Automotive

What Is Mazda Doing?


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Image: Mazda

The Mazda MX-30 is a weird electric pseudo-crossover that is sort of too small and raked in the back to really be a crossover, with RX-8-style rear-hinged half doors. It’s also due to get paltry range among modern EVs, with the EPA quoting 100 miles on a single charge. And this week Mazda released the pricing for it here in the U.S., where it’ll start at $34,470 before incentives.

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Who does Mazda actually expect to buy this thing? Does Mazda expect anyone to buy this thing?

Sure, there’s an argument to be made for the inexpensive commuter EV, the sort of frugal runabout the market has been missing. My coworker David believes getting folks into EVs as quickly as possible necessitates lots of low-range, cheap options. Lawrence, another coworker, agreed but cautioned that Mazda is eyeing California for the MX-30’s American debut, and 100 miles is cutting it awfully tight for the average Golden State commuter.

We can argue all day about the value of the mythical sub-$20K EV that isn’t too nice and can’t drive too far, or why American drivers should be real with themselves and cool it with their range anxiety. But the MX-30 is not the vehicle that should be at the center of that debate — not when a nice one will still cost $30K after credits. Prices could dip into the mid $20K range with the additional rebates offered in California, as CarsDirect points out, though once availability extends to other states that won’t hold always true. Besides, those discounts apply to other EVs, too.

The electric Mini Cooper SE — which is 21 inches shorter in length than the MX-30, five inches shorter in height and two inches narrower — starts a smidge under $30K before destination. It’s rated at 114 miles. The Chevrolet Bolt begins at $31K and returns 259 miles. Even the base Nissan Leaf, which I know people pretend doesn’t exist, offers 149 miles of range for the base $27,400 S trim. Toss in a $7,500 federal tax credit, and the Leaf slides under that $20K commuter EV threshold.

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Hey — for what it’s worth, the interior looks swell.

Hey — for what it’s worth, the interior looks swell.
Image: Mazda

Mazda makes cars that are gorgeous inside and out — in my opinion, anyway — that tend to be enjoyable behind the wheel. Sure, I prefer the MX-30’s looks to those of the aforementioned reasonably-priced EVs, but I don’t have my hopes high for the “fun-to-drive” part of that statement to hold true. The MX-30’s front axle-mounted electric motor produces just 143 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque. A plug-in hybrid version with a rotary range extender is still in the cards, according to The Detroit News. But there’s very little going for the MX-30 as it will launch, and the low range-to-dollars ratio would seem to disqualify it in our range-obsessed market.

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Granted, Mazda does have an unusual plan to counter that. For the first three years of ownership, MX-30 buyers will be able to loan other, gas-powered vehicles in the brand’s range for up to 10 days out of the year. Of course, this will matter not at all to secondhand customers. (Speaking of which, I shudder to think how limited an MX-30’s range could be five years into its lifespan.) Buyers will also receive a $500 ChargePoint credit that can be spent at stations or on home charger installation.

Having given it lots of thought, I’m no closer to figuring out what particular customer the MX-30 is for. There are cuter EVs, cheaper EVs, EVs that offer more utility and many others that go further for the money. Maybe the MX-30’s not for anyone — just Mazda’s government compliance.

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In any case, if you decide it is for you, the MX-30 will start appearing in California showrooms in October.

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