It’s been a while since we last talked about Mazda bringing back the rotary engine, something that’s been on and off the cards for a number of years. The RX-Vision concept that was revealed in 2015 made everyone cry “just build it alrady!”, but Hiroshima has remained coy about it.
We already knew that the automaker was working on an electric vehicle that would use a rotary not to propel the wheels, but as a range extender. Now, though, there’s official confirmation from a company exec that a car with such a powertrain is indeed coming our way in 2019.
Martijn ten Brink, Mazda Motor Europe’s Vice President of Sales and Customer Service, told AutoRAI that the long-awaited return of the rotary engine will indeed happen next year, though it might not be in the way its fans would expect.
“With our Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030 strategy, we have outlined a complete plan for our future”, ten Brink told the Dutch website. “An electric car is part of that plan, mainly because some markets require us to do so.”
He also said that, despite the EV, Mazda still has faith in conventional engines: “As far as we’re concerned, the internal combustion engine is far from written off. Even in 15 to 25 years, it will still be present in cars, simply because hybrids and plug-in hybrids require an internal combustion engine, too”.
The new EV that will debut next year will, according to the Japanese automaker’s exec, be built on its new modular small car platform and will be close to the Mazda3 in size. It will use a single-rotor engine mounted horizontally instead of vertically, as it used to be until now, as a range extender, pretty much like the e-Palette concept that was unveiled by Toyota at this year’s CES convention.
In a rather unexpected twist, though, he added that it won’t necessarily be powering a sports car. In fact, Mazda may pull a Mitsubishi Eclipse stunt and use this powertrain on a crossover. Now, having whetted our appetite not just with the RX-Vision, but the striking RX-Vision Coupe that was displayed last year at the Tokyo Motor Show as well, it would be an anticlimax to see an SUV instead of the proper sports car we have been waiting since 2012, when the last RX-8 rolled off the assembly line.
On the other hand, maybe ten Brink is sandbagging, trying to keep the exact identity of Mazda’s first-ever EV a secret. At least we sure hope he does, as either of these concepts would do just fine in production guise, even if the rotary takes a back seat to electric motors.