It’s Mazda vs. Tesla in this second episode of CleanTechnica Ultimate EV Battle Bracket Tournamentwhere electric car experts Zachary Shahan and Jo Borras take car reviews to the next level by exploring each car from two different perspectives and ultimately determining the best electric car you can buy today.
And I don’t know – maybe we’ll give some kind of award or trophy to the winning brand.
This week it’s episode 2, and we’re pitting the “mainstream” Tesla Model 3 against the offbeat, suicide-door Mazda MX-30 EV. Zachary is fighting for the Tesla this time, while I’m backing the Mazda.
Ready? Let’s get started!
Yes: Look, I’m going to cut to the chase here and admit defeat. There’s no one in the industry, probably even Mazda, who would recommend the MX-30 EV over the Model 3 except under a very specific set of conditions—but those conditions, said out loud, don’t sound that crazy to me, to be honest. So I feel good about my stance on this one.
First of all, there is the build quality. The Mazda is put together spectacularly, as if whoever they had on the project loved the thing and never got the memo that it should just be a cynical compliance car that only exists so the brand can keep selling MX- 5s in California. The interior is thoughtfully designed, managing to feel both sporty and airy, and the rear-swinging “suicide” doors make dropping a gym bag behind the driver’s seat a breeze.
They were also a huge hit with the kids, and all the touch points give off a sort of “premium” vibe that speaks volumes for Mazda’s upscale push over the past few years. In terms of interior quality, I have to give it to the Mazda.
Zach: I have to say that I’m a bit limited in my comments on the MX-30, as I haven’t seen one — and actually forgot it existed. My personal take on the MX-30’s interior and exterior from pictures online is that it pretty much looks like “any other vehicle,” or basically countless models that include a kind of bland and dated interior and exterior design. You have the small screen, the big, tall dash, the typical old-fashioned buttons and dials. If you want something that looks like most other cars from the past 10+ years, I think this is a good option. It has a few notable features. The bottom screen behind the shifter is… interesting. It seems like a bad placement since it’s so low and takes your eyes way off the road, but I can’t say for sure if I’ll want it or not in practice. It has the little under-compartment under the shifter for phones and such, which I like, and I think it’s designed very well with a different color and material – making it easier to use and more attractive. I really like that you can cover the cup holders with a lid when they are not in use. The seat design is also very attractive for my taste. So overall I think Mazda did a pretty good job here despite all the old issues and bland dash and low quality screens.
I think the exterior of the MX-30 looks much better than most Mazda SUVs. There is no annoying big grid!! The lights look a bit like they are from the 90s, but a bit cool. The shape and size are appealing to my taste.
The Model 3’s clean, minimalist interior is still one of my favorite things about the car after 3 years of ownership. It’s such a refreshing and calming part of the car that seems underrated. Of course, you don’t have all the clutter of normal cars because everything is wrapped up in the touchscreen, and oh my — the touchscreen!! There is so much in there to have fun (Netflix, Disney+, YouTube, video games, a sketchpad, Car-aoke) as well as operating settings, information, great options like car wash mode and more. It’s really hard to imagine having a car without all these things now.
The last thing I will note on the interior is that the seats are second to none in my experience. Tesla is one of 3-4 companies in the world that designs seats for cars, and it has specifically designed the seats in a way that no point on your body pushes too much in one place, removing the pressure you feel from to sit for a long time. I have rented many cars for long drives — from BMW, Mercedes, Toyota, etc. I have never been so comfortable on long drives. And then you’ve got the cool, enormously soft white vegan leather. Love.
Yes: I have to agree that the seats in the Tesla are excellent, and they’ve done a good job of convincing people that “cheap vinyl” = “expensive vegan leather” in recent years, so I’ll give them that too props for. I’ll even admit to you that the Mazda design is a bit dated, but there’s a reason most cars from the last thirty years have buttons and dials where they do: it’s where people want them.
Don’t get me wrong, the touchscreen looks cool, but if you’re going to criticize taking your eyes off the road to read the small screen in the Mazda, you have to admit that the big center screen in the Tesla, the moment you’re trying to adjust something, can also be a distraction.
Back to the materials, the visible cork board in the Mazda is, I think, very smart. It looks advanced, it deadens the sound, I feel like it can repel Capri-Sun fruit spots. Perfect for transporting the kids around town and for games and such.
Zach: Yes, I love the cork board. And there are a few things on the Tesla touchscreen that I’d rather have more control over on the buttons on the steering wheel. A lot of people use voice commands for them, but I find voice commands annoying to do and disruptive to the car environment.
I can’t speak to the performance or feel of the Mazda MX-30, but hey, we finally have to say it. The MX-30 has ONLY 100 MILES OF RANGE!! Like what??? It’s not 2015, it’s 2022! I’m not a range person in the least, which is why I have a Standard Range Model 3 and find it perfectly adequate, but 100 miles is so far below the norm and below practical that I’m at a loss. How could they do this unless they really didn’t want anyone to buy the car? It could only be used for limited city driving and you had to really love the MX-30 (for some unknown reason) to buy it over another EV like the Hyundai IONIQ 5, Volkswagen ID.4 or a Tesla. It would have been competitive a decade ago. I mean, I might even consider a MINI E as a city/second car because it’s so cool and appealing, but I don’t see a reason to consider the MX-30.
Yes: Oh, man – yes. That’s a solid, solid critique. It gets worse though. Like when you pop the hood on a modern electric car, you almost expect to see a frunk or some finished plastic “vanity cover” to make the underhood look good.
On the Mazda? Not only is it obvious that they originally designed this thing to be a range-extended hybrid, it’s obvious that the BEV version was rushed to market. You hit the hood, you see right through to the ground.
Yes: Yes. The irony is that a little Wankel REx engine, which you can see would stick right in, could give the MX-30 EV real, usable range. Without it, however, the 100-mile range is extremely limited. It really only makes sense as an extra car or as a weekend toy … but when I recently shopped for exactly that kind of second car, there were no MX-30s available.
Zach: Well, to be honest, I think a REx with 100 miles of EV range would be a brilliant option that could serve a TON of buyers well. I know the compromises of having two powertrains (and I owned a REx!!) but there is a trade-off with everything. A 100-mile REx could serve a lot of people who aren’t quite ready to go full BEV (or who go full BEV and then wish they had a REx – I know a Model 3 owner in that boat), and it would limit battery mineral demand while allowing almost 100% electric driving – and we all know the battery mineral crisis is the big story in the industry this decade!
But as it stands, I remember why I forgot the MX-30. We barely knew yeh, little underequipped MX-30, but yeh is already dead to me again.
Yes: I understand it. It’s kind of like a Miata, or maybe a better analogy is a Smart Car. If you want one, you want one. They’re not practical, they’ll never make sense in the face of cheaper, faster or more practical options, but if that speaks to you, there really isn’t anything else like it.
And for what it’s worth, the little Mazda EV spoke to the Borras family—and our neighbors, who literally never asked for a single tester, but asked for rides in the Mazda. I don’t know if it had anything to do with the style of the car or the size or the suicide doors or what, but the red paint was absolutely stunning. Mazda could have sold me that car just on the basis of the paint, alone…but all Mazdas are like that. They have the best paint in the automotive industry, especially their special “Soul Red Crystal”.
We liked it. But like I said, none were available – and it looks like they’re done. There’s no word I’ve seen of Mazda offering their little BEV for another year. Any thoughts on that?
Zach: Which vehicle? Oh, yeah, that vehicle is dead to me. Haven’t heard anything.
Yes: Yes. I think it’s the review. Well put together car, but not enough range, charging time is too slow, weird waste of space under the hood, and – we haven’t even mentioned it’s much, much slower than the Model 3, have we?
I guess we don’t need that. Model 3 wins by first round KO.
Zach: As inviting as the Mazda is, it’s no contest. The Tesla wins this round.
You can watch the live “debate” on our YouTube channel below. Also, be sure to subscribe to our channel so you can keep up with all our latest reviews and follow along as we move up (down?) the bracket to decide THE BEST EV YOU CAN BUY. Enjoy!
Mazda MX-30 EV vs. Tesla Model 3 Ultimate Showdown!
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