Amazingly, the combustion engine is now around one hundred and twenty years old. The Mazda3 Skyactiv-X has a new way of making it work.
Mazda’s Skyactiv-X engine has elements of both petrol spark ignition and diesel compression ignition. They call it Spark Controlled Compression Ignition (SPCCI)…can anyone come up with anything more catchy? First benefit: a very lean mixture. This creates a tiny fireball whose expansion sets off conditions for compression ignition. So clever, but why so long to achieve? Because it was tremendously difficult to create the perfect control necessary. This is Mazda’s achievement. In the end, it’s taken ten years getting it reliably ready for cars now coming off the production line.
The aim was to just get more efficient in terms of emissions and consumption. In the new Mazda3, it has a little helper, too: a ‘mild hybrid’ system for energy regeneration and assistance with such pre-requisites as the starting system. Has it succeeded?
The Mazda3 is now available with a new 2-litre, 180PS engine. (Smaller engines for their other models will be available.) Official fuel consumption is 45.6mpg. The CO2 emissions rating is 103g/km. 0-62mph takes 8.5 seconds for the AWD (all-wheel-drive) version.
The two test cars we tried at the U.K. launch were the GT Sport, priced at £27,575 and then the AWD GT Sport Tech, costing £29,775. Both cars had options including leather and a variety of handy driver-assistance and safety features, plus a choice of colours in metallic paint finishes.
They were equally entertaining to drive, with a particularly slick-shifting 6-speed manual gearbox. With 224Nm of torque on tap at 3000rpm, the gearbox was used plenty on a hilly cross-country route to maintain brisk progress up inclines.
On the first drive, the Sport GT recorded 40 mpg; the Sport Tech GT AWD was driven harder and consumption finished at an indicated 33 mpg. However, in ordinary day-to-day situations and cruising on motorways, the 45.6 mpg figure should be no great challenge. The 48-litre tank gives a potential range of around 475 miles.
The cars rode comfortably and quietly, feeling refined and with a pleasantly-purposeful exhaust note under hard acceleration. Excellent steering and braking added to the secure feel all-round. The styling inside is attractive, with apparently high-quality materials including smart stitching throughout.
It all appears very well-finished, although one of the cars developed a minor squeak from somewhere underneath.
The test cars driven were both hatchbacks. There are saloon equivalents that Mazda points out have only one body-component shared: the bonnet and the windscreen.
Plenty of connectivity, infotainment and satnav offers a complete package, varying of course up the scale of which version is bought.
People are buying Mazda to an extent that bucks the overall industry downward sales trend; Mazda sales are actually increasing, indicating to potential buyers that its range is certainly worth exploring, especially by anyone interested in experiencing the cutting edge of engine innovation.
And, by the way, we are informed that the those who study and research these things expect there still to be 85% combustion engines in use by 2035. The fact is an incredible four combustion engined cars will still be rolling out of the factories per second!
Car reviewed: All-New Mazda3 180ps AWD GT Sport Tech, on the road price £29,775 0-62mph 8.9secs Top speed 131mph Engine 1998cc 4 cylinder unleaded Euro 6 Fuel Economy Combined 40.9mpg CO2 emissions 125g/km Max Power 180PS@6000rpm Torque 224Nm@3000rpm Transmission 6-speed manual
Watch what the others say on Youtube…
Tom Scanlan has written for a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, particularly the Reading Evening Post for ten years, having got into motoring journalism in 1973 via the somewhat unlikely back door of the British Forces Broadcasting Service. BFBS produced a weekly radio motoring show for the services overseas and Tom produced it, as well as interviewing experts and eventually reporting on cars.
He is into classic cars and has owned Porsche, Ferrari, pre-war Alvis and Rileys and currently owns his fifth old Alfa Romeo, a 1984 GTV 2.0.
In his spare time, Tom is a professional cricket coach.
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