Mazda formally confirmed a report that first appeared on TheDetroitBureau.com in March 2017, and reaffirmed by us again in October 2020: the rotary engine is returning as a range extender in a plug-in hybrid version of the MX-30 subcompact crossover sometime in 2023.
The company’s confirmation appeared Friday in Automotive News, a half-decade after our exclusive initial reports.
The arrival of the MX-30 Plug-In Hybrid should happen sometime after the end of Mazda’s current fiscal year, which ends on March 31, 2023.
A return of a legend
A beloved part of the Mazda engine family for decades, it was phased out with the demise of the RX-8 sports car in 2012. And as we also first reported two years ago, the engine will not directly power the wheels. Instead, the rotary engine will be a range extender, recharging the MX-30’s battery pack that powers the MX-30’s electric motors.
The MX-30, which went on sale in 2020, and arrived in the U.S. in 2021 is designed to employ a variety of drivetrains. Sold as a pure battery-electric vehicle in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Japan and Australia. It’s also sold in Japan and Australia as a mild hybrid, where it uses a standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder SkyActiv gas engine mated to a 24-volt hybrid system.
But adding a rotary engine rather than the SkyActiv unit used elsewhere lends the vehicle a sporting cache it would otherwise lack and would reaffirm the vehicle’s Mazda DNA. It would also attract customers who like the $33,470 MX-30, but are put off by the current vehicle’s 100 miles of range. Other EVs boast more range and a lower price, including the Chevrolet Bolt ($31,500 and 259 miles of range), the Mini Cooper SE Electric Hardtop ($29,900/114 miles), and the Nissan Leaf ($28,425/149 miles).
Mazda already knows the vehicle’s range is a problem. Mazda MX-30 owners can use other Mazda vehicles for up to 10 days per year for the first three years of ownership. But the MX-30 EV’s existence isn’t owed to customer needs. It’s an effort to meet California Air Resources Board (CARB) requirements to allow the automakers to continue selling cars in California.
Is it enough?
Mazda has seemed almost reluctant to embrace electrification, preferring to stick with ever more efficient variations on its SkyActiv technology, including the the SkyActiv-D diesel engine and its SkyActiv-X Homogenous Charge Compression Engine, which delivers diesel-like efficiency but runs on less expensive gasoline.
But the reality of emissions and mileage mandates have caught up with the company, and it is rushing to make up for lost time as puts that “multi-solution approach” into play to ensure that the MX-30 isn’t DOA.