Mazda MX-30 R-EV extender hybrid (2023) review: back for the cycle

Mazda MX-30 R-EV extender hybrid (2023) review: back for the cycle

► Driven Mazda MX-30 R-EV circuit extension
► Technically, it is a plug-in hybrid as well
► Does it work on the road?

As you might be too, we were thrilled when Mazda quietly confirmed that it was exploring how it could bring its rotary engine technology to new cars. Engineering technology has always been something innovative as well as Mazda’s expertise, finding itself in models such as the stunning Cosmo, as well as the beloved RX-8 and RX-7 among others.

In the age of electrification, though, it’s not quite right for Mazda to use the technology again. Brands, like others, need to be removed, so it is necessary to come up with a new way to use technology. Instead of being the only source of power, buzzy and high-powered like the old cars, the brand has used it as a range extender with this one: the MX-30 R-EV.

I thought the MX-30 was electric…

There is still an MX-30 EV (which you can read about here) for sale, yes. Along with the model, Mazda now offers an R-EV variant to go along with it – Mazda says including the range-extending model in its range is designed to broaden the appeal of the MX-30.

Which is great, especially because the electric version of the MX-30 has one major flaw: range. It might look funky, come with a well-built interior and a smooth ride, but the EV model’s limited electric range made it one of the least competitive EVs on sale in that regard. Although official range claims are higher, our use has consistently resulted in one mile per battery charge percentage, which isn’t enough.

Mazda hopes to change the fortunes of the MX-30 with a range-topping upgrade that, visually, looks no different (save for a badge or two) to the electric model.

How does a range extender work?

Instead of pistons sliding up and down inside individual cylinders, a circular-yet-triangular rotor rotates inside the chamber. The rotary engine is renowned for its smooth power delivery, small size and good weight – but it can be thermally inferior compared to conventional engines and suffer from higher fuel consumption and worse short-term wear. Here, the new-generation 830cc circular combustion engine has a single rotor with a radius of 120mm and a width of 76mm. It develops 73bhp.

Mazda says it is focusing on improving the weak points of the rotary, with technical expert Yoshiaki Noguchi telling us at the R-EV’s unveiling at the Brussels 2023 motor show: ‘so long as it is used regularly and with regular maintenance, fuel consumption is improved.’ Rotor tip wear has also been a consideration, with Mazda saying it uses 2.5mm thick seals and a plasma friction-reducing coating here.

The cycle power plant works alongside a 17.8 kWh battery pack and a 167bhp electric motor. Considered a range extender, the rotary doesn’t drive the front wheels at all – instead it just charges the battery pack. Also due to additional complications, the R-EV is almost 150kg heavier than the electric model.

On a full battery charge, Mazda says the R-EV claims a range of 53 miles from its dinky battery, which is even less than the MX-30 EV. But, of course, the battery can be charged on the move using the rotary engine, maintain and even top up the charge while driving. And that charge mode is something you can take care of with three driving modes on the R-EV: Normal, EV and Charge. It’s all self-explanatory: in Normal Mode, the R-EV will aim to maintain around 45 percent battery charge to ensure there’s always enough punch; EV mode forces the vehicle to run on electric power only until the battery is completely discharged; Charging allows you to maintain a certain state of battery perfection for your needs.

When the battery drops to a point you’ve set in Charge Mode, drops to 45 percent in Normal Mode or is completely depleted in EV mode, the cycle motor kicks in. If the battery drops to zero (and the range extender will work to maintain enough power to maintain propulsion), top speed is limited to 81mph (instead of its top speed of 87mph).

The R-EV model can also be charged normally. For a 20-80 percent charge, Mazda quotes around 1h 30m on the 7.2kW point, around 50 minutes on the 11kW point or around 25 minutes on the 36kW DC charger.

What? What’s inside the new MX-30 R-EV?

Exactly the same as the MX-30 EV, which isn’t bad. While this is arguably one of Mazda’s more crowded dashboard layouts (I still maintain the Mazda 3 has one of the best-laid-out cockpits of any car on sale), it’s still pretty cool.

The infotainment display is clear enough to read and easy enough to operate, with an easy-to-read (if open) map and operating layout. The R-EV model comes with its own version of a power flow monitor where you can see a small rotor icon under the bonnet that lights up when the engine is running.

Less convincing, however, is the touchscreen display on the bottom of the dashboard. It’s positioned for easy access, yes, but it feels adequate to operate – especially when most of the settings are designed with a standard switch running along the side.

And then there are the amazing back doors. I know what Mazda is trying to do here: increase the sporty appeal by making the MX-30 look like a two-door, as well as throw the head back at the RX-8, but it’s easy to spend the day. -per day. Boot space also takes a bit of a hit – up to 350 liters with the rear seats up it’s 16 liters less than the MX-30 EV.

How does that power-up layer work in the real world?

It’s a mixed bag. Outright performance is adequate, which is just what you need in this type of car. Its 0-62mph sprint of nine-ish-seconds is the same as the likes of the Vauxhall Mokka Electric and about a second faster than the Nissan Juke Hybrid.

Power delivery is smooth and sure-footed rather than boring (like the EV version, then) and Mazda has clearly worked to fine-tune the sonic response through that sweet, floor-hinged pedal. The brakes, meanwhile, are more unpredictable. There’s about an inch of travel that’s soft and smooth before the brakes kick in the harder you push – it can take some getting used to when you’re cruising around town as the feel becomes more pronounced at lower speeds.

And then we come to the R-EV’s piece of the party – that rotary range extender. It seems… odd. Not necessarily bad, per se, but just weird. The closest thing to comparing it would be something between Toyota’s hybrid running a CVT gearbox and Renault’s E-Tech Hybrid powertrain, where a certain speed will activate the engine and it can maintain a certain rpm, or those revs will build up and reduce your sound. depending on your situation. The noise itself is lovely and pleasant, but it’s clear that Mazda has tried to dampen it as much as they can – it sounds like you’re living in a house close to a normal house. gym-goer mixing their protein smoothie.

But its ability to maintain a charge is impressive – even at high speeds – which allows you to relax a little about battery loss. It’s almost as if it’s Rotary’s mission to make sure that doesn’t happen – do the math.

It’s mixed when it comes to fuel economy, however. Before the German run, we used about 3.1l/100km for about 43 miles of driving on our test route from Munich, which equates to 91.1mph. After a blast on the autobahn, that dropped to about 56.5mpg. It’s best, then, to treat the MX-30 REV as a proper plug-in hybrid then – use the available online range when you can, and rely on the cycle for longer trips or when you’re away from a longer plug.

How does the new R-EV handle?

Overall, it’s obvious that Mazda has tried to inject some power into its small electric crossover in the same way it has done with many of its cars over the years. This is definitely one of the sweetest little crossovers to drive.

Let’s start with the steering wheel. There’s an alertness off center when you’re steering – a welcome trait, and one you don’t often hear in this shape and size – and the steering wheel itself feels nice and comfortable. The trade-off for that caution is that it is less sensitive at low speeds, where small adjustments in your inputs result in small changes in trajectory. It’s quieter at higher speeds, and rewards drivers who relax behind the wheel.

Ride and body control are impressive, too. There’s a reasonable amount of body control with little roll on the (real) smooth country roads in Germany where we’ve tested the R-EV. The ride, that’s right, is a satisfactory balance between firmness and comfort – at low speeds, the only thing that seemed to get the suspension were the tram tracks, and even bumpy potholes were properly handled.

Anything else I should know?

Mazda says prices for the MX-30 R-EV start at the same level as the electric version: £31,250.

Additionally, Mazda is celebrating the return of the R-EV with a limited edition version of the R-EV: the R Edition. Along with all the trim and standard wheels, the R-EV has a black/red color job for the roof and head seats. are closed with a circular sign. Other circular icons can be seen in the likes of door mats, too. Only 400 are being made, though, so they’re likely to sell out.

Mazda MX-30 R-EV range extension: verdict

The limited scope of the electric design meant that it was appealing to very few people. Adding a rotary combustion engine to the mix, it seems, has unlocked the MX-30’s potential as a compact and stylish cruiser.

It’s really exciting and great to know how much attention and effort Mazda has put into working the circuit in a new environment and has been able to add something else to an already incredible lineup. However, we think Mazda has pulled it off. That’s with the proviso, however, that users treat the R-EV as a plug-in hybrid – it works best when the electronic range is maximized and plugged in whenever possible.