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Mazda MX-30 R-EV review

The MX-30 has always been a good-looking and well-packaged crossover, but the new plug-in hybrid has a clever range extender!

The Mazda MX-30 R-EV

The Mazda MX-30 R-EV

Mazda’s all-electric MX-30 has a lot of positives, but one significant negative: on a full charge, it will cover only around 100 miles.

Frustrating, because the actual MX-30 is an attractive proposition. So now, Mazda has solved the range deficiency by making it a petrol-engine plug-in hybrid – and at the core of its reinvention is a rotary engine. I know; who would have thought? The rotary is back, in the form of the MX-30 R-EV!

The rotary engine, of course, is synonymous with Mazda, as it remains the only mainstream car manufacturer to put it into mass production. Think of some of its most iconic cars — the stunning Cosmo, the RX-7 and RX-8 — and under the bonnet was a rotary, or Wankel for those in the know, engine.

We’ll come back to the design and interior of the MX-30 R-EV later, as it’s essentially identical to that of the all-electric version we drove in October 2020.

First, we’ll focus on the wonders of the rotary engine, without getting too techie, and explain why the new plug-in hybrid now has an attractive range of more than 400 miles. Yup, 400 miles.

Ok, how does it all work?

In typical Mazda fashion: ingeniously. In simple terms, the rotary engine provides energy for the electric motor which actually drives the front wheels. It never powers the front wheels directly itself, so the R-EV is always powered by electric. Clever, eh?

One of the main benefits of the rotary is its ability to deliver power smoothly. It’s also small in terms of size and weight. In the R-EV, the new-generation 830cc petrol rotary engine features a single rotor with a 120mm radius and 76mm width. Producing 73bhp, it essentially works solely as a generator to charge the battery pack.

The rotary engine works in tandem with a 17.8 kWh battery pack and a 167bhp electric motor. Tipping the scales 150kg heavier than the all-electric model, combined with the fact the R-EV’s battery is half the size of that found in the ‘standard’ MX-30 EV, the new hybrid has an electric-only range of 53 miles.

Isn’t that range less than half of the pure EV?

Correct. But, and it’s a significantly large but, you will never suffer range anxiety with the MX-30 R-EV. Deplete the battery fully and you can bask in the knowledge that the battery can be charged on the move using the rotary engine, maintaining and even increasing charge while you’re driving. It’s such a clever solution. And remember, Mazda says the full range for the R-EV is over 400 miles.

Ok, tell me more!

You can maintain the state of charge yourself when you’re driving. There are three drive modes on the R-EV: Normal, EV and Charge.

In essence, they’re pretty self-explanatory. Flick to Normal mode and the R-EV will aim to maintain close to a 45% battery charge to always make sure there’s enough punch available; in EV mode the car will run on e-power only until the battery is completely depleted; and Charge allows you to reserve a certain amount of battery charge to meet your specific requirements later in your journey.

Then, when the battery level drops to the point you set in Charge mode, dips to 45% in Normal mode or depletes completely in EV mode, the rotary kicks in. Should the battery slide to zero — meaning the range extender will kick in to maintain enough power to keep the car moving — the top speed is restricted to 81mph, instead of 87mph.

Plus, of course, the R-EV model can also be charged in the traditional manner. A 20% – 80% charge on a home 7.2kW charger will take around 90 minutes. That falls to 50 minutes on an 11kW unit, and 25 minutes on a 36kW DC charger.

Mazda quotes 282.5mpg … really?

Yes, that’s what they quote, and actually, it’s possible to get pretty close to it. We know that all plug-in hybrids need minimal use of the petrol engine and regular charging to achieve anywhere near the claimed figures.

But on my drive, I did see a mightily impressive 4.7mi/kWh from the battery. What does that mean? To compare that to the traditional mpg figure, you multiply the miles per kWh figure by 40. So, the 4.7mi/kWh equates to 188mpg. And that was without trying.

Isn’t the rotary engine noisy?

Not really. Yes, it’s audible when it kicks in, but it’s only noticeable the first few times because it’s a different sound to what you’re used to hearing in the cabin. In all honesty, it’s little more than a distant hum. If you’ve got the radio on, or are chatting with a passenger, you’ll never notice it. I drove more than 100 miles on my own and after the first 10-15 minutes or so, I never really registered the sound again.

Ok, accelerate hard to overtake something on an A-road, and the noise level increases before backing off as you ease the pressure on the accelerator. But that’s no different to any traditional combustion engine.

What’s it like to drive?

Fun! That's mainly because the electric motor remains responsible for driving the wheels, so power delivery is not only instant, but linear and smooth no matter what the speed. Interestingly, the R-EV is marginally faster from 0-62mph than the all-electric version, taking just over nine seconds.

That peppiness means it’s fantastic for around town. While that was essentially the sole domain for the all-electric version, the R-EV will happily coast along the motorway at the legal max without causing you to nervously monitor the electric range.

And having also driven it on narrow, twisty country roads around Snowdon and North Wales, its supple ride more than adequately absorbs small lumps and bumps while the sharp steering made light of quick changes in direction.

Any changes to the interior?

Not really; the MX-30 R-EV and regular EV are pretty much identical, and to me that’s no bad thing. For a crossover, the cabin feels impressively mature and sophisticated. Build quality remains very impressive and, thanks to the extensive use of physical buttons and switchgear, the onboard tech is very easy to use.

Plus, Mazda’s large rotary dial makes navigating the infotainment system a cinch. And the 8.8-inch central display is beautifully sharp and easy to read.

Does it still have the ‘Marmite’ rear doors?

It certainly does. Personally, I love them. I can appreciate if you need to regularly use the rear seats for passengers, it could be a real pain, given you need to open the front doors before you can open the rear coach doors. Plus, the access gap to the rear seats is also narrow.

But if, as in the majority of cases, the MX-30 is being used solely by the driver, and possibly front passenger, the rear doors are never an issue. And I think they add a brilliantly sleek look to the car’s overall styling.

Is there a choice of trim levels? And prices?

There is. You can choose from three specs. The entry-level is the Prime-Line, which starts from £31,250 and includes a good amount of kit as standard, including the 8.8-inch infotainment system, a separate seven-inch touchscreen for the climate controls, plus lane departure warning, cruise control, head-up display, all-round parking sensors, a reversing camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, LED headlamps and 18-inch alloys.

Next up is the Exclusive-Line, priced from £33,150, and adds Leatherette upholstery, eight-way adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, keyless entry and diamond-cut wheels.

The range-topper is the Makoto trim. Starting at £36,000, it adds a number of luxuries, including an opening sunroof, a 360-degree parking camera setup, a 12-speaker Bose sound system and a heated steering wheel.

So, what’s the verdict?

The introduction of the rotary engine to create a hybrid means the MX-30 R-EV has finally found its true niche. While the all-electric model whetted the appetite, there was always the feeling that there was loads more potential.

The R-EV delivers that in abundance. The MX-30 has always been a good-looking and well-packaged crossover, further enhanced by high-end build quality in the cabin – especially at this price point.

Having driven all three trim levels, the entry-model enjoys the same premium feel as the top-spec models and still comes with a healthy load of kit. For me, I’d happily go for the Prime-Line trim.

The MX-30 R-EV is not just a very good hybrid, it’s a flippin’ good car.

Spec Panel
Model MX-30 R-EV
Price From £31,250
Powertrain 17.8kWh battery plus 830cc rotary engine, single e-motor
Power 167bhp
Transmission Single speed auto, front-wheel drive
Torque 177lb/ft
0-62 mph 0-62mph: 87mph / 9.1secs
Fuel economy 282.5mpg
CO2 21g/km
EV Range 53 miles
On sale Now

About the Author

Jim McGill