Leave it to Mazda to make fuel efficiency fun. Every automaker is looking for ways to squeeze extra mileage out of their engines these days, whether it’s sizing down the displacement or turning to fuel injection. But with their brand new SKYACTIV engines in the Mazda3 and upcoming Mazda6, the Zoom Zoom company is ushering in a new era of performance fuel-sippers.
Mazda is banking their future on a new line of engines that are smaller, weight less and make more power than their predecessors. Sounds like a recipe for success. While it appears that the torque-happy diesel version, the SKYACTIV-D, will come to North America in the 2014 Mazda6, we’re going to focus on the gas-powered SKYACTIV-G today. So let’s dive in.
Appearing in the new line of the popular 2012 Mazda3, the 2.0L four-cylinder engine is armed with direct injection and loads of tech goodies. The final product is 155 horsepower at 6,000rpm and 148 lb.-ft of torque at 4,100rpm, plenty of go-juice for a compact sedan that is one of the lightest in its segment. Fuel economy sells vehicles in this market, and the Mazda3 ratings of 28/40 mpg are better than the Ford Fiesta, Chevrolet Cruze and Volkswagen Golf – certified heavyweights that find themselves lacking compared to the sporty flair of the Mazda.
The SKYACTIV-G uses a few simple concepts and lots of complicated ones to accomplish this. For starters, Mazda shaved 4.4 lbs. off the previous MZR 2.0L engine to make the SKYACTIV lighter. That’s the easy part. They also equipped it with multi-hole injectors to enhance fuel spray, new piston cavity shapes to optimize combustion and dual sequential valve timing (S-VT) to decrease pumping loss. A type of variable valve timing (VVT), S-VT uses hydraulic pressure to open the intake valves at the precise right moment, wasting as little fuel as possible. It’s a Mazda invention from back in 1998, but it’s finally found a worthy home in the new SKYACTIV-G.
Efficiency isn’t the only thing the SKYACTIV-G does well. It’s also much more powerful than its predecessor, pumping an extra 5% horsepower and 10% torque over the MZR. Torque comes earlier in the powerband and a converter with lock-up clutch improves both fuel economy and driving feel. Thanks to an all-new 4-2-1 exhaust system, Mazda was able to push the engine compression ratio all the way to 14.0:1 which makes power and torque available with very low revs. It only takes a little push into the gas pedal to bring the car up to speed, for a sporty feel that is rare in the compact segment.
Advancements made with the 2012 Mazda3 will be seen in SKYACTIV engines for years to come, and it looks like the new 2014 Mazda6 will get not only the 2.0L version but also a 2.5L SKYACTIV-G four-cylinder with 189 horsepower. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but reports are that the sedan will weight just 3,106 lbs. so that power will go a long way. Armed with that engine, Start-Stop technology and patented Mazda i-ELOOP regenerative braking, the Mazda6 will move technology even further into the future.
We can’t wait to see how Mazda incorporates SKYACTIV into their products for years to come.
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