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Mazda rolls out its first EV, the MX-30, to take on compact rivals

Henry Payne, The Detroit News on

Published in Automotive News

Mazda's signature “zoom zoom” will get a little quieter this fall.

The Japanese automaker on Tuesday introduced its first electric vehicle, the MX-30, starting at $34,645. The 100-mile range SUV enters the compact EV market against U.S. competitors like the Chevy Bolt EUV, Volkswagen ID.4, Hyundai Kona EV and Nissan Leaf. The entry-level, battery-only vehicles are priced about $10,000 higher than comparable gas-powered SUVs — and about $10k lower than premium, compact SUVs like the Tesla Model Y and Ford Mustang Mach-E.

The MX-30 also tipped Mazda's hand on a conservative electrification strategy like fellow Asian manufacturers Toyota and Hyundai. Mazda said it is assembling a diverse lineup of EVs, plugins and hybrids while other automakers like GM and Volkswagen focus on high-risk, EV-only lineups. Mazda even offers access to its gas-powered lineup for range-limited MX-30 owners who want to take long trips.

Though there is little consumer demand for EVs, automakers are facing government regulations forcing battery-powered drivetrains, corporate sustainability requirements and a generation of Tesla-coveting Millennial buyers.

The Mazda MX-30 adopts the “MX” moniker of the brand’s gas-powered halo, the MX-5 Miata sports car, as it seeks to lure EV buyers. Like the MX-5, the MX-30 promises nimble handling with a low center of gravity and tuned suspension.

“Mazda is taking a multi-solution approach to electrification,” said North America president Jeff Guyton. “The battery-powered MX-30 will begin the introduction of additional electrified models, including a plug-in hybrid with a rotary generator for MX-30, a plug-in hybrid for our new large platform, and a traditional hybrid for our new American-made crossover. Mazda fans can expect great driving dynamics and beautiful design across all models.”

 

Notable on that list is the revival of Mazda's signature, gas-powered rotary engine that will be paired with an electric motor. The hybrid approach gives new life to the fuel-thirsty rotary that had struggled under government emissions rules.

Mazda’s strategy echoes that of Toyota and Ford which have hedged their bets on electrification. Ford is offering both EVs like the Mustang Mach-E and hybrids like the Maverick pickup and Escape ute. Toyota showed an EV concept car this summer and dabbles in hydrogen fuel cells — but otherwise is betting on gas-electric hybrids.

GM and Volkswagen, by contrast, have eschewed hybrids and gone all in on battery-power. GM's luxury Cadillac brand will offer only EVs by 2030, with all of the Detroit automaker's brands going electric by 2035.

The $33,995 Chevy Bolt EUV and $35k Mazda MX-30 are similarly priced but diverge on specifics.

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