Pou Tiaki editor Carmen Parahi was given a plug in full electric MX-30 Takami to test drive.
When you receive a new car, there is only one thing to do. Give it a name. A whimsical, characterful name. My current car is called Bubbles. It’s a bright blue Mitsubishi Airtrek and very unlike a translucent, rainbow-hued bubble.
Bubbles is reliable, a little beat up and tough. Vehicle traits we thought were necessary to handle Waiheke Island’s pot-holes, patchwork bitumen, narrow streets, challenging steep gravel driveways and back roads, and corrosive moist salt air.
We tested the full electric Mazda MX-30 Takami and discovered, like Bubbles, it could hold its own on Waiheke, also called The Rock by locals.
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We renamed the MX-30, Sparkles, because everything about it is razzle dazzle, or if described in the Kiwi vernacular, it’s flash eh?
From its glittering red crystal paint work, to the intelligent electric drive technology, and dazzling price tag starting from $ 74,990. The full $ 8,625 clean car rebate is available, but it’s still a lot of money to outlay or pay over time with higher than mortgage interest rates.
We want to buy an EV or hybrid, so a test drive is a good opportunity to understand how an EV works and if it fits our needs.
In 2018, Electric Island Waiheke kicked off its campaign to get Waiheke fossil fuel free by 2030. To decrease our carbon footprint, we try to have at least two carless days a week. There are electric buses on Waiheke, so they’re a good option to get around The Rock. And, I lessen my commute to the city by working from home a few days a week.
Traveling in ubers was my only experience of an electric vehicle. So, being able to drive Sparkles for a week was a new driving opportunity. There is one word to describe the ride: smooth. The car, not my driving skills.
When I told Waiheke locals the vehicle made the island’s roads feel smooth, they all responded with the same incredulous look. One of them ran to my garage to take a look at what kind of car could achieve such a feat on The Rock.
Part of the car’s sparkly nature is its intelligent technology. Think KITT without William Daniels’ voice. There are so many bright colored lights, one of my passengers said the large multi-information display was too much and confusing.
The MX-30 scores a five-star in the 2020 ANCAP ratings, while steel reinforcements have been strategically placed around the body, and it has an energy absorbing crash structure which is comforting to know.
Mazda believes that the way to sustainable motoring involves focusing not only on tailpipe emissions, but the vehicle’s entire life cycle.
There are 360-degree camera views and useful blind-spot light sensors on the side mirrors. The cameras kept the kids entertained trying to figure out how the above car perspective was created. However, when using the rear mirror to check for cars following behind, the back headrests obscure an already small back window.
The snug interior certainly feels safe, if not a little claustrophobic. We kept the sunroof open to let in natural light and make the car feel spacious. The gray, black and brown color scheme with materials such as cork and vegan leather adds panache to the interior.
When we loaded the car with three adults and two teenagers from our Westlake Club netball team it was a difficult fit. One of the dads said he wouldn’t cope being in the back for a long road trip. The MX-30 has cool freestyle doors, but it’s not practical for a family with baby and / or toddler car seats.
As the driver, I appreciated the active driving display on the glass screen which showed me the speed limit, my own speed and road markings. Sometimes, if I was too close to the center line the steering wheel would nudge in my hands as a warning.
The automatic gear selector isn’t one direct line of gears, so park is to the right of reverse which is at the top. This caused a few problems when I kept trying to park the car in reverse. It takes time to get used to the many characteristics of an unfamiliar car, I reasoned.
Mazda’s zoom-zoom character is inherent in the MX-30. Its speed is dazzling.
I watched carefully to see how the batteries drained when increasing speed quickly or moderately and if using all the available gadgets, such as boosting the Bose 12-speaker sound system to full volume, added to the drain.
The batteries have a 224km range, not the longest on the market. Mazda claims the smaller batteries were used to decrease environmental impact. I never went below 50% on any day, even when I traveled around Auckland city, or from the Eastern Bays to the North Shore. We drove the car around Waiheke for three days without charging it.
I tried to use the Surfdale charging station on Waiheke, but it was the BYO cable sort, and I didn’t have a cable. There are other stations on the island including at our only supermarket. Fortunately, we had a garage to charge Sparkles overnight using a standard wall socket. The garage also helped protect the exterior of the car from moist sea air. We did wonder how people use an electric car without an easy, reliable charging source.
We needed to be convinced an all electric plug-in is a viable option and Mazda has shown us it is, even on an island full of potholes.
The MX-30 is a smooth drive and has a lot of glitz. But everyone I spoke to, who saw Sparkles or was a passenger, guessed a price at half the cost or less. All of them were surprised by the price tag.
The MX-30 M Hybrid is nearly $ 30k less and could be a more affordable though less green option. It has some of the same attributes, such as the technology, safety and zoom-zoom features.
But, it isn’t Sparkles, the very flash electric car.