The much-vaunted Mazda 3 Skyactiv-X is now in full production, and here’s our exclusive first driving impressions
Photos: Mazda, David Smith (local photos: CarBuyer Team)
We’ve covered the new Mazda 3 extensively here on CarBuyer over the past few weeks, with Derryn having had a go in the Mazda 3 2.0 Sedan model in Japan, and Ju-Len scoring an exclusive local first drive of the new model, which revives the iconic Astina nameplate for Singapore.
The reason for giving it all this attention is not just because the Mazda 3 is one of the most important cars to be launched in Singapore this year, but also the fact that the new 3 promises to completely revolutionise the segment with its premium upgrades and innovative new technologies.
Speaking of which, the biggest breakthrough of this latest generation model is Mazda’s new Skyactiv-X engine technology, which is said to offer the best of both worlds between petrol and diesel.
Derryn drove a pre-production prototype of the car in Japan last year, but the Skyactiv-X is finally ready for production, and we’ve managed to blag exclusive first impressions during the international press event in Frankfurt.
What is Skyactiv-X?
Here’s a handy explainer from our resident tech guru Derryn on what is Skyactiv-X and how it works, but in short summary, the system uses compression ignition (found in diesels) combined with a spark (found in petrols), through a process Mazda calls Spark Controlled Compression Ignition, or SPCCI.
It is a complicated process, and one which many carmakers have attempted in prototypes over the years, but Mazda is the first to actually put it into production. The result of this is an engine that burns fuel more efficiently, resulting in cleaner emissions and fuel economy that will “better any gasoline engine currently available out there”, according to Mazda.
It manages to achieve this despite having an extremely high compression ratio (16.3:1, compared to 10.0:1 for an average 1.6-litre Japanese car), which means it that there is no significant loss in performance. And, according to Hiroshi Tokushige, Mazda’s deputy general manager of powertrain development, it actually runs better on regular or lower octane fuels, rather than higher grades.
Sounds great, but how does it drive?
Our driving route around Frankfurt in the Skyactiv-X was fairly short unfortunately, so we could only offer brief impressions. But Mazda said that the purpose of the drive was for us to experience the engine’s response under acceleration, as well as its overall refinement.
Naturally, the fuel efficiency claims will only be known after an extended test drive, probably when the car arrives in Singapore some time next year.
However, a quick comparison with the Mazda 3 2.0 Skyactiv-G reveals that the Skyactiv-X version offers slightly better fuel economy (on paper at least, based on the manufacturer-provided WLTP figures), despite producing more power (155hp vs 180hp).
We got the chance to drive the car with both manual and automatic gearboxes, and in the latter it felt honestly no different from a regular Mazda 3. Power delivery was smooth and linear, and performance felt pretty punchy, with the 180hp and 224Nm of torque on tap making light work of autobahn traffic.
The SPCCI process happens through most of the rev range, only switching off at idle or under hard acceleration, but the transition between it and regular spark ignition is extremely seamless, to the point that you absolutely couldn’t tell if you didn’t look at the indicator on the centre console screen.
In the manual car, the engine tends to encourage you to shift to higher gears as soon as possible, to reduce revs for more efficient running. Fourth gear comes about as low as 60km/h when driving through town, while you’ll get to sixth even before triple digit speeds. It’s probably the most obvious sign of the engine’s economical nature, but it’s not something Singaporeans will have to worry about as the manual is not slated for our market.
In terms of refinement, the engine fared pretty well for the most part, although there is still a bit of a din when the unit is pushed hard. Mazda says that they will take on the feedback following this drive event and make further tweaks before putting the car on official sale.
And when will that be?
Local Mazda distributor Eurokars has not indicated a firm launch date for the Mazda 3 Skyactiv-X in Singapore, but it’s probably likely we’ll see the car here sometime next year. Mazda says that it will prioritise Europe following the Skyactiv-X’s initial launch in the third quarter of 2019, as those markets have a greater urgent demand for high-efficiency, low-emissions cars.
In any case, as mentioned at the start, we’ve already extensively covered the all-new Mazda 3 here on CarBuyer.com.sg, so there’s plenty of time for you to read up before you experience the car when it arrives. Or if you cannot wait, the ‘regular’ Mazda 3 is already on sale here, and we’ve driven that too if you want to know what it’s like.
READ MORE: 5 Facts About Skyactiv-X
Mazda 3 Hatchback Skyactiv-X 2.0
|Engine||1,998cc, inline 4|
|Power||180hp at 6000rpm|
|Torque||224Nm at 4000rpm|
|Fuel Efficiency||6.3L/100km (estimated)|
|VES Band / CO2||TBC|