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Mazda’s rotary finally returns, but it’s in a PHEV

It’s the moment rotary enthusiasts have been waiting for since the RX-8, but they’re likely very disappointed. Mazda has brought back its famed rotary engine, but it’s being used as a generator to charge a battery pack and extend the range of a plug-in hybrid. The technology is similar to what the BMW i3 and Chevrolet Volt used, except with a rotary engine. It makes its official debut in the Mazda MX-30 e-Skyactiv R-EV at the 2023 Brussels Motor Show.

The Mazda MX-30 EV is the Japanese automaker’s first mass-production BEV and it’s had very limited success in the U.S. since it’s only sold in California. The plug-in hybrid version delivers about 53 miles of all-electric range on the generous WLTP cycle through a 17.8-kWh battery pack, which is noticeably smaller than the MX-30 EV’s approximately 32.0-kWh battery pack. But once the battery is out of charge, the 830-cc rotary engine generating 74 horsepower can take over. From there, drivers will have a 13.2-gallon fuel tank to use but Mazda didn’t specify any fuel economy figures using the rotary engine.

mazda mx 30 e skyactiv r ev
It’s a 830-cc rotary engine that generates 74 horsepower. Photo credit: Mazda

Interestingly, the PHEV’s front electric motor generates 167 hp, which is more than the 143 hp found in the MX-30 EV. Mazda says it’s good enough to propel the rotary-powered PHEV to 62 mph from a standstill in 9.1 seconds. It doesn’t really live up to Mazda’s “Zoom-Zoom” mantra considering that’s much slower than the new Toyota Prius.

The company hasn’t confirmed whether or not this plug-in hybrid version of the MX-30 will arrive on U.S. shores. It did announce the 2023 Mazda MX-30 EV will continue on as is, but will continue to be sold only in the state of California and in limited quantities. Given its paltry sales figures — it hasn’t even sold 1,000 units — we wouldn’t be too optimistic for the MX-30 e-Skyactiv R-EV’s arrival.

For the European market however, Mazda will launch this vehicle with a special “Edition R” model. It’ll feature a black exterior with Maroon Rouge Metallic accents. There will also be exclusive design elements, including the rotary-shaped emblem sewn into the floor mats and embossed on the seat headrests.

Written by Jason Siu

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