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Japanese carmakers’ future plans snub EVs

RANGE EXTENSION: Mazda, Mitsubishi and Subaru are following Toyota and Nissan’s lead of pushing ahead with combustion engines as long as emissions regulations across their markets will allow.

ICE powertrains including hybrids feature heavily in Subaru, Mazda and Mitsubishi’s future product announcements

9 Sep 2022

SMALLER Japanese carmakers such as Mazda, Mitsubishi and Subaru are following Toyota and Nissan’s lead of pushing ahead with combustion engines as long as emissions regulations across their markets will allow.


While European, Korean and even US brands have revealed plans with a strong emphasis on electrification, EVs will continue to be a minority among Japanese line-ups well into the decade.




All of the above brands continue to invest heavily in hybrid technology, including Subaru, whose new Solterra crossover will likely be its sole EV model for several years until its Oizumi engine plant is converted to produce electric powertrains from 2027.


Until then we can expect more Subaru vehicles to include hybrid powertrains sourced from Toyota, which should be a vast improvement over the current battery-electric offering in the XV and Forester – Toyota also engineered Solterra's e-Subaru global platform that's based on the e-Toyota New Global Architecture.


One of the first Subies to gain the Toyota hybrid powertrain will be the Outback large SUV.


As revealed in early September, the Outback received an update for MY2023 that includes the addition of turbocharged XT variants that will be available in Australia in Sport and range-topping Touring trim.


But if you're holding out for a hybrid Outback, you'll have to wait for the all-new model expected in 2025.


The equally popular Forester medium SUV is set for a mid-life facelift in the second half of 2023. No word of when the next-generation model is expected or what powertrains it will have.


Meanwhile, a  new-model XV was expected in 2023 but global supply interruptions have pushed that into at least 2024, with the delay also impacting the Impreza small car on which it’s based.


Subaru’s iconic WRX performance sedan is one model that is confirmed to carry over into Subaru’s electric future sometime toward the end of the decade. Sadly, it looks like we won’t be seeing another STI halo variant until then. With the new-generation WRX still box fresh don’t expect an update until 2026.


The BRZ sports coupe is another Subaru model to have just regenerated, and like the WRX isn’t scheduled to receive a facelift until 2026.




The suits at Hiroshima are persisting with their goal of ensuring there is an SUV to suit everyone, with upcoming models CX-70 large SUV and three-row CX-90 to be shoehorned into the already substantial range that includes the brand-new CX-60.


The CX-70 and CX-90 will sit on a new rear-drive platform that also underpins the CX-60 and will also come with its 2.5-litre four-cylinder plug-in hybrid option.


If that’s not enough SUVs, Mazda is also expected to introduce an electric crossover called the MX-50 that could also come with the on-again/off-again rotary-powered range extender that, for now at least, is slated to become available in the updated MX-30 from late 2023 to expand its petty 224km range.


That said, Mazda has already started whittling down its product range, with the CX-3 small-SUV already making way for the similarly-sized but fresher CX-30 in Europe and North America. Both models continue to co-exist here, but with the CX-30 enjoying twice as many sales as CX-3, it’s only a matter of time before we bid adieu to the car that set the standard for crossovers in Australia.


As for the CX-30, expect a slight update for the MY24 model and new model in 2026 that will come with the option of a hybrid powertrain that's also sourced from Toyota.


The top-selling CX-5 medium SUV is likely to meet the same fate as the CX-3 in overseas markets, but with the similarly sized CX-50 ruled out for Australia its future here might be a little rosier if global production continues.


The CX-9 also faces the chopping block in the US once the CX-70 and CX-90 arrive. And while neither has been confirmed for Australia, we will likely receive at least one of them. Like the CX-5, its survival depends on if it can remain viable without North American sales.


The Mazda 3 hatchback and sedan look secure for the immediate future with a new model due in 2025 that is expected to feature a mild-hybrid petrol powertrain. Because it shares the same front-drive platform as CX-30 it’s possible for the new model to also come with the Toyota hybrid system.


Everyone’s favourite Mazda, the MX-5 roadster should continue to the end of its life cycle in 2026. 


Curiously, Mazda last year filed a trademark for a tri-motor hybrid powertrain to suit a small roadster, which would add two 17kW electric front motors and a 25kW transmission mounted motor powered by a 3.5kWh battery, though it is yet to be confirmed if it will be used in the next-generation MX-5.


If the MX-5 were to embrace electrification its nomenclature would be in line with other electrified models such as the MX-30.




The junior partner in its alliance with Renault and Nissan, Mitsubishi has made a name for itself in producing relatively affordable plug-in hybrid vehicles that are among the most practical on the market.


This is why there’s a buzz about the 2023 Triton ute, which will be available with a modified version of the powertrain found in the new Outlander PHEV, with an all-electric model not ruled out.


The 2023 Triton is slated to be unveiled around the end of 2022 with local deliveries expected in the middle of 2023. The PHEV variants will follow a year or so later.


No word of either of those powertrains will make their way into the Triton-based Pajero Sport 4WD SUV, which received an update in January 2022.


Mitsubishi’s latest PHEV powertrain has just arrived in the fourth-generation Outlander medium SUV, whose petrol versions arrived in Australia in mid-2021. At this stage, it’s too soon to know what the future holds for the popular mid-sized SUV.


Not so new is the ASX, whose double-figure age allows it to remain a popular entry-model SUV. However, Mitsubishi can only milk its ageing small SUV for so long, which is why a new model is expected in 2024.


The fresher first-generation Eclipse Cross, which also has a PHEV option, is expected to be replaced by a second-generation model built on a new alliance platform in 2025.


The only new Mitsubishi model on the horizon is a yet-to-be-unveiled crossover based on Nissan’s CMF-EV platform that underpins the Ariya. The new vehicle looks like an Outlander but wears the revived Airtrek badge. At this stage, it only seems destined for China.

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