Mazda MX-30 EV vs. Tesla Model 3 — Ultimate EV Battle Bracket

It’s Mazda vs. Tesla in this second episode of the CleanTechnica Ultimate EV Battle Bracket Tournament, where EV experts Zachary Shahan and Jo Borras take car reviews to the next level by exploring each car from two different perspectives and, ultimately, determine the best EV you can buy today.

And, I dunno — 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-having Mazda MX-30 EV. Zachary is championing the Tesla this time around, while I’m backing the Mazda.

Ready? Let’s get started!

Jo: Look, I’ll get right to the point here and concede the loss. There’s no one in the industry, probably even at 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 all that crazy to me, if we’re being honest. So I feel good about my stand on this one.

First off, there’s 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 was supposed just to be a cynical compliance car that only exists so the brand can keep selling MX-5s in California. The interior is thoughtfully designed, manages 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 a huge hit with the kids, too, and all the touchpoints give off a sort of “premium” vibe that speaks volumes to Mazda’s upmarket push over the last few years. In terms of interior quality, then, 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 since I haven’t seen one — and I actually forgot it exists. My personal take on the MX-30 interior and exterior from pictures online are that it’s pretty much like “any other vehicle,” or basically countless models that include a kind of bland and dated interior and exterior design. You’ve got the little screen, the big, high dash, the typical old-school buttons and knobs. If you want something that looks like most other cars from the past 10+ years, I guess it’s a good option. It does have a few noteworthy features. The lower screen behind the shifter is … interesting. It seems like poor placement since it’s so low and takes your eyes far off the road, but I can’t say for certain if I’d like it or not in practice. It’s got that 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 like very much that you can cover the cupholders with a lid when not in use. The seat design is also very attractive for my tastes. So, overall, I think Mazda did a pretty good job here despite all of the old-school issues and blandness of the dash and low-quality screens.

I do think the exterior of the MX-30 looks much better than most Mazda SUVs. There’s no annoyingly huge grille!! The lights look a bit like they are from the ‘90s but a bit cool. The shape and size are appealing for my tastes.

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 under-appreciated. Of course, you don’t have all the clutter of normal cars because everything is packed into the touchscreen, and oh my — the touchscreen!! There’s so much in there for having fun (Netflix, Disney+, YouTube, video games, a sketch pad, Caraoke) as well as operational settings, information, great options like Car Wash Mode, and more. It’s truly hard to imagine having a car without all of these things now.

The last thing I’ll note on the interior is that the seats are unmatched in my experience. Tesla is one of 3-4 companies in the world that designs seats for cars and it specifically designed the seats in a way that no one point of your body pushes too much on one spot, dissipating the pressure you feel from sitting for a long time. I’ve rented many cars for long drives — from BMW, Mercedes, Toyota, etc. I’ve never been so comfortable on long drives. And then you’ve got the cool, tremendously soft white vegan leather. Love.

Jo: I have to agree that the seats in the Tesla are excellent, and they’ve done a great job convincing people that “cheap vinyl” = “expensive vegan leather” in recent years, so I’ll give them props for that, too. I’ll even grant you that the Mazda design is a bit dated, but there’s a reason most cars of the last thirty-odd years have buttons and knobs where they do: that’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 tiny screen in the Mazda you have to acknowledge that the big center screen in the Tesla, in the moment that you’re trying to adjust something, might be a distraction, too.

Back to the materials, the visible corkboard in the Mazda is, I think, very clever. It looks high-end, it deadens sound, I feel like it might repel Capri-Sun fruit punch stains. Perfect for shuttling the kids around town and to games and such.

Zach: Yes, I love the corkboard. And there are a couple of things on the Tesla touchscreen that I’d rather have more control of on the steering wheel buttons. Many people use voice commands for them, but I find voice commands to be annoying to perform and disruptive to the car environment.

I can’t talk about the performance or feel of the Mazda MX-30, but, well, we’ve got to finally say it. The MX-30 has ONLY 100 MILES OF RANGE!! Like, WHAT??? It’s not 2015, it’s 2022! I am not a range nut in the least, which is why I have a Standard Range Model 3 and think it’s totally adequate, but 100 miles is so far below the norm and below what’s practical that I’m at a loss. How could they do this unless they truly didn’t want anyone to buy the car? It could only be used for limited city driving and you’d have to really love the MX-30 (for some unknown reason) to buy it instead of 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 car/second car because it’s so cool and appealing, but I don’t see a reason to consider the MX-30.

Jo: Oh, man — yeah. That’s a solid, solid criticism. It gets worse, though. Like, when you pop the hood of any modern EV, you almost expect to see a frunk or a somewhat finished plastic “vanity cover” to make the under hood 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 pop the hood, you see straight through to the ground.

mazda mx-30 ev under the hood

Zach: Yikes!

Jo: Yeah. The irony is that a little Wankel REx motor, which you can see would slot right in there, could give the MX-30 EV some real, usable range. Without that, though, that 100 mile range is extremely limiting. It really only makes sense as a second car or as a weekend toy … but, when I was shopping for exactly that kind of second car recently, 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 tradeoffs of having two powertrains (and I owned a REx!!), but there’s a tradeoff with everything. A 100-mile REx could serve many 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 the battery mineral needs while allowing almost 100% electric driving — and we all know the battery mineral crunch is the big story in the industry this decade!

But as it stands, well, I remember why I forgot about the MX-30. We barely knew yeh, little under-equipped MX-30, but yeh is already dead to me again.

Jo: I get it. It’s sort 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 it speaks to you, there’s really nothing else like it.

And, for what it’s worth, the little Mazda EV spoke to the Borras family — and our next-door neighbors, who have literally never asked about a single tester, but who asked for rides in the Mazda. I don’t know if that had anything to do with the car’s styling or size or 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 the Mazdas are like that. They have the best paint in the auto industry, and that’s especially true of their special, “Soul Red Crystal.”

mazda mx-30 ev soul red crystal

We liked it. But, as I said, none were available — and it looks like they’re one and done. There’s no word that I’ve seen about Mazda offering their little BEV for a second year. Any thoughts about that?

Zach: What vehicle? Oh, yeah, that vehicle is dead to me. Haven’t heard anything.

Jo: Yeah. I think that’s the review. Well-put-together car, but not enough range, charge time is too slow, weird waste of under hood space, and — we haven’t even mentioned that it’s much, much slower than the Model 3, have we?

I guess we don’t need to. 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. Be sure to subscribe to our channel, as well, so you can stay up to date on all our latest reviews and follow along as we make our way up (down?) the bracket to determine THE BEST EV YOU CAN BUY. Enjoy!

Mazda MX-30 EV vs. Tesla Model 3 Ultimate Showdown!

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