Mazda’s design boss has hinted the next-generation Mazda2 hatchback could end up as a crossover as consumer tastes continue to shift towards high-riding vehicles.

Speaking to Drive, Mazda design chief Ikuo Maeda revealed that the fifth generation of the Japanese brand’s small hatchback could come in the form of a crossover, slotting in below the CX-3 (which reports have already suggested will grow appreciably in size in its next generation).

“At the moment, I don't have the answer to what will happen with the Mazda2, but we will put some focus on the future of that size of car and what it might turn out to become,” Maeda told the Australian publication.

“I would suspect compact cars are very important and we won’t ever see the disappearance of this, but what the exact needs for this compact segment are we don’t really know just yet. It could all shift towards towards SUV.

“All I can say is that we have just started with this new generation and we will always look for new opportunities. We will take time to see where this design takes us and we have many different options for this at the moment," he added.

Interestingly, the Drive report adds that the next-generation Mazda2 is likely to be launched in 2021 "at the earliest", with the Japanese firm focusing on its recently revealed Mazda3, the updated CX-5 and the next-generation (Isuzu-based) version of the BT-50 bakkie, before turning its attention to its first electric vehicles.