Mazda’s 2016 lineup includes powertrain shake-ups.

Mazda‘s 2016 lineup includes powertrain shake-ups.

The Mazda3s Touring’s manual transmission option has been discontinued for 2016, limiting buyers to the range-topping trim if they want a manual transmission paired to the compact’s peppier engine.

All four- and five-door models with the 2.0L four-cylinder (denoted by an “i” rather than an “s”) will still be available with either transmission, but those who want the 184-horsepower, 2.5-liter engine will have to spring for a Grand Touring model to option it with a manual gearbox.

The manual option was available only on “i” models for the 2014 Mazda3’s initial production, so limited availability is nothing new. It’s the Touring model’s short run (effectively just the 2015 model year) that raises eyebrows.

That’s not the only interesting bit of news to come out of Mazda’s 2016 model year updates. Much of the information released earlier in August (such as the discontinuation of the Mazda5 mini-minivan) was known or unsurprising, but buried in the list was another interesting turn: The CX-5‘s 2.0L engine will only be available with the manual transmission going forward.

When the CX-5 was introduced for the 2013 model year, the 2.0L was the only available engine and it was available in front- or all-wheel-drive with the automatic transmissions across all trims. A front-drive/manual model with limited options was available for those who wanted the cheapest (or most enthusiast-friendly, if that’s your angle) package possible. The 2.5L engine has now effectively taken over the entire CX-5 model line.

It’s no secret that Mazda still has room above its existing suite of four-cylinder engines for a high-output powerplant. With the impending demise of the current-generation CX-9 and its Ford-sourced, 3.7L MZI V6, rumors are swirling that a turbocharged engine based on the 2.5L is on the way. This harmonizes with rumors of a forthcoming Mazdaspeed3 replacement, the prior incarnation of which was motivated by a turbocharged variant of Mazda’s 2.3L four-cylinder.

Could the gradual phase-out of the 2.0L in the CX-5 point to a more potent engine offering there too? It would give the CX-5 the athleticism to compete with some of the bigger guns in the segment, such as the Jeep Cherokee, Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape and Kia Sportage.

Lending more credibility to this theory is the continued absence of a larger engine for Mazda’s midsizer. The 6 has carried the “i” label on every model, loosely indicating that the 2.5L four is not (and never was) intended to be its most potent mill. Could a turbocharged engine make its way under the hood there too?

We shouldn’t have to wait long for answers. The CX-9 replacement is due to be introduced this fall, and the same is rumored of the new Mazdaspeed3. Once the new powertrains are revealed, we should start to learn more about what they mean for the rest of Mazda’s lineup.

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