For two years now, Mazda has teased us with the promise of diesel engines that are both efficient, and worthy of the brand’s “Zoom-zoom” tagline. The Mazda6 diesel was supposed to go on last sale, but difficulties meeting American emissions standards and performance expectations has delayed the engine again and again.
Mazda is having no such issues in Japan though, where it announced that the new CX-3 would be sold solely with a diesel engine, as the automaker continues to pursue better fuel economy. Reuters reports that while just 3% of Japanese car sales are diesels, Mazda expects to build some 150,000 oil-burning CX-3s for worldwide distribution. Europeans can also get a CX-3 with a diesel mill, but Americans are limited to one of two four-cylinder motors that deliver decent enough fuel economy, but likely nowhere near what a Mazda diesel might offer.
The Mazda6 sedan, for example, offers up to 40 MPG on the highway, while its diesel sibling manages up to 57 MPG. Now I’ll grant you, thats on the more generous (and easier to cheat on) European MPG testing standards, but even if you cut the difference by 50%, the diesel engine should still easily manage 47 MPG highway, or about 20% better than the gas engine. The CX-3 could see an even more drastic improvement.
Then again, this move might be a bad one for Mazda right now, as both the English and French government officials have renounced diesel vehicles in recent months as bad public policy. These countries are instead moving towards plug-in hybrids and EVs, with France offering as much as €10,000 for diesel owners to make the switch to an electric car. But Japan is a car economy all onto itself, from its weird kei cars to an almost zealous devotion to hydrogen fuel cells. Can Mazda convince a world moving away from fossil fuels that diesel crossovers have a place at the table?
Maybe those rumored diesel-electric hybrids would be a better bet…if they ever get there. Mazda’s current track record isn’t exactly faith-inspiring.