Top spec but low range Oz electric Mazda

Peter AtkinsonAAP
Mazda's first all-electric Australian model, the MX-30 electric, has a range of about 200km.
Camera IconMazda's first all-electric Australian model, the MX-30 electric, has a range of about 200km. Credit: AAP

Sshhh ... hear that?

No? Don't worry. That's just the new sound of Mazda's famous 'Zoom Zoom' slogan.

Only now it's become 'shhhhoom shhhhoom', with the arrival of the first electric Mazda to reach Australian shores.

It's called the MX-30 Electric - a machine designed to be the EV flagbearer for the clever Japanese maker, which has until now, only been a hybrid-powered proposition Down Under.

But finally, the MX-30 is here to make a noise in the market. Well, a slight whirring noise, anyway.

While it ticks virtually all the boxes expected, there's one fundamental question it doesn't answer: Will it get to the destination (and home again)?

The answer is a resounding ... 'maybe'. Just don't go too far. Or be prepared to stay overnight.

This much-anticipated Mazda will travel only about 200km, give or take a few, before it needs to be plugged in and recharged. That's less than half the range of its Korean rival, the Hyundai Kona, and a third as far as Tesla's Model S.

It might be plenty of range to drive to and from work every day during the week for a city dweller, even if it means occasionally plugging it into the power socket overnight.

But come the weekend, this quirky-looking little Mazda's limited travel distance becomes more of an issue.

Yes, it's possible to take a weekend trip to the coast, provided there's a power source between legs. But a day-trip from, say, Brisbane to Noosa, or Perth to the Margaret River, is most likely off the cards.

A 250km round-trip was planned as part of this road test, but had to be abandoned because of doubts the Mazda would make the whole journey.

That's a real shame because the MX-30, in just about every other respect, is a really impressive little machine.

It's not as quick as some EVs, but what it lacks in acceleration it makes up for in smoothness, ease of operation and sheer driving enjoyment. In that respect, at least, the spirit of Zoom Zoom remains.

It's nicely equipped, with this single-spec variant of the MX-30 bringing the up-market Astina trim, which adds a long list of electronics, driver aides and infotainment that, at least partly, justifies its $65,490 cost (plus on-road fees).

That's line-ball with its Korean equivalent, the Kona Highlander, at $66,000. A comparable Benz or Beemer would cost a further $10-grand. So there's no issue with the value equation.

But it's difficult to justify buying a car at this price that actively compels drivers to make a choice, before any worthwhile trip, about whether they'll make it home.

There are a few more factors to consider, as well.

The unusual forward-opening 'suicide doors' - previously seen on the RX-8 and seemingly resurrected from the Mazda spare parts division - provides easy access to the rear seats, where space is not great.

But for reasons best known to the designers, the rear-hinged doors also require a beefed-up B-pillar which makes the MX's already ordinary rear-vision almost diabolical.

That, in turn, makes it a difficult thing to park, despite the auto-tilting wing mirrors and the big reverse camera screen, once again flying in the face of the car's apparent appeal to urban buyers.

Even the car's biggest asset - it's smooth and silent drivetrain - comes with a caveat. Perhaps in the interests of safety, the MX-30 uses a sound actuator to mimic the sound of a petrol engine (possibly a V8) when accelerating or cruising at speed. But some will find this annoying and it can't be turned off.

The use of recycled materials in some of the interior trims, including a cork finish on the centre console, will impress the green buyers. Likewise, plenty of people will be attracted to the tech-heavy, futuristic dash and console.

So, who will buy this car?

We'll, they'll probably be city-based, globally and politically aware, and with fairly deep pockets.

The MX's price tag probably won't deter all that many potential buyers, given Mazda's brand reputation and strong build quality. Except with its limited range, it's probably more of a second-car than a first-choice option.

So maybe empty-nesters can be added to the list. And it will lose a few premium brand-conscious buyers who'll probably gravitate to the likes of Benz's EQA or the equivalent Beemer or Audi.

All of which creates so many questions about a car that, at first glance, seems to make so much sense.

No doubt Mazda will work on the range question, where technology is evolving all the time. And the company says it will roll out up to three more electric models, as well as a couple of hybrid variants, over the next two or three years. The range solution might be found there.

With that in mind, stay tuned for more of that Zoom Zoom sound.

MAZDA MX-30 ASTINA

* HOW BIG? It's a mid-sized wagon with SUV appeal, even though it strictly isn't. The unusual design doesn't make the cabin feel particularly roomy or airy, although kids will love it.

* HOW FAST? Unlike some dazzlingly quick electric cars, this one is only a modest performer. But it's quick away from the traffic lights thanks to its 271Nm of torque. The electric motors produce only 107kW.

* HOW THIRSTY? It will take about eight hours to fully recharge using a home power socket, substantially less on a fast charger.

* HOW MUCH? The MX-30 is offered solely in top-spec Astina trim, which helps soften the $65,490 (plus on road costs) asking price.

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