2022 Mazda MX-30 EV is coming to the US: Rotary good news, range bad news

Mazda is bringing an electric crossover to the US, with the 2022 Mazda MX-30 EV set to land in dealerships from fall 2021. It's the automaker's first battery-electric vehicle but, as we've come to expect from Mazda, it's not taking the same route as other car companies. That includes, down the line, the return of the unusual rotary engine.

To begin with, it'll be full-electric only. The battery is a 35.5 kWh li-ion pack, powering a single electric motor with 144 horsepower and 200-lb-ft of torque. It leaves the MX-30 EV front-wheel drive.

Exactly how long that battery will last in terms of miles driven, Mazda isn't currently saying. In Europe, where the MX-30 EV is already on sale, the crossover is rated for 124 miles on the WLTP cycle. US EPA testing invariably comes in with a smaller number than that; it's not too hard to imagine the final figure landing under 100, even.

That seems low, and frankly may be too low for most would-be EV drivers to take a risk on. Mazda seems to be acknowledging that with its launch plans for the car: it'll only be offering the MX-30 EV in California, at least to begin with.

For charging, there'll be support for 50 kW DC fast charging, with Mazda suggesting a 0-80 percent top up could take around 36 minutes. Again, that's not the fastest DC fast charging rate around – other BEVs support 150+ kW – but considering the size of the battery in the MX-30 it's perhaps no great surprise.

While the powertrain may be an oddity, the design seems equally unusual. There's rear-hinged rear doors, for example – which Mazda calls "freestyle" – for entering a cabin with an atypical selection of materials. Cork, for example, has been used on the floating center console and the door grips, and there's recycled fabric too.

A 7-inch touchscreen is used for the HVAC system, with a second display atop the dashboard for the infotainment system.

As for what comes next, Mazda is also confirming that it'll be offering a plug-in hybrid version of the crossover, with the 2023 MX-30 using a rotary engine as a mobile power station. The Wankel engine was a feature of iconic but temperamental cars like the RX-7 and RX-8, but in the 2023 MX-30 PHEV the rotary engine is being used as a generator not for direct propulsion. Instead of being connected to the wheels, it'll be relied upon to keep the crossover PHEV's battery topped up.

It's not the first car to use this range-extending gas engine route. BMW has long offered is equally-eye-catching i3 hatchback with a gas engine option, a small three-cylinder power plant used to top up the car's electric range. As with the MX-30, the big differentiator from other hybrids is that the gas engine isn't directly powering the wheels themselves, rather being mechanically disconnected from them.

The MX-30 PHEV will come in 2022, Mazda says. No word on pricing for it, or the MX-30 EV, at this stage.