Future classic: Mazda MX-30 R-EV

| 14 Mar 2024
Classic & Sports Car – Future classic: Mazda MX-30 R-EV

It seems that Mazda’s sustained defiance of the status quo can still extend to the rotary engine, much to the delight of the enthusiasts who have prayed for its return since the demise of the RX-8.

While the 2023 Iconic SP concept remains a teaser, for now, the MX-30 R-EV serves as a test-case in the ‘real world’ ahead of Mazda’s dare to electrify the MX-5.

This compact SUV sits at the affordable end of the market, with its 830cc, 73bhp single-rotor engine acting as a range-extending generator for the electric drivetrain.

Classic & Sports Car – Future classic: Mazda MX-30 R-EV

The Mazda MX-30 R-EV’s doors hark back to the RX-8 sports car

A small badge on the wing earns a few knowing nods from the rotary faithful.

The MX-30 earns recognition in other ways, too.

The lithe but generally smooth and unadorned corporate design of the standard CX range has been given a generous dose of drama to make this an ‘MX’.

The combination of its squared-off, flared arches, low-sloping roofline, rear-hinged suicide doors (à la RX-8) and exaggerated details, such as the head- and tail-lights carved deep into the bodywork, are an intriguing blend of utilitarian sci-fi and organic shapes.

Classic & Sports Car – Future classic: Mazda MX-30 R-EV

Mazda’s ‘heritage’ cork is a nice touch that references the marque’s origins

This is, apparently, designer Yōichi Matsuda exploring the boundaries of the firm’s ‘Kodo’ design language.

It might not be beautiful, but it is distinctive and pleasing in its quirky honesty.

It’s slightly toned down inside, with only a floating centre console over what Mazda considers ‘heritage’ cork (it began its business making the stuff in 1920) to add a twist to the usual neat layout and quality materials that are regularly praised by road-testers.

It’s especially plush and well-equipped in this range-topping Makoto trim.

Classic & Sports Car – Future classic: Mazda MX-30 R-EV

Rotary power returns for the Mazda MX-30 R-EV, but not in the way you might expect

Nicely weighted steering and supple suspension make it charming to drive, too.

Even zipping around town, where its limited electric-only range (a claimed 53 miles) makes most sense, you can enjoy a smooth, engaged response from the controls; on the open road it has the pace, balance and enthusiasm to blend the challenges of a B-road into something enjoyable.

It’s just a shame that when the rotary kicks in it triggers a memory of that noisy old fridge that you eventually took to the tip.

Here it is again, operating between 2300 and 4500rpm.

Classic & Sports Car – Future classic: Mazda MX-30 R-EV

The Mazda MX-30 R-EV uses bold design and an interesting drivetrain to create a stir in the crowded SUV market

What’s more, 29mpg on the economy readout rather undermines the promise of the lightweight, compact and theoretically efficient rotary engine in this application – one which now has a kerbweight of 1778kg.

But this is still a very appealing car.

It is more compromised than its more rational rivals, but is many times more likeable.

Good to drive, interesting to behold and adventurous with its engineering, the MX-30 R-EV likely won’t sell like hot cakes, but will be remembered – whether or not that twin-rotor MX-5 arrives.

Images: Max Edleston


  • Engine 17.8kWh electric motor with 167bhp and 191lb ft, plus 830cc single-rotor range-extender with 73bhp @ 4700rpm
  • Transmission single-speed, FWD
  • 0-62mph 9.1 secs
  • Top speed 87mph
  • Mpg 48
  • Price £35,550


24 rotary-engined classic cars

Rotary club: Mazda Cosmo, NSU & Citroën

Mazda FC RX-7 Cabriolet vs Porsche 944 S2 Cabriolet: blue-sky thinking

Future classic: Mazda MX-5 30th