One of AutoGuide.com‘s readers spotted this Mazda2 near the company’s headquarters in Irvine, California, and several things stood out. For starters, Mazda has confirmed the next-generation Mazda2 isn’t heading to the U.S. or Canada, so it’s a bit strange that something is being tested in the U.S. Along with that, this particular Mazda2 is badged as a Mazda Demio and is a right-hand-drive model that appears to have come straight from Japan. But most importantly, there is a second “gas door” on the front fender, meaning it is a plug-in hybrid.
More than two years ago, Mazda began testing the Mazda2 Range Extender, which featured a 0.33-liter rotary engine along with an electric motor. It actually started its life as a full electric vehicle before the Japanese automaker incorporated a small rotary engine to serve as a range extender, similar to the BMW i3.
It is most likely that Mazda North America is testing the plug-in hybrid powertrain in order to see if it fits with any other existing models that are sold in the U.S. and Canada. Whether or not it will have a rotary engine remains an unknown.