About a decade since production of the RX-8 ended with the Spirit R special edition, Mazda is officially bringing back the rotary engine at the 2023 Brussels Motor Show. Sadly, the confusingly called “MX-30 e-Skyactiv R-EV” is far from being a sports car and its rotary engine was not developed with performance in mind. Instead, it works as a range extender to make the crossover travel considerably farther than the regular electric version.
The 830-cc petrol engine with direct injection has a high compression ratio of 11.9:1. It develops 75 bhp (55 kilowatts) at 4,700 rpm and 116 Newton-metres (86 pound-feet) of torque at 4,000 rpm but it doesn’t actually drive the wheels. Much like in the Nissan Qashqai e-Power, the wheels are powered exclusively by an electric motor, in this case producing 167 bhp (125 kW) and 260 Nm (191 lb-ft) of torque.
With no mechanical connection to the wheels, the rotary engine’s role is to power a generator that creates energy to extend the MX-30’s range to more than 600 kilometres (373 miles). The ICE gets the necessary juice from a 50-litre petrol tank mounted just ahead of the rear axle while the 17.8-kWh lithium-ion battery pack is installed in the underbody.
Mazda believes owners will predominantly use the vehicle purely as an EV since it thinks the all-electric WLTP range of 85 km (53 miles) in the combined cycle should suffice for a day. Speaking of the battery, it’ll take 1 hour and 40 minutes to fully recharge it from an 11-kW wallbox. Going from 20 to 80 percent using a DC connection (36 kW) will take 25 minutes.
The MX-30 e-Skyactiv R-EV needs 9.1 seconds to perform the 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) sprint and is electronically capped at 140 km/h (87 mph). This plug-in hybrid version with a rotary engine is understandably heavy for a small crossover, tipping the scales at 1,703 kilograms (3,754 pounds). Nevertheless, Mazda touts a remarkably low fuel consumption of only 1 litre / 100 kilometres (62 miles) in the combined WLTP cycle, with corresponding CO2 emissions of just 21 g/km.
It carries a starting price of £31,250 in the UK where the entry-level model costs the same as the pure EV. There are five versions of the PHEV available, topping out with the Edition R at £37,950, which is limited to just 400 examples in the UK.
We should point out this is not the first time Mazda is giving the MX-30 a petrol engine. In some markets such as Japan and Australia, it’s been selling the crossover with a mild-hybrid 2.0-litre mill making 153 bhp and 200 Nm (147 lb-ft).