The all-new Mazda 3 is a hatchback with real potential. Our drive last month proved that as ‘normal’ cars go, the 3’s combination of sophisticated driving manners, an exceptional interior and distinctive styling has definitely given it an edge in the class, but for one crucial element: its underwhelming powertrains. That’s about to change though, as Mazda has released figures for its groundbreaking new compression ignition Skyactiv-x petrol engine, which will join the current engine range in the UK at the end of this year.
The headline figures are 177bhp, with 165lb ft of torque available at 3000rpm - not massive, granted, but they are equivalent to that of a top-spec ‘normal’ Ford Focus, Honda Civic or Volkswagen Golf. As was the whole point of the Skyactiv-x philosophy, the Mazda 3 Skyactiv-x does show marked improvements in terms of efficiency, achieving between 7-10mpg more than its equivalent rivals (at 52.3mpg), while producing 35-50g/km less CO2 (96g/km).
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Torque is also up, thanks in part to the Skyactiv-x’s supercharger, now comparing to its turbocharged rivals rather than lagging behind, which has classically been an issue for Mazda models. The production Skyactiv-x powertrain will be available in the Mazda 3 hatchback, and the forthcoming saloon towards the end of 2019, representing the first real innovation in mainstream internal combustion engineering for a generation.
If you’re of the impression that the development of new internal combustion technology is a moot point anyway, it might also be worth considering Mazda’s research into wheel-to-well emissions, which takes into account the entire life-cycle journey of electricity from its point of production right through to its consumption within an electric car.
Using a mid-sized electric vehicle as a base, the average energy consumption is rated at approximately 20kWh per 100 kilometres (62 miles). Using this as a guide, electricity produced from a coal-fired power plant will equate to an emissions rating of around 200g/km for a pure EV charged from the mains – significantly higher than most new petrol- or diesel-powered mid-sized family cars. When averaged out between other major electricity sources, including petroleum and liquified petroleum gas, this figure does shrink to 128g/km, but this is still only 14g/km below Mazda’s Skyactiv-X engine, which will go into production next year.
The market will continue to trend away from the internal combustion engine, but Mazda’s ‘right solution at the right time’ mentality will ensure that its latest generation of petrol engines will be as competitive as possible until the infrastructure required to power an electric car future has matured.
Rather than acting as a preventer of Mazda’s development in electric vehicle tech, this is instead an intended wake-up call to consumers about the realities of battery electric vehicles within the current infrastructure. Mazda’s development of a battery electric vehicle due for release next year, and the brand’s first mild-hybrid the year after, will continue as scheduled.
As the generation of electricity continues to diversify from non-renewable sources, the real emissions generated by an electric-car-friendly infrastructure will drop.
For the moment though, Mazda’s intention to keep its finger in the internal combustion pie is an encouraging sign that it has not fallen into the trap some manufacturers might in creating an EV-heavy product line-up before the market, or indeed infrastructure, is there to handle it.