Mazda MX-30 rotary plug-in hybrid cancelled for U.S.

The news that Mazda is discontinuing the MX-30 EV in the U.S. isn’t all that surprising. While it featured unique styling, a premium interior and nice handling, a lack of power, a bigger lack of range and a comparably high price meant that it was a seriously slow seller. What’s slightly more surprising is that Mazda has also cancelled its plans to offer the rotary-powered plug-in hybrid variant, called R-EV, in the U.S. as well. The confirmation comes from a representative at a public relations company Mazda works with. 

The addition of the plug-in hybrid powertrain to the MX-30 was confirmed about a year after the all-electric version was revealed in Tokyo in 2019. It would join the EV as well as a four-cylinder version with a mild-hybrid assist in Japan. Mazda then announced the PHEV would be offered in the U.S. some time after the EV arrived in 2021. This year, the plug-in was finally revealed, with production having just started back in June.

With the weak power and range, a plug-in hybrid MX-30 seemed like a much better fit for the U.S. Mazda bumped up the horsepower and torque to 168 and 192 respectively, and range likely wouldn’t have been an issue with just over 13 gallons of gas on board to fuel the 830-cc single-rotor generator and a 17.8-kWh battery providing what we would expect to be around 50 miles of EV range on the EPA test cycle. Add in the fact that Mazda said it’s focusing on plug-in hybrids and conventional hybrids, and it almost seems like it could have still been a possibility for America, even if the full EV went away.

Mazda MX-30 R-EV powertrain cutaway

Mazda didn’t give an explanation for the R-EV being cancelled for America, but we can make some educated guesses. One big issue would be certifying the rotary engine for the U.S. It has no counterpart here, so it could end up being a complicated and expensive process to make it pass American emissions testing. And even if it would probably sell better than the full EV, odds are its numbers would probably remain small compared to Mazda’s more conventional SUVs, as it would probably still command a reasonably high price tag while offering less space, power and usability (see the nifty but odd rear-hinged rear doors) than those aforementioned SUVs. That’s not great for normal cars, and worse for ones that would be expensive to federalize.

There’s also the fact that apparently the MX-30 sells decently in Europe, and the R-EV has a chance to help it sell even better. So it makes sense that Mazda would want to skip trying to make the MX-30 work in the U.S. when it could send that production to Europe.

With such low sales, it’s likely the MX-30 won’t be deeply missed from the U.S. for most people. But it’s a bit of a bummer we won’t get the rotary revival, even in such an odd package. If you really want to stretch your hope, the MX-30 is built on the same platform shared with the Mazda3 and CX-30, so maybe the rotary hybrid could be shoved into one of those shells. But that’s a massive stretch and we wouldn’t even think about betting on it.

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