Road Test: Mazda3 2.0 Skyactiv-X

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The new Skyactiv-X petrol is clever and the pick of the engines in the latest Mazda3, reckons Martyn Collins.

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The standard stylish looks are unchanged, as the clever stuff happens under this Mazda3’s bonnet. Hidden under a big plastic cover (needed for faster warm-up) is Mazda’s vision for the future internal combustion engine – the 2.0-litre Skyactiv-X petrol.

So, what’s so special about this engine and why should we get so excited? Well, it’s the first production-ready petrol that uses compression ignition. Basically a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine, it’s said by Mazda to borrow the fuel efficiency and low-down torque of a diesel. It does this by using something called SPCCI – or Spark Controlled Compression Ignition – a system that allows this engine to switch between spark and compression ignition as needed.

A conventional petrol ignites the fuel/air mixture via the spark from a spark plug, but in a diesel no spark is required. Instead, the bang happens after the fuel is squirted into a combustion chamber of hot compressed air, as the piston comes to the end of its compression stroke. This is a more efficient combustion process; you only have to look at the impressive fuel economy offered by today’s diesels.

This 2.0-litre Skyactiv-X engine is designed to offer the best of both worlds, as it can swap between these two types of combustion, although for compression ignition, it uses a spark plug to time combustion and avoid engine knock. The rest of the time, the SPCCI system means this engine can run on a much leaner fuel/air mixture, thus giving efficiency gains.

Completing the tech is a 24v mild hybrid system, which uses a combined starter/generator to save energy when slowing down.

On the road, despite all this clever tech, it seems very normal – which is a good thing we think. Perhaps sounding more diesel-like at start-up and idle, it sadly has none of the low-down diesel torque, although it feels more willing in the mid-range from 3,000rpm upwards where the full 224Nm is available. The smooth operation and quick re-start of the start/stop system is impressive too. Peak power, which is 181hp, is available at a heady 7,000rpm.

Despite the lack of low-down grunt, the increased horse power must make it the pick of the engines available in the new Mazda3 range, including the clever rev-matching feature that brings another level of smoothness to what was already one of the slickest changes in the sector.

However, what business buyers will probably be keenest on with this engine is the figures, with the Mazda3 Skyactiv-X delivering a WLTP combined consumption figure of 4.45l/100km, and NEDC Correlated CO2 emissions of 100g/km w­­ith some saloon models dropping as low as 96g/km.

Prices for Mazda3 Skyactiv-X models start from around €26,790, and are available in up to three versions dependent on country in saloon and hatch bodystyles.

THE LOWDOWN

Key Fleet Model: Mazda3 Skyactiv-X hatch
Strengths: Frugal, smooth, styling, good to drive
Weaknesses: Skyactiv-X petrol engine lacks lowdown torque, expensive

The Verdict
The Skyactiv-X engine is clever, frugal and willing. It works well with the Mazda3’s keen drive – can it make its mark on fleet?

Sector: C-segment Price: €26,790 Fuel: 4.45l/100km* CO2: 100g/km**

FW Rating: ****

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Martyn Collins

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