Kai concept showed the outline of the imminent new Mazda3

Kai concept showed the outline of the imminent new Mazda3

Cautious not to over-spend on EVs, Mazda has turned to Toyota for help in that area as it concentrates engineering resources on a new family of compression-ignition petrol engines. At the same time, a great and growing reputation for design could help the company maintain its position as a successful, independent maker of beautiful, highly-efficient vehicles.

The most recent quarter wasn't a good one for Mazda. An operating loss of JPY2.2bn (US$19.6m) was a terrible result compared to the excellent JPY36.6bn in profit which the firm posted in the prior-year period. What went wrong? An unfavourable yen-dollar exchange rate was one factor, another was the loss of 67,000 units of production due to flooding in the west of Japan where its main domestic plants are located. The impact was so great that the company has revised its sales and profit guidance downwards for the current fiscal year. Mazda hopes it will be able to cap the loss in worldwide vehicle deliveries to one per cent, which would mean retail sales of 1.62m.

This decade has seen major investments in the expansion of its manufacturing footprint. A new plant in Mexico, increased output from joint ventures in China and a planned return to building cars in the USA via a JV with Toyota have all been expensive undertakings. Thanks to vehicle sales which have matched the upward trajectory for the company's brand image, things were until recently going very well indeed.

Mazda has high hopes for its under-construction factory in the south-eastern US, the Alabama plant having an initial annual capacity of 150,000 SUVs (and the same again for Toyota Corollas) when it comes on line in 2021. By the end of that year, Mazda believes it will be delivering 2.0 million vehicles worldwide, spread mainly across markets in North America and Asia. Of those, the big ones will remain the US, Japan and China.

There is no surprise that crossovers and SUVs are seen as the drivers of the planned growth. And yet unlike quite a few far larger OEMs, Mazda wants to remain strong in cars. Over recent years, every model it has launched has won acclaim and sold well. Now, even though none of its vehicles could be called stale, a fresh cycle of product roll outs is about to commence, the next generation Mazda3 soon to have a global premiere at the LA auto show. The term 'all-new' is accurate with not only the body but the platform and a revolutionary engine being fresh designs which will be the basis of most new Mazdas for the 2020s.

EVs & rotary powertrain models

Mazda's first electric car should appear in 2019. However, the firm will only sell this model in markets where EVs are popular, such as Norway and perhaps certain other European countries.

The vehicle is likely to be based upon the Mazda2 or Mazda3, though there is a chance it could be an electric version of the CX-3 or CX-5. The model names could potentially be MazdaE2, MazdaE3, CX-E3 or CX-E5. Some two-to-three years after the arrival of this first EV, a fully electric Demio/Mazda2 should go on sale. That car will be part of the next generation model so won't appear before 2022.

Mazda is also developing an EV-Rotary hybrid. A rotary as a range extender has several advantages over a petrol engine: it has lots of power and is inherently small with minimal NVH. The combustion engine will also run on LPG, the company says. This was made official in a media release issued just a few weeks ago.

This vehicle, due for launch in 2020, should follow the arrival of the company's first series production hybrid model. As well as the SkyActiv2 architecture, it is likely to share much with the next generation CX-3 or CX-5.

The wankel engine might be returning yet there is still no official statement from Mazda about its use as the sole power source for any future model. Still, the rumours swirl over a supposed RX-9. The latest intelligence says such a model would in theory share the MX-5/Roadster's rear-wheel drive platform.

Some thought an RX-9 would appear at the Tokyo motor show in 2017, timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first production Mazda to have a dual-rotor engine, the Cosmo Sport. The RX-Vision, a rotary-powered coupe concept, had debuted at the 2015 Tokyo show. A new engine is said to be called 'SkyActiv-R'.

There was no news on a potential RX-8 replacement at the 2017 Tokyo show, although Mazda displayed the RX-Vision again, and alongside a new concept, the Vision Coupe. The company did not say anything about the newer design study's powertrain although it did suggest that the styling would reflect the direction to be taken for the next Atenza (Mazda6).

In September 2017, Mazda insiders hinted to the media that a sports car powered by a rotary engine may appear in 2020 as a celebration of Mazda's 100th birthday. It could well be that a prototype will be revealed at the 2019 Tokyo motor show.

Cars

Mazda is not a major player in Japan's Kei segment. It has only a small number of 660cc mini-vehicles, none of which is self-manufactured. Instead, it buys these in from Suzuki. They include the Flair, Flair Wagon, Flair Crossover and Carol. Full details can be found in PLDB (see the link at the end of this report).

The Demio (Japan), which is sold outside Japan as the 2, is now more than four years old. It is yet to be facelifted, which suggests that the car will have an eight-year life cycle. That was the case with the prior model too.

Production of the five-door hatchback commenced at one of the Hofu plants south-east of Hiroshima in July 2014 and then at AutoAlliance in Thailand two months later. Build also takes place in Mexico. This is the MMVO Salamanca plant, which also makes a four-door Yaris which Toyota sells in Canada, Mexico and the USA. This is a restyled Mazda2 sedan.

There should be a facelift for the Demio early in 2019, with an equivalent update for the Mazda2-based five-door to premiere at the Geneva motor show next March. That should be the only set of exterior changes ahead of the arrival of the next generation model, which is set for 2022. That car will change platforms, moving from SkyActiv to SkyActiv2. As noted above, there should also be an EV variant.

It's only been around for five years but the Axela/3 is about to be replaced. The third generation model was announced in June 2013 and cars became available outside Japan four months later and then in Japan from the November. There were various updates throughout the model's life cycle, including the brand's first hybrid. That model has been available mainly in Japan.

Apart from in Japan and at the MMVO (Mazda de Mexico Vehicle Operation) plant at Salamanca, the company builds the car in Thailand and China. This is set to continue with the replacement series.

In a few days' time, a new Mazda3 will have its world premiere at the LA auto show, bringing with it SkyActiv2, a fresh platform. This will be the basis for the majority of future models. The new car will probably become available first in Japan: the fourth generation Axela should be in showrooms from January. The basic outline of this model was seen a year ago at the Tokyo motor show in the form of the Kai concept.

This will be the debut model for Mazda's homogeneous charge compression ignition engine. Claimed to offer 30 per cent better fuel economy than equivalent existing petrol engines, the new one is like a diesel in that it uses pressure rather than spark plugs to ignite the fuel.

The company is calling this technology 'SKYACTIV-X'. A proprietary combustion method called Spark Controlled Compression Ignition overcomes two issues that have until now impeded commercialisation of compression ignition petrol engines: maximising the zone in which compression ignition is possible and achieving a seamless transition between compression ignition and spark ignition.

Known as the Atenza in Japan and the 6 in most other countries, this big sedan (and wagon in Europe), is now six years old and in its third generation. Production takes place in Japan, Russia and China.

The most recent of two facelifts happened a year ago for the sedan - at the LA auto show - and at the Geneva show in March for the Tourer (estate). As part of the changes, Mazda's existing 194PS 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with cylinder deactivation replaced the former unit, while the power of the 2.2-litre diesel rose to 184PS. Another choice is a 165PS 2.0-litre petrol engine.

In the USA, Canada and certain other counties, there is also a turbocharged 2.5-litre petrol engine. This develops 227hp with regular gasoline or 250hp with premium.

The fourth generation 6/Atenza is now roughly a year away. Build will again be in Japan, China and Russia. The company may offer the four-door car with a diesel engine as well as four-cylinder petrol units in the US market.

The general outline was previewed by the Vision Coupe concept which premiered at the 2017 Tokyo motor show. As for the third generation model, the next one should have a seven-year life cycle with two facelifts.

The fourth generation MX-5 (Roadster in Japan) was launched in mid-2015 so next year should see the arrival of an updated model.

This car brought with it a fresh rear-wheel drive architecture. Mazda also makes the Fiat 124 Spider and Abarth 124 Spider using the same base. All three are manufactured at Ujina 1, the plant near Mazda's HQ in Hiroshima.

A revised MX-5 was announced in June. There are no changes to the styling, the update being centred on engine changes. The Skyactiv-G 2.0 has had its rev limit raised from 6,800 to 7,500 rpm while maximum horsepower increased from 160 to 184 PS @ 7,000 rpm, and maximum torque from 200 to 205 Nm @ 4,000 rpm. The 1.5-litre engine had some minor revisions too, which Mazda noted as being "improved combustion and greater torque" as well as compliance with the WLTP/RDE test cycle and Euro 6d Temp emission regulations.

After the facelift which is due in 2019 (it might be delayed until 2020), there likely won't be any more major revisions, the next news being a fifth generation car. That should arrive in 2022.

SUVs & pick-up

For the moment at least, there is no CX-1 or CX-2 (the CX-6 and CX-7 are missing too), the brand's crossover and SUV range commencing with the 4,270mm long CX-3. A competitor for the Toyota CH-R, Honda Vezel/HR-V, Chevrolet Trax and others in the B-SUV segment, this model has been available since early 2015. Production takes place in Japan and Thailand. Unlike some vehicles in its class such as the Peugeot 2008, the CX-3 can be ordered with all-wheel drive.

There have been few changes for this model since its introduction. The importers for North America have noted a minor facelift and a standard electronic parking brake for the 2019 model year, while in certain countries, including Japan, Mazda has also given the updated CX-3 a new 1.8-litre diesel engine. There should be a more substantial update during late 2019 or early 2020.

The next CX-3, which will become available in 2021 or 2022, will be SkyActiv2-based. There will of course be an electrified variant. Mazda might also extend the length of the replacement so as to lessen the size gap to the CX-4 and CX-5, while creating some space for a potential 4.1m long CX-2.

The CX-4 is not a well known model, which is mostly because it is limited to China. Technically this 4,633mm long crossover should have been called CX-6 due to it being lengthier than the CX-5 (4,550mm). Mazda though, sees it as a kind of CX-5 Coupe.

Manufactured in the northeast of China by the FAW Mazda joint venture, the CX-4 entered production in June 2016 and is due for a facelift in 2019. The CX-4's replacement should appear in 2022 or 2023.

The CX-5, now in its second generation, is one of the firm's most successful vehicles. Mazda sold more than 1.5 million examples of the the first generation model, the car having accounted for 25% of the brand's worldwide sales. The current CX-5, revealed at the LA auto show two years ago this month, uses the same platform as the original. It is 10mm shorter and 20mm lower, while the 2,700mm wheelbase is identical. At 4,550mm, it is shorter than the CX-4 too.

Depending on the market, up to three engines were originally available: 2.0- and 2.5-litre petrol and 2.2-litre diesel. All have four cylinders. The CX-5 became available with the diesel in the US from the second half of 2017. This was the first time that the company had offered such an engine there.

Changan Mazda began building the second generation CX-5 in September 2017 which was a month after assembly by Inokom commenced in Malaysia. Mazda's local partner also exports the CX-5 to Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia and Burma/Myanmar.

In March 2017, Mazda stated that production would be added at Hofu 1. This plant in the Japanese city began building the model in October 2017.

A facelifted CX-5 was announced by Mazda in October. There should be another refresh in 2020 as well as new and updated petrol engines.

The third generation CX-5 should have its sales release during the second quarter of 2022. Underpinning it will be SkyActiv2. Production will likely be in the same plants globally which build or assemble the current model.

Mazda is expected to add a CX-6 to its line-up towards the end of 2021. The additional model can be thought of a crossover-coupe rather than an SUV.

As for where the CX-6 will be built, that should be at either Hofu 1 or Hofu 2 in Japan and also in China at Changan Mazda's joint venture factory in Nanjing.

The model name is speculative, but the vehicle to be manufactured alongside the Corolla at Mazda and Toyota's forthcoming US plant might be called CX-7. For now, there are few confirmed facts. The official name of the JV is Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, U.S.A., Inc. (MTMUS). As TMC has stated that it will make the next Corolla at the shared factory, Mazda's SUV will use Toyota's TNGA architecture. That will likely also mean Toyota engines which could open up the possibility of a CX-7 Hybrid.

Returning to the existing model line-up, there are two larger SUVs. As with the CX-4, neither is a global model. The first of the pair is the CX-8. Initially available only in Japan, Australia and New Zealand, this was the replacement for the MPV/Mazda8, a large minivan.

In Japan, the six- or seven-seat CX-8 originally came only with a 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine. Sales commenced in December 2017. This engine was updated for its use in the vehicle so that power rose from 129 to 140 kilowatts and maximum torque from 420 to 450 Newton metres.

Earlier in November, two petrol engines were added. Both with a capacity of 2.5 litres, one produces 140kW and 252Nm, while the other, which is turbocharged, has outputs of 170kW and 420Nm. All variants, whether FWD or AWD, have standard automatic transmission. This still has only six speeds.

The Australian importer began selling the CX-8, powered by the diesel engine, from July, making this one of the few countries where the CX-8 and CX-9 are both offered. There, the CX-8 is a seven-seater with a diesel engine, while the CX-9 has a petrol engine.

The CX-8 is 4,900mm long, 1,840mm wide and 1,730mm high. That compares to the corresponding dimensions of 5,075mm, 1,969mm and 1,747mm for the CX-9.

Until the appearance of a left-hand drive example as an exhibit at the Beijing motor show back in April it had been unclear as to whether or not Mazda intended to manufacture the CX-8 in such a form. The media release did not state if the big SUV would be locally produced or imported from Japan, only that Mazda would "introduce the car to customers in China and other nations". The model for China will be petrol-powered when it goes on sale in The People's Republic next year.

As it's still fairly young, a facelift for the CX-8 is still some time away. It should happen in 2021, and a second generation CX-8 would then follow in 2024.

Unlike the CX-8, the CX-9 is already in its second generation. The original had a V6 engine but the current model instead has a turbocharged 2.5-litre four which is called SkyActiv-G 2.5T. its output is quoted as 184kW (250PS) and 420Nm (North American version).

The big SUV had its world premiere at the LA auto show in November 2015, with production commencing in February 2016.

North America accounts the majority of CX-9 production, followed by Australia and Russia. This model is not available in Europe or Japan. There should be a facelift next year. The third generation CX-9 should appear in 2022. A plug-in hybrid powertrain will probably be offered, although possibly not until 2023 or 2024.

The BT-50 is the brand's only pick-up. A then-new generation of this model and the Ford Ranger debuted at the Sydney motor show in October 2010. Their ladder frame architecture was also new at that time. BT-50 production started in mid-2011.

It took four years for a facelift to appear and there was another one in May this year. Due to how long it is going to take for the successor to arrive, there may even be a third round of styling changes; probably in a year's time.

The next BT-50 for markets in mostly southern Asia will be supplied by Isuzu. The arrangement is to last for ten years commencing in 2021.

The Holden and Chevrolet Colorados are built by GM and Isuzu at a JV plant but in July 2016, Isuzu said that its long-time collaboration with General Motors on the development of midsize pick-up trucks made in Thailand had ceased. Therefore, the Japanese commercial vehicle maker is effectively bringing in Mazda as a client to replace Holden and Chevy. Aside from the frontal styling, the future BT-50 is unlikely to differ too much from the equivalent D-Max.

Recent reports for many other manufacturers' future models are grouped in the OEM product strategy summaries section of just-auto.com.

Future product program intelligence

More detail on the past, current and forthcoming models can be found in PLDB, the future vehicles database which is part of QUBE.

The next manufacturer to be featured in the future models reports series will be Changan Auto.

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