Mazda’s rotary-electric crossover will slash through the urban jungle in 2020

Mazda is nearly ready to introduce its first series-produced electric vehicle. It will leap into the segment in a few short weeks when it unveils a production-bound EV during the biennial Tokyo Auto Show. The firm released a brief teaser video to shed light on the model, which will remain largely shrouded in secrecy until its unveiling on October 23.

The yet-unnamed model will join the Mazda range as a new model, not as an electric variant of an existing car. It will likely take the form of a small crossover or a compact hatchback, according to Car & Driver. The fact that Mazda has been testing its electric powertrain in a CX-30 (pictured) adds credibility to that theory; it won’t be much smaller or much bigger than the model used as a test mule. That rules out a bigger car like the Mazda6, and something zestier like the MX-5 Miata. Our crystal ball — and sales charts from markets all over the world — tell us a crossover is far more likely than a hatchback.

Regardless, industry trade journal Automotive News drove an early prototype of Mazda’s electric car in Norway, the EV capital of the world. It learned the powertrain consists of a 35.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack that zaps a 140-horsepower electric motor into action. The battery is as small as it sounds; to add context, the second-generation Nissan Leaf comes standard with a 40-kWh pack, and the Leaf Plus model bumps that figure to 62 for added range.

The brief teaser video published on YouTube announces the electric car’s interior will be made using sustainable materials. It also shows what looks like a floating center console topped with a rotary dial that presumably controls the infotainment system, and a gear selector that seeming confirms designers didn’t take the push-button route.

Mazda’s upcoming electric car most likely won’t qualify for the coveted long-range label, then. It will be an urban-dwelling EV. Motorists who need to cover long distances will have the option of ordering an optional, gasoline-burning range extender that will bring Felix Wankel’s rotary technology to the Japanese company’s portfolio for the first time since the RX-8 retired in 2012. Full technical specifications — like much else — remain under wraps for the time being, however.

We expect additional information about Mazda’s electric car will trickle out over the coming weeks, and deliveries are scheduled to start in 2020, though whether or not the model will be sold in the United States remains up in the air. If it’s a crossover, we might see it here. If it’s a hatchback, however, odds are it will be relegated to overseas markets like Asia and Europe. Honda and Volkswagen came to a similar conclusion about the E and the ID.3 they unveiled during the 2019 Frankfurt auto show. Small, expensive city cars don’t sell well in America, and even a company with Mazda’s mojo can’t do much to change that.

Updated on October 15, 2019: Added more details about the EV’s interior.

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