Abstract In this study, the vapor phase catalytic oxidation of naphthalene was studied over CeO 2–ZrO 2 mixed oxide catalysts prepared via urea hydrolysis. The Ce 0.75Zr 0.25O 2 solid solution catalyst exhibits the highest activity for the naphthalene oxidation, and the extent of the activity is related to its degree of reducibility. Moreover, the Ce 0.75Zr 0.25O 2 catalyst shows a high selectivity towards CO 2 with no formation of by-products. Kinetic studies show that the reaction rates strongly depend on both naphthalene and oxygen concentrations. From the power law model, the reaction orders of naphthalene and oxygen were estimated to equally be ca. 0.5. The Mars–van Krevelen mechanism is in good agreement with the experimental results. The estimated activation energy of the reaction is ca. 90 kJ/mol.