2019 Mazda3 SKYACTIV-X Review – First Drive


Interesting technology, to say the least!

Mazda have gone all out with the SKYACTIV engine so it will only be a matter of time before it either becomes a win for Mazda or a bet lost, so to speak.

Here’s what CarSales had to say about SKYACTIV and the rest of the Mazda3 in their review.


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 klms on Australia’s NED cycle, or 6.3 litres per 100 klms 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.


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