By on November 9, 2018

Mazda is bringing its new Skyactiv-X engine, hyped as a major leap forward in internal combustion engine technology, to the Los Angeles Auto Show and the end of the month. Wedged inside the new Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback, the powerplant uses “Spark Controlled Compression Ignition,” which is said to combine the efficiency of a diesel unit with the performance of a gasoline mill. The manufacturer claims fuel economy improvements of more than 30 percent over a standard gasoline engine of the same displacement.

Assuming Mazda meets that mark, it’s a petty impressive feat. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder will debut along with the 3’s new platform in L.A. at the end of the month. 

Outlined by Automotive News, the manufacturer plans to use the Mazda 3 to showcase more than just a fresh engine. The model features a new take on the brand’s Kodo design language, which has resulted in some of the best looking and expressive cars on the market, to provide an updated exterior. Technically, Kodo is supposed to be new, but it’s really more of what what makes its cars easy on the eyes: creating the illusion of movement and simple, organic-looking shapes. The Kai Concept (below) is a perfect example; it was rumored to be the blueprint for the new Mazda 3’s exterior.

Mazda Kai Concept

While the looks and motor are likely to steal the show, the 2019 Mazda 3 also introduces a new architecture that, according to Mazda, weighs less, costs less to produce, and offers a quieter and more comfortable ride with superior dynamics thanks to enhanced rigidity. In other words, the total package.

That’s already a lot to promise, minus the revolutionary engine.

Back to the Skyactiv-X for a moment. The mill’s ultra-lean fuel mixture — helped by a small supercharger — will get additional assistance via some tepid electrification.

From Automotive News:

The Mazda3 also receives a new engine — dubbed Skyactiv-X — which Mazda says combines the best traits of diesel and gasoline engines for ultraclean power. Using a technology called spark-controlled compression ignition, it aims to improve both performance and fuel economy.

Mazda CEO Akira Marumoto, talking about the car here ahead of its unveiling, said the strategy is to mate the Skyactiv-X engine to a mild-hybrid system. Marshaling the electric motor’s power-assist ability will ensure linear acceleration and spirited driving, Marumoto said.

A few early reviews of test mule Skyactiv-X systems revealed it wasn’t quite ready for prime time. Claims arose that the ultra-lean gasoline mixture created knocking at low engine speeds but without any noticeable effect on performance.

Despite continued improvements over the past year, the chance exists that those introductory powertrains could be a little persnickety. That’s relatively common within the industry. Brand new tech doesn’t often lend itself to enhanced reliability, which is the price of progress sometimes. Fortunately, if you’re terrified of taking any risks, the brand said the new Mazda 3 would be offered with the mild hybrid 2.0-liter Skyactiv-X powerplant and the current-generation 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G gasoline engine.

Despite its smaller size, the 2.0-liter mild hybrid will be the more expensive option and should surpass the G’s 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque by a fair margin. Mazda’s early estimates had the Skyactiv-X outputting around 190 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque, with the additional bonus of being more efficient — hence the decision to relegate it to higher trims.

“Skyactiv-X is a very efficient engine in the first place, so we don’t need a full hybrid. Mild hybrid is good enough,” the CEO explained. “And by using the mild-hybrid system, linear driving dynamics can be pursued as well … That’s why we believe the grade should be higher.”

Mild hybrids are an essential part of Mazda’s plan to electrify every vehicle in its lineup. Under existing plans, electric vehicles, some of which should have gasoline range extenders, will make up about 5 percent of the brand’s portfolio by 2030. Still, the brand really doesn’t want to abandon internal combustion. The vast majority of its future fleet will employ hybridization, most of it of the mild variety.


[Image: Mazda]

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18 Comments on “Skyactiv-X Engine Debuts Inside 2019 Mazda 3 This Month...”

  • avatar


    Man, something was really stuck in my throat there. Sorry, what were we talking about?

    • 0 avatar

      That gets me thinking. Is there anything on sale even close in spirit to something like the AC Cobra? The Corvette…? I guess maybe that weighs like 3,300 pounds and is thus fairly light for the power. Still about 1,000 pounds more than an MX-5.

    • 0 avatar


    • 0 avatar

      FCA has all the engineering intelligence, all it needs to achieve what you suggest it needs Mazda for. That is if they have management direct those resources into that direction.

      I don’t mean that they can just come up with such a brilliant thing as the Skyactiv-X just like that. I mean that they’ve come up with brilliant engine tech before and can in the future, and they certainly are able to make small cars that are right at the top of the industry. If they’re asked to, and funded for it that is.

      The positives of Mazda can’t and won’t just be given to FCA in partnerships. You can’t just make Mazdas as Fiats for the whole product lineup and expect that to be a success.

      I do agree that they could have a fruitful partnership due to economies of scale though.

    • 0 avatar

      Be careful what you wish for.

      FCA’s motto: Dodge testing. RAM it into production.

  • avatar

    Very interested to see how this technology pans out. Hopefully it’s a real breakthrough and not the disappointing 1 mpg improvement of the Nissan variable compression design.

    • 0 avatar

      Mazda is a relatively small company – 15th in 2015, 16th in 2016, couldn’t quickly find 2017 – with a tiny fraction of the R&D budget of the majors. If this was actually worth anything then Toyota would have already done it 10 years ago.

    • 0 avatar

      > not the disappointing 1 mpg improvement

      Mazda does a lot of interesting things that don’t necessarily make a dramatic improvement when you sum it up irl. The current Mazda is a case in point:

      – I-Eloop, interesting capacitive system used to reduce parasitic load, results in 1 mpg improvement
      – Extra long exhaust headers to improve combustion, 2L engine figures not really that different from typical Honda K20 engine
      – 2.5L bored and stroked so that it has same ratio and rev characteristics as the 2L engine, not really a dramatic difference in IRL driving powerwise

      Don’t get me wrong, i’m really looking forward to seeing what homogenous charge ignition will be like, but it will be interesting to see how it compares to something like Toyota’s Dynamic Force engine, which is basically branded technology for better intake tumble-flow, an improved version of the “conventional” approach.

      Basically we’re looking at the race between “new” verses “improved”, and if/when “new” overtakes the “improved” approach.

  • avatar

    “That’s already a lot to promise, minus the revolutionary engine.”

    Haha. I see what you did there. “revolutionary” as in “revolving” as in “rotary?”

    Kudos to Mazda for pulling this off. Or should I say Kodo?

  • avatar

    Please, oh please, oh please, oh please, oh please tell me they did more R&D and testing with this engine than the Renesis.


  • avatar

    It’s so nice to see news about a new hatchback in the future. Hope this does well for them. I’d probably look at one of these down the line.

  • avatar

    I’ll reserve final judgment till when the 3 officially debuts, but oof there’s something about that Hatch rear-end that looks weird to me. Just a lot of space between the C-pillar and hatch.

    Sounds like this engine has potential to have great fuel economy. Cool technology. Interested to see what they do transmission wise.

  • avatar

    I am REALLY looking forward to this car and the new tech. I have not been excited by many car releases at all over the last several years (crossover, 2.0L turbo 4, AWD, a million dollars), but this one I am.excited for. That it should drive like a Mazda and be in my price range is probably part of it.

    The current 2.0L Skyactiv-G is 27/37 in the current 3. So 30% improvement is 35/48. Mazda also seems to vastly outperform EPA in the real world. Consumer Reports tests of a 2.0L automatic Skyactiv-G pulled 45mpg in their highway tests (Mazda 6 also did similarly better than EPA). Add another 30% to that highway number and that is 58mpg.

    Car might have 190hp, be fun to drive, affordable, and pull down that kinda MPG? Yeah, I’m interested. Please please please don’t make it automatic only though or that will probably kill it for me.

    Lease though. Not gonna be an early adopter on the hook for later in life repairs on this brand new engine tech.

    ASIDE: Didn’t Mazda say not too long ago they weren’t gonna electrify? And now they’re gonna electrify everything? Little confused on this one.

  • avatar

    Out in the real world, I have to wonder how this technology will survive the inevitable combustion chamber deposits, sensor degradation, fuel additives, etc., etc. that push the design limits. It just sounds too good to be true.

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