Mazda is well advanced with a new-generation rotary engine which it intends to use in an all-new sports model.

Japanese insiders say it is most likely to power a two-door coupe built in the image of the most recent RX-7, the highly regarded version championed by the legendary “Koby” Kobayakawa, which went out of production in 2002.

The new car, likely to be called RX-9, will therefore not repeat the outgoing RX-8’s convenient but complicated four-door coupe layout.

See Autocar's rendering of the Mazda RX-9

The RX-9 will share the major chassis components of the next generation MX-5 roadster, and should have a kerb weight around 1250kg, light for a car with 300-plus bhp on tap.

The engine, known as 16X and is believed to use an electric supercharger, is described as “quite a bit bigger” than the current 2.6-litre twin-rotor unit used in the 228 bhp RX-8.

It will be considerably more efficient than the RX-8 engine, however, which was discontinued earlier this year because its high fuel consumption and propensity to use oil prevented it from meeting the latest EuroV clean air standards.

Read Autocar's scoop on the next Mazda MX-5

Even so, the RX-8 has been a considerable success: Mazda UK began selling it in 2003, moving up to 10,000 units annually in the early years. The British RX-8 population is around 50,000 cars. Mazda is still deciding whether the 16X engine will be configured to run on pump petrol and sold in volume volume like the RX-8, or become a more symbolic clean-air project running purely on hydrogen.

Either way, Mazda is determined to continue its association with an engine type it considers to be iconic – and which it used to win Le Mans outright in 1991.

Steve Cropley

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