2019 Mazda3 SKYACTIV-X Review – First Drive | carsales

2019 Mazda3 SKYACTIV-X Review – First Drive | carsales


There has been much talk about electric technology
of late, but before we get to that point, Mazda reckons the petrol engine might have
turned a new leaf. Today we’re driving the new Skyactiv engine
in the very first recipient, the Mazda3 that comes to Australia later this year. Mazda history is deeply rooted in internal
combustion, having found innovations the rotary Wankel engine and the Miller-cycle engine. Skyactiv-X is another example of that innovation,
delivering efficiency and power gains from traditional internal combustion powertrains. Whereas petrol engines rely on spark ignition,
using a spark plug to ignite premix fuel and air inside each cylinder combustion chamber,
diesel engines require combustion ignition, where fuel is injected into pre-compressed
air in order or replicate the heat and pressure produced by a spark plug. Skyactiv-X employs what Mazda calls Spark
Controlled Compression Ignition. Running on petrol, spark is used to ignite
a small dense amount of the fuel air mix in the cylinder, with a low capacity supercharger
and higher compression ratio, raising the temperature and pressure, so that the remaining
fuel air mix ignites under pressure, just like a diesel. Now putting all that theory to one side, in
practice what this engine is supposed to deliver is the torque and efficiency of a diesel,
with the high revving potential of a petrol engine. I’ve got to say, for all intents and purposes,
it has done that on today’s drive. You’re getting that nice torque curve you’d
expect from a diesel, and then from about 4500 rpm in particular, this engine seems
to get a second wind and delivers a little bit more punch than what you might expect. It doesn’t set the world on fire in terms
of outright performance, but instead it operates benignly, and I think that’s the whole point. In efficiency terms Mazda claims a fuel consumption
average of 5.3 litres per 100 k’s on Australia’s NED cycle, or 6.3 litres per 100 k’s for
the more realistic European WLTP cycle. Those figures represent a claim saving of
about 20% over the regular Skyactiv-G petrol, but the new engine can only do so with premium
unleaded petrol, which kind of offsets any huge cost saving for the consumer. The biggest story here is emissions, particularly
in Europe. Skyactiv-X pares back the Mazda3s emission
outputs to as little as 103 grams per kilometre. In a way safeguarding the petrol’s immediate
future. Under initial take off it’s pretty comparable
to a petrol engine, but during moving acceleration, like highway speeds when you’re going to overtake
and everything else, I think there is a clear point of difference with the Skyactiv-X. In terms of overall noise and vibration levels,
pretty well on par with the Mazda petrol engine if I’m honest. I’ve noticed the soundtrack under full acceleration
is quite similar. You’re getting comparable amounts of vibrations
through the seat and everything at idle speeds. It’s maybe a little quieter when you haven’t
got the hammer down, but otherwise it’s a fairly effective unit. One caveat with this engine I have found is
that it is prone to a very slight clattery noise when you’re transferring between middling
to upper revs, particularly when you bury the foot, just very slightly a diesel like
clutter before it recollects itself and gathers speed. The all-important number here is fuel consumption. Across all driving we average 7.5 litres per
100kms, which is hardly a revelation. The other important figure is price. The Skyactiv engine will attract a premium
when it arrives in Australia. When you combine what with the fact that it
requires premium unleaded fuel, the direct consumer benefits are limited. Keep in mind though that this is just the
beginning of the Skyactiv-X story, one that proves there’s still life in internal combustion
yet.