As other manufacturers downsize their offerings to meet ever-increasing fuel economy milestones, Mazda’s SkyActiv program utilizes engine geometry to hit those marks, resulting in the automaker’s current offerings looking rear-wheel drive while feeling front-wheel drive.
In an interview with Automotive News Europe, Mazda Europe design boss Peter Birthwhistle explained that since the automaker’s SkyActiv technology allows for engine size to remain larger than the competition, the layout of the exhaust system results in the passenger cell being pushed back to accommodate a “sloped angle” where the pipes exit from the engine. In turn, the overall look is that of the traditional long hood/short deck RWD layout in spite of the power going toward the front.
Turning toward alternative power, Birthwhistle mentioned a few offerings in the works, including a hybrid variant of the 3, a rotary-powered range extender that may see use in a future plug-in hybrid, and a move into electric vehicles. That said, the designer sees a lot of continuing potential with the internal combustion engine:
There’s still a lot of potential in conventional engines. They remain very inefficient in terms of things like heat loss. Get that sorted out and there’s amazing potential in gasoline engines in terms of fuel economy.
Looking further into the future, Birthwhistle also believed that by 2100, most cars will be automated personal pods, with small cars made for weekend warriors to use on track days.