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Skyactiv-X: Mazda’s new engine is sky high
AS MUCH as the shapely body of the new Mazda 3 shows off its maker's artistic side, the Japanese company has its serious engineers, too.
That much was clear at a press event in Frankfurt last week, where Mazda introduced a version of the 3 Hatchback with a revolutionary new engine called Skyactiv-X.
Mazda says Skyactiv-X combines the performance and low emissions of a petrol engine with the fuel efficiency and torque of a diesel powerplant.
How? Essentially, Skyactiv-X is a petrol engine that uses compression ignition (which is what diesel engines use), together with a spark (which petrol engines get from spark plugs), through a process Mazda calls Spark Controlled Compression Ignition, or SPCCI.
Making it work involves plenty of complicated physics, but the result is pretty straightforward. The Skyactiv-X engine burns up to 20 per cent less fuel than a comparable one and thus emits less emissions, yet it does so with no compromise on usable performance.
The Business Times took short test drives of a Mazda 3 with a Skyactiv-X engine around Frankfurt, and the key thing to note is that it feels completely like a normal engine. There are no strange noises or weird vibrations, and instead the engine feels linear and smooth in its operation. It's not lacking in power either, with a handy 180 horsepower on tap giving the car a rather sprightly character.
Other carmakers have tried creating similar engines, but Mazda has been the first to put the technology on the market, although Skyactiv-X will only be available in Singapore next year.
Here, the engine's 2.0-litre capacity might limit its appeal in a car the size of the Mazda 3, but the 1.5-litre M-Hybrid powerplant that is already available is no tech lightweight. So far, only Audi and Mercedes-Benz offer similar mild hybrid systems.
It goes to show that artful engineering counts for something at Mazda, too.