Opinion: Mazda MX-30 is an apology to the planet for the RX-8

Mazda MX-30 doors open

Calm yourself, because the use of the ‘MX’ prefix doesn’t herald the arrival of a new Mazda sports car to sit alongside the MX-5.

That may come, but in the meantime, the MX-30 is yet another SUV, albeit one with an all-electric powertrain. It’s Mazda’s way of saying sorry for the RX-8 and its lust for petrol, oil and rotor tips.

“With the MX-5 we created a sporty two seater when the roadster had been dismissed by other manufacturers,” says Mazda, as it attempts to justify the ‘MX’ prefix. That’s as maybe, but an electric SUV is hardly akin to challenging convention and going against the flow.

Mazda MX-30 opinion

Still, it is Mazda’s first electric car, so it’s breaking the boundaries of ‘Zoom Zoom’ at the very least. ‘Hush Hush’, perhaps?

Mazda hasn’t launched a bad looking car for a very long time. Its crossovers are desirable, its hatchbacks are smart, and the company has managed to achieve the unthinkable by making a compact saloon look elegant.

The jury is out on the MX-30. Far be it for me to comment on aesthetics, but it’s not the most cohesive of designs. The roof reminds me of the Mazda 121 ‘bowler hat’ (no bad thing, granted), the ‘suicide doors’ (labelled ‘freestyle’ by Mazda) are a practical nod to the RX-8, while the rear end just looks startled and surprised.

Mazda MX-30 rear

There are no such concerns on the inside, with the MX-30 featuring eco-friendly materials – no cows need to lose their jacket in the name of this Mazda. The vegan-friendly seats look superb, the cork-based centre console is excellent, and the overall effect reminds me of a new take on the BMW i3 formula. Nice job.

So far, so good. Not that you’ll be driving that far on a single charge. Mazda says the ‘right-sized battery’ provides a range of 125 miles, arguing that this exceeds the 30-mile average daily drive of the European customer.

That’s as maybe, but I believe the current crop of electric cars are hampered by what I’d call ‘Cinderella anxiety’. Just as Cinderella’s coach would be turned back into a pumpkin if she wasn’t home by midnight, many motorists believed a car would reach the end of its useful life at 100,000 miles.

Mazda MX-30 cabin

A range of 100 to 150 miles is the modern ‘Cinderella’. We’ve grown accustomed to getting 400 or so miles out of a tank of fuel – 125 miles is the kind of level you start to think about filling up. Although fuel and electricity cannot be compared, it will take a major shift for motorists to think differently.

Which is why research suggests that more buyers will be turned on by electricity when 300 miles of range is the norm. The MX-30’s range would be acceptable in a city car or supermini, but not so much in a five-seat SUV. An estimated £30,000 is too much for a car that doesn’t offer the prospect of visiting the in-laws at the weekend.

I have little doubt that the MX-30 will be great to drive – Mazda’s range of cars tend to be class-leaders in that department. Engineers have integrated the battery into the body structure to improve body stiffness and rigidity. An electric SUV that’s as good to drive as the Mazda 2 and 3? Don’t bet against it.

Mazda MX-30 seats

The thing is, most buyers care more about range than they do about dynamics, so the MX-30’s figure might be too much of an obstacle. Two years on, when the MX-30 goes on sale in the UK, 300 miles of electric range might be the norm, while a network of ultra-fast chargers should make EV ownership a more realistic proposition for more people.

The Mazda MX-30 might feel as outmoded and out of touch as the RX-8, although the prospect of a range-extender with a rotary engine is as appealing as an electric sports car. Bring it on.