The i3 is as futuristic on the inside as it is on the outside. Not a lot has actually changed since the car’s launch back in 2013, although the larger Pro Navigation screen is now standard. You get two screens, the aforementioned navigation screen that is suspended in the middle of the dashboard and that also controls all the infotainment, car settings menus and ancillary things such as service history etc. It is controlled by the yet-to-be-beaten simplicity of the i-Drive controller here in the centre console. This seemed so radical and alien to many when it first appeared on the BMW 7-Series all those years ago, but it works so well, it’s difficult to think of a better way to control an infotainment screen that is too far away to be a touchscreen.
All the controls that you need quickly such as aircon, audio, driving modes, etc are all accessed by simplistically designed, yet beautifully executed buttons on the dash or centre console. For everything else, you just access it via the iDrive controller in the centre screen. Simple and just lovely.
As we said in our original road test of the i3, what really pleases is that this was a car that justified its expense by the use of properly innovative and sustainable construction. This material used on the dashboard and doors is called Kenaf and it is plant based. The seat frames use up to 20 recycled plastic bottles in their construction, and the leather, if fitted, is tanned with natural olive oils. The optional eucalyptus wood on the dashboard also comes from sustainable forestry projects. The construction of the car itself features a carbon reinforced plastic frame, making it very strong, and recyclable.
There is also a feeling of space up front with an open-cockpit design, and you sit on supremely comfortable and supportive seats that place you in a good driving position with everything easy to hand.
Moving into the Mazda and you get a very different driving style, feeling a bit more “cocooned” in the driver’s environment thanks to this higher console. Which means you get a sportier feeling in here, which is also helped by this lovely 3 spoke steering wheel that does everything to remind you of a rim from a 1970’s Japanese sports car like an RX-7 or Nissan Z car.
Again, like the BMW, there is a lot of thought going into the cabin of the MX-30, not just in terms of design, but also construction. The cork that features around the console and doors is not just a nod to Mazda’s heritage (they started out as a cork manufacturer) but it is also much more sustainable. The leather isn’t. It is a vegan-leather replacement, and the door cards are made from recycled bottles.
In between the two front seats there is a floating console that has plenty of storage, with everything in easy reach. You also get lots of connection ports, including a three-pin socket. The dashboard mounted 8.8-inch infotainment screen is controlled via a rotary controller, very similar to BMW’s i-Drive system, that works just as well. Where the Mazda gives you Android Auto as well as Apple CarPlay, the BMW only allows the Apple variant. The Mazda also gives you a screen to control the heating and ventilation, but thankfully also gives you physical controls as well as the touchscreen so they can be used quickly and easily on the move, just like the i3.
Neither interior will disappoint, although both are quite different in their approach and design. They exude quality and both score on good use of materials and sustainability. Everyone will have their own favourite and priorities of what looks good or not.