13:1 Compression and 40 mpg on 87 Octane fuel? Introducing Mazda’s Skyactiv Technology

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We recently got to sample a prototype version of a Skyactiv G engine over a wide variety of driving conditions from city traffic to highway cruising.  The Prototype engine was installed in a current Mazda 6 chassis, although it will be first available on our shores in the 2012 Mazda 3.

mazda skyactiv engine
We got to sample the Skyactiv G engine in these prototype Mazda 6 chassis with both automatic and manual transmissions.  The Mazda 6 is a mid size car, pretty big and heavy for a little naturally aspirated 4 cylinder.  Nevertheless, the Skyactiv engine exhibited fairly brisk performance.  Although the rev limit was a pretty low 6500 rpm, probably due to the long stroke, the engine was responsive and felt eager to rev through its power range.  The engine felt like it had a wide and flat torque curve as well.  The engine was also exceptionally smooth.  In the compact lighter Mazda 3 the engine should have sparkling performance.  VW TDI-like fuel economy on much cheaper 87 octane unleaded will be welcome as well!  Mazda, we want one of these for a project car to give our Project Hyper-Miler and TDI a run for the money!

Even in the heavier Mazda 6 chassis, the engine surprised us with reasonably peppy performance and a wide, tractable powerband.  Although the engine had a somewhat low 6500 rpm redline, it was eager feeling, probably due to the wide powerband and a smooth willingness to rev freely to redline.  The wide powerband made the redline feel higher than it really was.

In the lightweight Mazda 3 this engine should be more than adequate, and longer legged than a TDI diesel, for instance.  All was not perfect.  In transitional throttle applications like tipping in quickly from steady state to brisk acceleration, like when passing a car or when making a quick turn from a standstill, we could hear the sharp crack of detonation.  This only lasted an instant to two but it was unnerving.   We pointed this out to the Mazda engineers who were always nearby.  We assume that this is either harmless by design or will be engineered out by further engine calibration before production.

We really like Mazda’s upcoming Skyactiv technology.  It just plain makes sense to us.  We like the idea of hot hatch performance with compact diesel-like fuel economy with low emissions and low operating costs.  We also think that this engine will be about impossible to modify for the average enthusiast.  It will probably make a fun and frugal daily driver so you can keep that fuel guzzling EVO or GTR in the garage to save for weekends!

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