Famous for powering sports cars such as the Mazda RX-7 coupe, the rotary engine is a compact and less complex alternative to conventional internal combustion engines.
Rotary fans appreciate the free-revving nature of the motor, which lends itself well to agile sports cars. Mazda’s performance models have a particularly strong following in Australia, where the RX-7 was a regular competitor in events such as the Bathurst 12-Hour and Targa Tasmania.
But comparatively low torque outputs and high fuel consumption consigned the rotary engine to history when production of the four-door Mazda RX-8 stopped in 2012.
The brand has teased fans with a return of the rotary in the years since then, most memorably with the Mazda RX-Vision concept car.
That machine suggested Mazda’s next rotary-powered car could be a rival to the Nissan GT-R and Toyota Supra – traditional rivals for the Mazda RX-7.
But the production return of rotary power will be more practical – and green.
Mazda says the next-gen rotary will be a “a new powertrain option” for the Mazda MX-30, a hybrid and electric hatchback pitched as a rival to the Kia Niro.
The petrol-powered rotary motor will form part of a plug-in hybrid system in the MX-30, burning fuel to generate energy for electric motors.
BMW used a similar system in the electric i3 hatchback, which had a small motorcycle engine that could generate power for its electric motors.
Full details surrounding the return of the rotary, including its power figures and approximate cost, will be revealed at the Brussels Motor Show on January 13.