By on October 23, 2019

Image: Mazda

Mazda put the future on display at the Tokyo Motor Show on Wednesday, unwrapping a battery-electric crossover that thankfully gives us something a little avant-garde to look at.

The brand’s compact EV makes things interesting not by offering a 130-mile range and relatively small battery pack (35.5 kWh), but by employing a team of designers to boost visual appeal in an otherwise bland segment. Kodo design language is front and center here, as is a cabin designed to instill a sense of openness. Materials that only Mazda could get excited about abound. Yet that’s not the MX-30’s most striking feature.

It’s about time another automaker returned to clamshell doors.

Image: Mazda

The upcoming MX-30, not to be confused with the MX-3 Precidia, dispenses with conventional front-hinged rear doors bolted to the B-pillar in favor of a clamshell configuration, harkening back to such icons as the Mazda RX-8, Saturn Ion Quad Coupe, and Honda Element. Maybe the 2000s weren’t such a bad time for autos?

Currently employed only by the oddball BMW i3 and Ford’s F-150 SuperCab in the mainstream vehicle realm, the door design is something Mazda teased us about earlier in the week. Both side doors swing wide (80 degrees or more), aiding ingress and egress, especially for passengers headed to that wonderfully non-futuristic rear bench. A floating center console frees up more interior volume.

Image: Mazda

The models specs are less impressive, as 130 miles is barely more than you’d find in a lowly Volkswagen E-Golf or Hyundai Ioniq Electric. Mazda claims the smaller battery pack makes this EV greener than others, as, you know, those rare-earth battery materials don’t just appear out of thin air. As well, there’s a rotary-powered range extender variant on the way, probably bound for the L.A. Auto Show next month. That’s a model Americans might be interested in. Sadly, no word on U.S. availability just yet.

Image: Mazda

Power from this European-market model amounts to 141 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, sufficient for a compact, front-drive crossover. However, the automaker assures us we’ll hear that power in the cabin, with “aural feedback” provided to enable drivers “to subconsciously recognize the torque status of the power unit and thus control vehicle speed with greater precision.”

Inside the MX-30, you’ll find cork trim sourced from the bark of living trees and door trim cobbled together from old plastic bottles. And, as one would expect, Mazda waxes poetic about the emotions these materials are meant to stimulate. There’s no one-pedal driving, though, as the MX-30’s accelerator pedal can not be used as a brake just by backing off the throttle. Regenerative braking is still present.

Image: Mazda

While the swap from Skyactiv gas engines to an e-Skyactiv electric powertrain is a big move for Mazda, the brand says its first mass-market electric won’t leave drivers feeling cold. In this model, the brand’s G-Vectoring Control (GVC) becomes e-GVC Plus, modulating the motor’s torque output during wheel inputs for better road manners.

It’s expected that North American customers will see the MX-30 in the near future, but for now, all we can do is stare at this European model sitting in a Japanese auto show and wonder about pricing. Stay tuned.

[Images: Mazda]

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39 Comments on “Mazda MX-30: Down With Gasoline (and B-pillars)...”


  • avatar
    Hummer

    All of the worst design traits of the 90s, 00s, and 10s neatly wrapped in one hopelessly dull lot weight.

    • 0 avatar
      YaMoBeThere

      Totally agree.

      First Honda ignores the U.S. with the hotness that is the e and now Mazda dookies the bed with this, tough times…

    • 0 avatar
      forward_look

      Totally disagree.

      It’s not too high or too low. They’ve put in sliding front seats so you can get your stuff in the back. The grille doesn’t look like a gaping maw like other Mazdas. The top screen isn’t huge and tacked-on like other Mazdas and Tesla. If the smallish battery makes it affordable, I’ll have a look. 130 miles is my bladder’s limit anyhow, and that gets us to the grandkids.

    • 0 avatar
      TimK

      I thought the same when looking at this travesty. If nothing else, at least Mazda used to rock some interesting designs. The studios at the majors must have bowls of cannabis gummies in the break rooms.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    Why the tiny windows? Clamshell doors? Saturn ion coupe and rx8…ok for a coupe not a family car or anyone who wants 4 doors. Why the unnessecarily huge center console?

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Obviously this is meant to be the modern coupé, not a family car. A young couple, maybe. Empty nest? Much more likely. Clearly intended to be an economical, practical, FUN little rig.

      I just pointed this thing out to my wife. This could press her buttons… if it comes in the right color.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Finally, Mazda showed how to design electric car. Learn kids

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    Horribly compromised design.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I actually like the design (I can already tell comments about that are going to be mixed though).
    However, it really either needs 60 more hp or 100 more miles of range (or both).
    Price and availability are important information we’re obviously missing right now.

    • 0 avatar
      Astigmatism

      Couldn’t agree more on the range. When I first saw this yesterday it struck me as an ideal replacement for my wife’s CX-5: we’re DINKs with a dog, she no longer needs to get scuba gear all up and down the east coast, and she wants an electric. But when Hyundai is selling 300-mile Konas, why would you even consider this?

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        The rotary range extender will be a critical factor for many buyers. As far as I’m concerned, I’d prefer 300 miles+ on battery alone, as long as it has access to high-speed chargers.

  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    Can’t decide if I like it or not-

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Yawn. RX-9 or declare Ch 11.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Here’s a question for the B&B….

    If enough people eventually buy these juice cars, presumably this cuts demand for gasoline and MY costs go down. But will the increased demand on electricity raise my utility bills?

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I suspect collusion within the refining industry will ensure your costs never go down but only fluctuate with WTI/Brent pricing. In fact the Governor of PRK just yesterday publicly called on his attorney general to investigate such collusion (in order to deflect from all the additional costs the state imposes, but I digress)

      https://ktvl.com/news/local/newsom-calls-on-attorney-general-to-investigate-gas-prices-10-23-2019

      Regarding your utility bills, I think such costs would not be substantial failing a huge shift on demand (say 20% of all drivers nationwide). However I will point out many electric utilities will begin to get out of control I believe due to the upcoming shutdown of a number of aged nuclear plants. The reasoning is two fold, 1. X amount of electricity will go offline which must be replaced by new nat gas generation just to break even to now and 2. nuclear power plant decommissioning is extremely expensive. San Onofre was estimated in 2018 to cost $4.4 billion for SoCal Ed.

      “In 2018, SCE estimated the total decommissioning cost of the project at $4.4 billion and the operator is due to submit its next decommissioning cost report in 2021.”

      https://analysis.nuclearenergyinsider.com/san-onofre-operator-eyes-major-dismantling-start-q1-2020

      This is one of those infrastructure/national security things where it was critical to NOT waste trillions in the Middle East for no ROI and NOT spend billions to overthrow gov’ts in Libya and Ukraine to accomplish… yeah what was that for again? I think the only politicriminal to point this out recently was Tulsi Gabbard, but maybe I’m wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      Peter Gazis

      Indi500fan

      Electricity demand is highest in the day time when factories, schools and businesses are all open. Most people charge at night, when up to 40% of electricity goes unused. Electricity cost per kilowatt hour should come down.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Many analysis show that we’re far away from many people buying these. And even if they do, we are having a bottleneck in the electrical grid. We simply [potentially] can’t produce enough electricity and also can’t deliver more to the end user, if many of these end users will be using electricity.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    How big is the frunk?

  • avatar
    JMII

    Sloped rear hatch that compromises storage space and head room. iPad stuck on the dash as a nav unit. Rear doors that are too small to be useful. Short EV range. Yep this is full of win. Also why not continue the use of wood on the dash and doors? It looks good in the center console.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    Mazda: “Let’s take the design of our CX-3 flop, and make it worse in every way”

    Useless, unreachable cargo area? Check.
    Pointless black plastic cladding? Check.
    Wall of plastic for a front bumper? Check.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      I really want to like this car. And the interior may have its good points. But I am struggling with some of these design choices. I don’t hate this, but it looks more like an urban runabout than a mainstream car. This appears to compete most directly with Mini’s EV.

      – The CX-5 is one of the few SUVs that really looks beautiful to me. And this car seems to be deliberately styled UNLIKE the CX-5. Does it need this black plastic? Nobody will take this offroad. Where is the KODO? This looks like a design copied from Mini.

      – This is a CUV, so it’s small. The clamshell doors are a compromise, which may work, but are not ideal. Is the hatch area really large and useful? No, not really. The slanted roofline takes out a lot of space there. At least the rear seats appear to have split folding capability. I doubt that the front passenger seat folds flat, but it would sure be nice if it did.

      – I like the long hood styling on most Mazdas, but this is an EV. Could there perhaps be a better utilization of space up there?

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Regular doors would have to be bigger to be useful. Hence would make the front doors smaller, compromising both ingress/egress in what is essentially a solo commuter car, as well as murdering visibility by putting a b-pillar right next to your eyeballs.

        Besides, Subaru has shown that dogs sell cars, and clamshell doors are ideal for (at least properly trained) dogs.

        • 0 avatar
          SPPPP

          I agree with you, Stuki, but I question this car’s positioning in the market. It looks like the short wheelbase version of … itself.

          If you see it as a solo commuter car, that puts it up against things like the early Honda Insight. But there’s a lot more money where the CR-V is.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    By adding 5 inches of plastic cladding on the wheel arches, then 4 inches of wheel gap, they made the wheels look tiny. I’m sure the size is decent (17 inches?) but because of the exterior design choices the wheels look undersized. What a mess.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    I’ve seen the future … and it doesn’t work

  • avatar
    R Henry

    ” the brand says its first mass-market electric won’t leave drivers feeling cold.”

    It won’t be leaving many “drivers cold” because so few drivers will be driving them!

    I am not familiar with the other markets Mazda sells in, but I certainly can’t imagine this product selling well in USA.

    I am a Mazda fan, I own two today. I know that Mazda products ALWAYS have one or two glaring weaknesses that keep them from being hot sellers in the US market. This MX-30 however appears to have about 10 glaring weakness that will inhibit its sales success in USA.

    I think if Mazda design and engineering continues in this direction, they will be forced to abandon the US market. Such products do not conform to US market demands.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Well, at least it has a couple things going for it. Not enough battery though… needs at least twice as much battery for my comfort.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Oh no, no no no no, Mazda no, what happened? All you had to do was take your current design language and put it in another form factor, not abandon everything but the shape of the LEDs in the head and taillights. That roof arch is way too thick above the top of the windows, the stupid plastic cladding takes up as much area as the actual painted bodywork, this is horrendous.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Why is there a window on the rear end? Looks so out of place.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Rotary Range Extender!!!!!! Yessssss! Finally an “electric” car which makes proper sense.

    Looks good, to. And I trust Mazda to make it drive and handle exemplary for what it is. If they decide to NOT bring at least the range extended version to the wide open spaces of the American West, I don’t know what to say….

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I think 130 miles misses the sweet spot just a bit.

    My theory is that once a significant share of drivers has been exposed to life with EVs we will settle on 150 miles as the ideal range number for most users. (Some people will still want more and will pay for bigger batteries that can do 225 or 300 miles.) 150 miles is far enough for a trip all the way across a big metro area and back, and longer trips are not everyday things for most people.

    If we could cut battery costs roughly in half from today (which is expected to happen over the next few years), a 150-mile battery in an average car would be cheap enough that the cheaper cost of electricity compared to gas would easily outweigh the initial price premium for the electric car.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I expect around 300 miles is where it’ll settle in at.
      You are correct that 150 miles will cover the vast majority of day-to-day driving, but I think for a long time (like for more than a decade) people will want a mileage safety cushion and barring a major (and probably unnecessary) infrastructure build out, 150 miles is too short to handle peak travel seasons.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        We’ll see. I think there will be enough private chargers to make 150 miles feasible, and even if batteries can get to ~$100/kWh, the cost difference between a 150 mile battery and a 300 mile battery for something the size of a CR-V will be ~$4000, so assume $5000 retail. Not many people buy $5000 engine options on gas cars, and once people are familiar with charging I don’t think many people will buy $5000 range options that provide a bit of extra convenience twice a year either.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    Looks perfectly pleasant to me. Contrast this with the new BMW porker snout or the Lexus EV imitation of a hammerhead shark with flesh-eating disease/updated Mk 1 Batmobile front end.

  • avatar
    Brett Woods

    Reminds me of queasy early childhood memories squished in a back corner, face against those useless triangle windows that let in a stream of air so thin it could barely sustain life.

    Now there was a popular and good looking hauler designed by Moray Callum that made our local ladies swoon. It was called a second generation Mazda 5, and it had only one big turnoff – the internal combustion powertrain. Like any van, it could get a bit fumey inside, and also it was relatively expensive and inefficient to run at 20 MPG. Rework drivers’ area and dash, offer available African roof-rack. cutest minivan?

  • avatar
    Daniel J

    I’m convinced no car company can make the B&B happy.

    I think this thing looks great except the cladding is a tad over done.

    Does it lose alot of utility? Sure does, but I think it looks much better than many sub-compact SUVs around. I see the same complaints about the CX-5. Looks great but not enough room. Other Cuvs? More utility…oh but they don’t look good.

    Can’t have it both ways.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I’m ambivalent. I don’t see any major demerits as far as exterior design goes, but I could see where rearward visibility, especially with the theoretical 3 passengers in the back, could be rather sketchy. The headrests already appear, from the photo, to take up a ton of real estate, and then you had in people, who tend to have heads, and it gets worse. If they market it correctly, as a commuter vehicle for the family who already has another car for longer trips, it could work. However, I’m not in the prediction game, so YMMV.

    I appreciate the Mazda keeps trying, and is generally bucking the most egregiously stupid design trends. They’re small enough that they can still play around a bit. I am curious to see how Toyota’s influence will affect them though.

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