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Rotary's back, baby! Updated 2023 Mazda MX-30 electric car here next year along with rotary range-extender option

Despite its odd design, the MX-30 is related to the conventional CX-30, and will soon include a rotary range extender version.

Mazda has confirmed that an updated MX-30 electric vehicle is on its way, quashing speculation that the Electric version will no longer be offered in Australia, and bringing with it the long-awaited rotary-engined range-extender plug-in hybrid model.

Expected sometime later next year, the biggest change to the Electric grade – released elsewhere back in May – is charging speed capability, which jumps from 40kW to 50kW, cutting a 10-to-80 per cent DC rapid charge by 10 minutes, to around 26 minutes.

However, the modest 35.5kWh battery pack remains, meaning the MX-30 Electric offers one of the lowest ranges of any EV at just 200km on the official WLTP cycle. In contrast, the broadly similarly-priced Kia EV6 Air with over twice the battery capacity is rated at 528km and needs just 18 minutes to achieve the same amount of charge.

Still, the headline development is the range-extender debut, as it is the first production vehicle in history to boast the smoothness and efficiency of both an electric motor and lightweight rotary engine. It is anticipated this combination may address long-standing plug-in hybrid electric vehicle issues of excess weight and noise/vibration/harshness.

As the range-extender name implies, the MX-30’s rotary engine is expected to help replenish the battery pack only, and not power the front wheels, as that’s the job of the electric motor. Not a lot more is known for now, though an announcement with full specification details is expected before the end of the year.

According to Mazda Australia marketing director, Alastair Doak, no firm launch date has yet been finalised for the updated MX-30 range, but the changes and range extender should finally give the slow-selling model a boost.

“There was an updated (MX-30 Electric) launched for Europe just a few months ago,” he told CarsGuide in Melbourne earlier this month. “Not big changes, but it has faster recharge times and things like that. And, ultimately, we will bring that into the market.

“And obviously we’ve been talking about rotary range extender and that is coming too, and maybe we will wait for all those things all at once and take things from there.”

The MX-30 hasn’t had it easy since its July 2021 release. Year-to-date, just 414 have been sold, taking in both Electric and mild-hybrid petrol versions. Plus, at the time of publishing, Mazda dealers are advertising more than 25 unsold new or demonstrator 2021-buiilt MX-30 Electric examples, out of a total of 100 imported from Japan last year.

As a result, and with newer, 2022-built imports of the substantially cheaper mild-hybrid version available, it was believed that Mazda might have already given up on its first EV, particularly in the wake of the sold-out Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 with their vastly superior range.

However, Mr Doak refutes claims of Mazda Australia giving up on the MX-30, saying that the semi-conductor shortage crisis has forced the company to instead reallocate resources to more popular models with long waiting lists.  

“Sometimes it comes down to: ‘Well, we can only build so many this month, what do you want?’,” he explained. “And, obviously, you are going to concentrate on the things that are in higher demand, and that is part of the whole conversation around balancing that kind of stuff.” 

For the same reasons of outside forces delaying supplies, Mr Doak could not be pressed on pinpointing a more precise Australian launch date next year for the improved and expanded MX-30 range.

“I can’t even give you a date at this point,” he revealed. “And things keep on changing and we’re still in discussion with Mazda (headquarters in Hiroshima).”

Finally, despite the slow sales, Mr Doak added that the MX-30 experience has been invaluable for Mazda Australia and its dealer servicing network, as a dry run to gain experience with handling the unexpected issues that come with new technologies.

“It means we have over 100 of our dealers signed up as EV dealers, which means staff are trained to handling that powertrain and all those kinds of things, and have infrastructure to charge them as well,” he revealed.

“That was one of the key factors of getting the MX-30 here to do that. If you remember way back when (in the mid-2000s in the wake of the oil spikes that saw demand for diesel skyrocket), we brought in a bunch of manual diesel products (the MZR-CD engine in the original Mazda3 and first two generations of Mazda6 as well as the CX-7 from 2006), and got caned by the media for not bringing in the (then unavailable) auto diesel models.

“But that was part of the same reason: we knew that diesel down the pipe would become more important for us, which it did. And that was part of the reason for it, to get our dealers comfortable with it in a non-pressured environment… that was a very clear decision around MX-30 to have that kind of dealer training and infrastructure happening (at an organic pace).”