Making sense of Mazda’s MX-30 electric commuter car

IRVINE, Calif.—It’s fair to say that Mazda has some work ahead of it with regards to electrification. The Japanese automaker has repeatedly impressed us with its keen understanding of vehicle dynamics and attention to details. But Mazda is only just bringing its first-generation battery electric vehicle—the MX-30 compact crossover—to market, at a time when other car makers are on their fifth.

It would be easy to dismiss the Mazda MX-30 just based on the numbers. The 100-mile (160 km) range will be the biggest hurdle for people to get over; that would have been a hard sell in 2014, let alone now in 2021. Then there’s the fact that Mazda only plans to import 560 MX-30s for now, all bound for California. This is not an EV for the masses, something Mazda’s PR people were upfront about. They openly describing the $33,470 (before federal tax credits) EV as a “commuter car.”

And yet Mazda is the car company that built a crossover that’s more fun to drive than most hot hatches. It has also churned out more than a million MX-5 Miatas. Which is why I went to California last week to find out whether the MX-30 is a rare Mazda misstep or if the boffins from Hiroshima had a surprise in store after all.

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