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Mazda’s American EV was a flop. Could these Chinese Mazdas be more popular?

Alex Kierstein

There’s no sugar-coating the truth: the Mazda MX-30 was a flop. Mazda’s first EV sold in the U.S. had some endearing elements, but it sold in double-digit amounts and had a number of unforgivable flaws. Since then, it’s been crickets other than some vague assurances that EVs are in development. The company does have a few PHEVs on sale here, at least. But in China, EVs are red hot and almost every Western company doing business there has some cooking. Mazda, for example, showed off two electrified vehicles at the Beijing auto show, including the EZ-6 sedan and the Arata SUV concept.

Note that Mazda is hedging bets, even in China. The EZ-6 will be produced as both a pure EV and also as a PHEV, while the handsome Arata isn’t close enough to production for Mazda to pin down what will power it. Details on both are light, in any event. What we do know is tantalizing, however.

For one, the EZ-6 is a sedan, and an attractive one at that. Moreover, it will be rear-wheel-drive, and its EV variant will have 50:50 weight distribution. We don’t know much about the powertrains themselves, but given Mazda’s focus on driving dynamics in even its less-sporty offerings makes us hopeful that the EZ-6 might drive as nicely as it looks. 

And it’s a looker, too. While its headlights are somewhat generic, the big grille—flanked by a moat of deeply inset, contrasting trim—is very Mazda. The flanks are simple, and elegant, recalling the Lucid Air (particularly in the lower door cladding’s shape. The abrupt, sporting rear is capped by a low ducktail kick-up on the decklid that can raise electrically, like the spoilers on many Porches. Quad semicircle taillights are embedded in a full-width heckeblende. 

The interior, while handsome, doesn’t share a lot of design DNA with Mazda’s USDM products, and that is probably due to the fact that it’s a product of the Changan Mazda joint venture. Changan owns a 50 percent stake in the venture, and itself produces a dizzying array of vehicles under a number of brands. 

The other vehicle Mazda showed off in Beijing is the Arata SUV, which for all intents and purposes looks like a stylized, exaggerated, concept-ified version of the CX-30 crossover. And it may well be that. But what else it is seems unclear. Changan Mazda calls it a “design concept model of [an] electrified vehicle.” So it’s a design exercise that may or may not result in a product. But this evolutionary take on the current Kodo design language at least moves the ball forward. With the expected changes for production, it’d be a handsome and easily recognizable Mazda EV. 

Beyond that, it doesn’t seem to signal much beyond Mazda’s intent to continue to invest in Changan Mazda and to align its local Chinese products to the “new energy vehicle” push there.

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