Spied: Mazda’s Tesla Model 3 rival - SUV VEHICLE

Spied: Mazda’s Tesla Model 3 rival

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What is believed to be Mazda’s first dedicated electric car has been caught on camera overseas. But don’t get your hopes up, because this might not be all its own work.

A photo of what is claimed to be the second-ever production electric vehicle from Japanese car giant Mazda – a rival for the Tesla Model 3 – has been posted online after it was caught testing overseas.

However – if the image is what it is said to be – it looks to be little more than a rebadge of an electric sedan sold by Changan, Mazda’s joint-venture partner in China.

As a result, there is a strong chance it may never be sold outside of China – and will continue to leave Australian fans of the ageing, 12-year-old Mazda 6 mid-size sedan waiting for a true successor.

Earlier this year Chinese media reports claimed Mazda was developing two new models with Changan – codenamed J90A and J90K, due to launch this year and in 2025 respectively.

The two Changan models are due to offer a choice of fully-electric and range-extender hybrid power – and use the ‘EPA1’ hybrid and electric-car architecture used by the Changan Deepal SL03 sedan and S7 SUV.

It was expected Mazda would use Changan’s technology and underpinnings, but style its own body to fit with the rest of its line-up.

However the spy photo – which appears to show a camouflaged Deepal SL03 with Mazda-style tail-lights – indicates the company’s next electric car will be little more than a rebadge.

The low resolution of the photo, and the level of camouflage make it hard to determine if there are any differences between the Mazda and Deepal, but the shape of the vehicle, as well as the side windows – under the disguise – look identical.

At the same time as the Changan partnership was confirmed to Chinese media, the Japanese car maker trademarked ‘EZ-6’ and ‘EZ-60’ in China – which would suit an electric sedan and SUV – as well as ‘6e’ in Europe.

It is unclear if the Chinese Mazda electric sedan would ever be sold outside of the market where it has been designed and built.

Changan Mazda is reportedly looking to export its vehicles to overseas markets – with the aim of building 550,000 vehicles annually in China, many designed for international markets – but it’s unclear if it would wait for future models with greater Mazda-specific differentiation.

According to a presentation given to Chinese media, the Mazda J90A and J90K are due to be followed by two more Changan-Mazda joint-venture vehicles, which are only referred to as ‘NEV CAR’ and ‘NEV SUV’.

NEV is short for new-energy vehicle, the Chinese car-industry term for hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles.

Mazda executives in the US – where Chinese-made cars are rare – have previously confirmed the company’s next electric car for North America is due in 2025, wearing a badge from its current line-up.

It is unlikely to be based on the Deepal SL03 and SL7 vehicles given the Mazda 6 went off sale in the US in 2022 – and imported Chinese cars are hit with hefty tariffs in the US.

Local media reports speculate the new electric vehicle will be an SUV, possibly similar in size to the CX-5.

Changan’s Deepal brand is looking to expand to Australia with right-hand-drive vehicles – starting with the G318, a hybrid off-roader aimed at the Toyota Prado – but it’s unclear if the SL03 sedan and S7 SUV would be exported.

Powering the electric Deepal SL03 is a choice of 58.9kWh or 66.8kWh battery packs good for 530km and 610km of claimed driving range respectively, based on lenient Chinese CLTC testing.

It sends energy to 160kW/320Nm or 190kW/320Nm rear-mounted electric motors, for 0-100km/h acceleration times of 6.9 and 6.2 seconds respectively.

Meanwhile, the range-extender version combines a 1.5-litre petrol engine with 19kWh or 28.4kWh batteries, and 175kW/320Nm or 160kW/320Nm electric motors powering the rear wheels.

The smaller-battery version is claimed to be capable of 135km on electric power alone, and 1140km in hybrid mode – while the large-battery model ups both figures to 200km and 1200km respectively.

The SL03 measures 4820mm long, 1890mm wide and 1480mm tall, on a 2900mm wheelbase – 45mm shorter bumper to bumper than the current Mazda 6, but 50mm wider, 30mm taller and 70mm longer between the wheels.

Today’s petrol Mazda 6 is now 12 years old, and was dropped from the Chinese market last year.

Reports in Japan still claim Mazda has restarted work on a successor underpinned by the same in-house, rear-wheel-drive platform as the CX-60 SUV – with six-cylinder engines and plug-in hybrid power – but these are yet to eventuate, or be confirmed by executives.

Mazda’s first production electric vehicle, the MX-30 small SUV, was dropped from Australian showrooms last year.

It is not a dedicated electric vehicle, as it shares its underpinnings with a mild-hybrid petrol version – and the more conventional CX-30.

The post Spied: Mazda’s Tesla Model 3 rival appeared first on Drive.

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