Mazda begins diesel CX-3 sales in Japan, plans gasoline version for the US

Article by Andrew Christian, on March 4, 2015

Mazda has commenced sales of its CX-3 compact crossover in Japan, powered by a 1.5-liter diesel engine. But for the United States, the engine choice will be a gasoline one, according to Mazda chief engineer Michio Tomiyama. Mazda expects to sell around 150,000 CX-3s annually, 36,000 units of them from Japan.

The Japanese price for the CX-3 starts at JPY2.376 million ($19,970) and tops out at JPY3.024 million ($25,410). Mazda chief executive Masamichi Kogai said the CX-3 will be introduced in Australia by end of March this year, and then in Europe. The compact crossover will be launched in the US in mid-2015.

According to Kogai, Mazda only offers a diesel package in Japan since the brand’s other diesel offerings are hot commodities in the country. In fact, around 75 percent of CX-5 buyers in Japan picked diesel version, and Mazda sold over half of the 79,222 clean diesel passenger vehicles delivered in the country in 2014.

The US version of the CX-3 will be powered by a four-cylinder, 2.0-liter Skyactiv gasoline engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Mazda has delayed the launch of its diesel offerings in the US, partly because of fuel prices and also because of the challenges in tuning the engine to comply with stiff emissions standards in the country without losing its sporty driving feel and torque.

Tomiyama remarked that Mazda was expected to make a breakthrough in balancing power and emissions “soon.” Mazda has already shifted production of its Mazda2 compact from its Hiroshima site to its Hofu plant to create output space for the CX-3, which segment was the fourth-largest in the US in 2014 with 2.02 million unit sales.

In fact, the compact SUV/crossover segment grew the fasted in 2014, surging 15 percent to outpacing the auto industry’s 5.9 percent growth. The US compact SUV/crossover segment is led by the Honda CR-V followed by Ford Escape. Other players in the segment are the Nissan Juke and Chevrolet Trax.

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