel, where the prop shaft would be on the mild hybrid.
Interior space comes at a premium. The rear seats are hard to access through the backward-opening doors. The airlinerlike back windows translate to poor rear visibility — both from the driver’s seat and the back seats. The rear seats have sufficient headroom, but they are more geared toward small children and handbags.
But the MX-30 still gets some Mazda-esque flourishes.
The recycled cork trim on the interior is a nice touch. And so is the engineered electronic sound to accompany acceleration, which transforms the EV’s typical electric motor whining hum into more of a familiar Mazda engine growl.
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