Preview: 2022 Mazda MX-30 electric crossover has a tiny battery but rotary backup

Meet the Mazda MX-30, a battery-electric compact crossover designed for the city and due to reach the United States this fall.

The MX-30 was unveiled at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show and has been on sale elsewhere since then. In the U.S., the crossover will be limited to California, though more states could be added to the list in the coming years if demand is there, Mazda said on Wednesday. Don’t fret if you’re a resident of another state because there are much better options out there for anyone looking for a smallish electric crossover.

The MX-30 is closely related to the CX-30 crossover and features a battery with a capacity of just 35.5 kilowatt-hours. A range hasn’t been announced but based on ratings in other regions, the EPA-rated range is likely to come in at around 100 miles. That’s poor, and the performance of the powertrain isn’t any better. The MX-30 features a single electric motor powering the front axle, rated at only 144 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque.

2022 Mazda MX-30

2022 Mazda MX-30

What’s Mazda’s reasoning? At the MX-30’s reveal, the automaker said that by going with a smaller battery the MX-30’s emissions over the life cycle, i.e. including production, should be lower than an EV with a bigger battery and lower than even a gas-powered compact like the Mazda 3. The smaller battery should also help keep the price down, though Mazda hasn’t said how much the MX-30 will cost.

For longer drives, there will be an extended-range version where the range extender will be a small rotary engine. The rotary will be used purely to charge the battery, a setup known as a series hybrid. Interestingly, Mazda also sells a more conventional plug-in hybrid MX-30 with a 2.0-liter inline-4 in some markets, though this version isn’t expected to reach the U.S.

The rotary-equipped version is expected to be available in 2022, and its arrival will mark the return of a rotary engine in a production car for the first time since the demise of the Mazda RX-8 sports car early last decade.

2022 Mazda MX-30

2022 Mazda MX-30

Another quirky trait of the MX-30 is that its throttle performance has been tuned to be more like an internal-combustion car. Instead of instant thrust electric motors are renowned for, power is delivered gradually. Regenerative braking is also mild, meaning no one-pedal driving, and piped-in sounds get louder as the vehicle accelerates to mimic the building of engine revs.

The MX-30 may only have a single door handle on each side but there are four doors in total. You need to open up the front doors to access the handles for the rear doors which open rearward—the same design was used on the Mazda RX-8.

Inside the cabin, you’ll find a digital instrument cluster and an infotainment screen. A third screen sits at the bottom of the center stack for controlling more of the vehicle functions. In line with the vehicle’s sustainability themes, you won’t find any leather here, and accents like the door grips and center console storage area are made from cork left over from the wine industry.

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