The Mazda MX-30 R-EV Finally Revives the Rotary, But Not as You Knew It

The philosophy here isn't quite what you expect from a rotary...or a range-extended EV, for that matter

The rotary is back! Well, in a sense.

It’s been more than a decade since we’ve been able to put the words “Mazda” and “rotary” together in reference to a production car (at least here in the US). It’s finally here though, thanks to today’s reveal at the Brussels Motor Show: the long-awaited Mazda MX-30 R-EV. This is obviously not a follow-up to a full-on rotary-powered car like the RX-7 or RX-8, but rather a range-extended version of the battery electric MX-30 crossover.

That’s…not the absolute best starting point, to be frank. The MX-30 BEV’s 100-mile range didn’t exactly jump off the page for American buyers, and Mazda’s only been selling it in California. As such, the automaker only sold 324 examples last year, though that was an improvement on the 181 MX-30s it shifted in 2021.

Over the past several months leading up to its arrival, we expected the range-extended to function along the lines of a BMW i3. The battery would still be front and center, with the compact rotary engine and small fuel tank giving the car a bit of extra range. After all, Mazda’s stance is that the average American commute of 30 miles fits within the full EV’s capabilities, anyway.

Um, no…it’s a bit different than we expected.

In fact, that’s not what Mazda had up its sleeve. Instead, the company halved the battery capacity for the MX-30 R-EV, to just 17.8 kilowatt-hours. As you’d expect, that also halved the range, which the automaker estimates at 85 kilometers using the WLTP cycle. In other words, you’ll be able to manage about 53 miles on the battery alone…hmm.

As for the rotary engine itself, you get an 803cc, single-rotor unit that’s roughly 33 pounds (15 kg) lighter than the old dual-rotor motor we saw in the 2012 RX-8.

So, what gives? Well, the rotary-extended MX-30 has a sizable 13.2-gallon fuel tank (for reference, that’s the same size fuel tank that’s in a Mazda3). That’s far larger than the 2-ish gallon fuel tank in an i3, meaning you could theoretically drive much farther with gasoline assistance. The maximum potential range may land somewhere in the 373-mile (600 km) ballpark, though official numbers are not available just yet, especially for a US-bound version. The “e-SkyActiv R-EV” system operates as a series hybrid, meaning the gas engine simply generates electricity when needed — it does not drive the front wheels.

The MX-30 REV’s electric motor is more powerful than the standard BEV variant, putting out 164 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque (21 hp more than normal). That said, you get a bit less torque, as the battery-powered MX-30 puts out 200 lb-ft. Mazda quotes the R-EV’s 0-60 time at 9.1 seconds, which is a notable improvement on the original 9.7-second figure.

On the weight front, the range-extended MX-30 R-EV is about 293 pounds heavier than its fully electric counterpart.

On the philosophy then, think of this MX-30 more as a plug-in hybrid than a range-extended EV. It does bring both Level 2 AC and DC fast charging capability. However, the latter only works up to 36 kW, which isn’t really that impressive as the MX-30 BEV can at least manage 50 kW. That means a charging time from 20-80% of 25 minutes for the relatively miniscule battery — far longer than, say, 150 kW-plus capable EVs that can charge four times as much capacity in the same time span.

It packs a range of useful, practical features.

Looking at it through the plug-in hybrid lens, you can make better sense of the MX-30 R-EV’s drive modes. There are three in total: Normal, EV and Charge modes, with the latter using the rotary to put power back into the battery as long as Charge mode is engaged. Drivers can also set a reserve level for the battery, allowing the engine to kick in and maintain that level. The rotary will also kick in to generate more juice in EV mode under hard acceleration, or even in Normal mode when you need it.

In usual driving conditions, though, the gas motor will only kick in when the battery is critically low, so you won’t run out of energy and need to immediately find a charging station.

At the back, the new Mazda MX-30 R-EV packs a 1,500-watt power outlet, which could come in handy for appliances. Otherwise, it’s virtually identical to your standard MX-30. For this model, Mada introduced a special “Edition R” with a Maroon Rouge Metallic roof, which is a throwback to the company’s first production model: the R360 coupe.

How much could the Mazda MX-30 R-EV cost?

As we’re talking about the car’s reveal in Brussels, we do not have any US pricing at the moment. However, Mazda’s UK retail website does include pricing for the MX-30 R-EV. Interestingly, the PHEV runs the same starting price as the fully electric model, so it’s mostly a matter of preference.

The base Prime-Line costs £31,995 ($39,125) and the Exclusive-Line costs £33,095 ($40,500). The top-end Makato trim does carry a small premium over the pure EV, starting at £35,550 ($43,475). Finally, the Edition R (for “Return”) asks £37,950 ($46,400) for the extra aesthetic touches, including rotary logos on the floor mats and headrests.

If the R-EV does closely reflect the standard MX-30’s U.S. pricing, then we can expect a starting MSRP somewhere around $36,000 (including destination) for the entry-level model.

All versions get rotary badges on the fenders (shown above), as well as the e-SkyActiv R badging, lest you fail to spot this as the PHEV model. You don’t get any obvious cues otherwise, mind you.

The new Mazda MX-30 R-EV goes on sale in European markets this year. Mazda did not announce a specific U.S. launch date today, but it will also go on sale here in the 2023 model year. So, expect to see more information around the summer.

We haven’t driven the rotary-extended variant, naturally, but in the meantime check out Tommy’s thoughts on the full EV MX-30 below: