(2023) Mazda MX-30 R-EV Range Extender Review

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Mazda, known for its innovative approach and the iconic rotary engine, has set sights on a new electrified strategy. In the face of the electrification era, Mazda has had to reimagine its rotary engine technology and align it with its environmental goals.

The challenge was overcoming the rotary engine’s historical drawbacks—buzzy, high-revving, and fuel-thirsty. The solution? A rebirth in 2024 as a compact range extender featured in the MX-30.

 

Mazda MX-30 R-EV Range Extender Review

The MX-30 R-EV, a sibling to the all-electric MX-30, and it addresses what some will deem the latter’s ‘flaw’: limited range – which isn’t the case at all. The MX-30 is meant to be an urban runabout, a second car for ‘around town’ use.

So while the EV version suffered from disappointing sales – mainly due to media framing around “EVERY EV MUST HAVE 300 MILE RANGE”, Mazda introduced the R-EV variant, featuring the revamped rotary engine as a range extender. This model has always been available in Japan since the MX-30 launched a few years ago. Initially, the R-EV was never going to come to the UK.

The new strategy involves pairing the 830cc rotary combustion engine, delivering 73bhp, with a 17.8 kWh battery pack and a 167bhp electric motor.

 

But what about that rotary engine?

Mazda’s engineers focused on improving the rotary engine’s weaknesses, addressing issues like oil consumption and rotor tip wear. The result is smoother power delivery, with enhancements like 2.5mm-wide apex seals and a friction-reducing plasma coating.

The R-EV’s rotary engine functions solely as a generator, not driving the front wheels but charging the battery pack, making it a range extender – just like our beloved BMW i3.

 

How does it work, what about range?

Despite its smaller battery, the R-EV claims a range of 53 miles on a full battery charge. The three drive modes—Normal, EV, and Charge—allow users to manage the state of charge efficiently and utilise the rotary engine when needed.

Drive options include saving battery charge for when you get to your destination (Charge mode) – users can preset the amount of charge they wish to hold in reserve, so the range extender will be doing all the work until you tell it not to.

In ‘Normal’, you’ll use the battery until it nearly runs out, or when it hits a user-specified percentage, before the range extender kicks in – which it also does under hard acceleration to give you a bit more of a boost.

Lastly, ‘EV’ is similar to the above but will use the battery until it is depleted before the range extender activates.

 

What’s it like inside?

Inside the MX-30 R-EV, the layout is the same as the MX-30 EV, featuring an central infotainment display with an energy flow monitor, and gorgeous cork design elements in the central armrest area. See our full MX-30 review for more on that though…

 

How does the MX-30 R-EV drive?

On the road, the MX-30 R-EV offers adequate performance, with smooth power delivery and commendable handling – just like the MX-30. The unique feature, the rotary range extender, introduces a distinctive muted buzz when needed but effectively maintains charge even at high speeds.

Fuel economy varies based on driving conditions, emphasising the importance of treating the R-EV as a plug-in hybrid. A full tank showed us 343 miles of extended range at the start of the day, with 46.9 MPG over 40 miles of range extender use, with 2.7 mi/kWh over 82 miles of driving.

The MX-30 R-EV certainly gives you the best of both worlds, though. An urban EV that will likely cover 90% of most people’s daily driving duties, with the ability to stretch its legs for those 10% of journeys where you need more than 50 miles range.

Range extenders are the way the world should have gone. They would have been an affordable stepping stone to fully electric vehicles while using rare earth metals most efficiently. Instead of having a single 100kWh SUV tank of a vehicle that weighs nearly three tonnes, you could have five MX-30s, all producing zero emissions for most of their driving.

Then, when you need to go further, you’re emitting as much as the average motorcycle (21g/km in this case). It’s a no-brainer, and I have no idea why the automotive landscape hasn’t gone down this route. It makes SO much sense.

Before the MX-30 R-EV, only two other ‘range extended’ Evs existed – the Vauxhall Ampera and the BMW i3 REx. Now, there are three. Well done, Mazda.

Mazda’s unconventional approach extends beyond the MX-30 R-EV to its broader lineup. The Japanese automaker, unaffiliated with global conglomerates, embraces uniqueness with offerings like the CX-60 SUV featuring a newly developed six-cylinder diesel engine – yes, you read that right.

 

Mazda MX-30 R-EV conclusion

While the MX-30 EV faced challenges, introducing the R-EV with a rotary range extender adds a fresh dimension to Mazda’s electricified strategy. And when the world needs more range extenders, good on them for bringing it to the UK market.

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