Mazda makes headlines with MX-30 cross-hatch set to debut next year
One of Japan’s more subtly inventive carmakers, Mazda, is set to stun EV buyers, according to Iain Robertson, with an all-new car dedicated to reducing the carbon footprint, while retaining driver pleasing aspects and innovating to new-found levels.
Seldom a brand to avoid confrontation, despite an avowed aim to provide the maximum driving satisfaction, Mazda is an independent player that displays tremendous confidence based on forthright engineering and hands-on design intelligence. It is a medium-stature carmaker that mixes it with the big volume activists, full in the knowledge that it often adopts a contrary stance.
Just contemplating some of its more recent achievements, its flagship sportscar, the MX-5, is such a vital staple of the two-seater scene that, despite several design reappraisals over the years, it remains as the world’s best-selling two-door. It is intriguing that it grew from an appreciation of the original Lotus Elan, its first iteration being little more than an evocation of the British sportscar. Yet, the current models could hardly be less Japanese, with Samurai precise cut and shut lines about the bodywork styling that serve to underscore its proud origins.
Mazda slipped into SUV and crossover consciousness with attractive personality cars, such as the CX-5 and then the more compact CX-3, both of which are clear rivals to Audi and BMW. In some respects, Mazda should not be engaging in this sector but its end products are not just well-built and attractively designed but they meet and exceed class expectations unfailingly.
Yet, it is as an engineering model that the company warrants even greater recognition. While it failed to meet EU emissions legislation, its rotary engineering, which remains a stellar achievement in both automotive minimalism and reductionism, is not a forgotten idyll. Mazda has forward plans to reintroduce the marvels of rotary engineering. However, its most recent Skyactiv developments that rely on a novel twist in automotive sobriety are producing 60mpg family cars, without a reliance on turbocharging but that stretch petrol engineering to new limits.
It has been a few years since Mazda ceased selling its outstanding, rotary engined RX8 model. Apart from its ever-so-simple motor, which incidentally could also run on hydrogen with minimal modifications, the car was renowned for its ‘freestyle’ doors enabling easier cabin access. Consisting of a conventional pair of front doors, a centre-pillarless design allowed a rear-hinged pair to provide rear seat access to the revolutionary 2+2 coupe body. The rear pair, also known unfortunately as ‘suicide doors’, because of their ‘unusual’ operation, allow more elegant access and egress from the passenger compartment.
Seeking to be different, a long-standing Mazda tenet, this aperture design is a key feature of MX-30, its surprise-laden EV model for 2020. The doors are totally safe, of course! However, it would not be Mazda, unless the company could also take eco-friendliness to a new level. Employing heritage cork in the centre console tray (Mazda was a cork processing company in 1920, the period of its birth) is designed to emphasise the texture and visual warmth of the material and the MX-30’s door trims feature the new application of a fibrous material, possessing a texture that appears to contain air.
Both materials are designed to be low-impact and sustainable, with the door cards using fibres made from recycled plastic bottles, while the cork is harvested from the sustainable bark of trees without felling them. It is coated in an eco-friendly lacquer for in-car durability. In addition, Mazda is replacing real leather upholstery with a vegan alternative. These activities are just the start, as the firm has planned a series of new material introductions that are quite different to those of its competitors.
For the first time in a Mazda, the MX-30 adopts a touch-screen air-conditioning control panel using a 7.0-inch screen located in the lower centre console. The controls are displayed simply and intelligently, grouped for natural and intuitive operation. The entire centre console is designed to appear as if it is floating within the cabin, a factor that aids the airy atmosphere. From materials to functionality, from technology to design, all of the cabin elements work together to create a space that encourages driver and occupant engagement.
Mazda calls its electric drive technology ‘e-Skyactiv’, to keep it within the current powertrain ethos. The system’s 35.5kWh lithium-ion battery and front-mounted electric motor equip the MX-30 with a driving range of approximately 125-miles, which does fall behind rival products from Tesla, Jaguar and Audi. However, when the MX-30’s final details are revealed, optional power packs should be available both for greater power and range.
Fortunately, the platform does benefit, as standard, from electric G-Vectoring Control Plus (e-GVC Plus); a system devised to enhance the consistency of vehicle responses to driver inputs. Natural feedback is crafted to match human desires, which remains true to the company’s ‘Jinba Ittai’ driving commitment, via precise torque control and sonic feedback that let the driver know exactly what the car is doing. The overall handling characteristics are said to be exquisite, with chassis neutrality emerging from the low centre of gravity, a factor imbued by the slimline battery pack located beneath the cabin floor.
Naturally, both the car’s safety equipment tally and levels of connectivity are at state-of-the-art levels but Mazda is keen to emphasise that MX-30 is a generous platform upon which to build its future propulsion technology, which ensures that all of its eggs are not placed within just one basket. When I drive the car in the not too distant future, it will be my intention to highlight its most promising attributes. The pictures pinpoint the car’s design stance, which is typically crossover orientated, as a means to please the market. Not benefiting from major corporate funding, Mazda is forced to spend wisely on its future products and the new MX-30 demonstrates a blend of automotive wit and wisdom seldom experienced even from the biggest carmakers.