By on April 25, 2019

Much-touted engines seem to take a while to arrive in North America, at least when it comes to Mazda. To the brand’s credit, those engines, at least in the case of the Skyactiv-D diesel, do eventually make it to these shores — though many wonder whether Mazda should have even bothered.

The Skyactiv-X is a different beast than its diesel counterpart. With this engine, Mazda promises increased power and greatly increased efficiency, all thanks to the engine’s novel combination of gasoline and diesel combustion elements. Journalists were offered a test drive over a year ago, but when the next-generation Mazda 3 appeared earlier this year, the 2.0-liter Skyactiv-X was nowhere to be seen. What gives?

Mazda claims the new engine, said to improve fuel economy by 20 to 30 percent over a regular 2.0-liter, passes all U.S. emissions regulations, but customers will have to wait.

TTAC’s Corey Lewis, a die-hard Mazda fan who can’t keep the brand’s cars out of his driveway, asked about the engine’s absence during a recent test drive of the all-wheel drive 3 sedan and hatch. “The only commitment representatives made was that the engine would be available in the European market later in 2019,” he wrote.

Speaking at a recent Detroit conference, Mazda North American Operations CEO Masahiro Moro implied that the Skyactiv-X’s arrival is not imminent.

“Skyactiv-X is on our road map going forward,” Moro said the SAE International WCX conference, as reported by Automotive News. “We have a lot of technology. And we are introducing each technology in each region when the time is right.”

Despite the company being a fan of mid-year upgrades, it’s looking extremely doubtful that Mazda’s Spark Controlled Compression Ignition engine will make an appearance this model year. As it stands, the revamped 3 offers just one engine — the brand’s carryover 2.5-liter, good for 186 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque. Canadian customers still have access to the old 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G mill (155 hp, 150 lb-ft), as well as a wider selection of manual transmission choice.

Moro said his company’s current focus is on a 2.0-liter of a different nature, this one also bound for the compact 3.

“Customers are looking for good power from a sophisticated and reliable engine. Right now, we are expanding Skyactiv-G,” he said, adding that the engine boasts a 14:1 compression ratio, the highest of any gasoline-powered car. The existing Skyactiv-G has a 13:1 compression ratio, while the Skyactiv-X boasts a 16:1 ratio.

[Images: Corey Lewis/TTAC, Mazda]

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24 Comments on “On ICE: Mazda’s Skyactiv-X Wonder Engine Isn’t in a Hurry to Get Stateside...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    My guess is that they figured out it will end up adding too much to the sticker price, and won’t offer meaningfully better performance or economy than the 2.5.

    Said it before and I’ll say it again: if they put the 2.5T in the 3, load it up, and sell it for $30,000 or so with AWD, they’ll kick the crap out of Mercedes, BMW and Audi in the entry-lux segment. The styling and interior are more than good enough to compete in that class as it is; all it really lacks is power. Keep it simple, Mazda.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      when I read more into the technical details about this, it sounds like they’re really running this thing right on the razor’s edge of detonation. I’m wondering if this is going to be another Skyactiv-D where the actual release date gets pushed further and further into the future.

      • 0 avatar
        xtoyota

        Keep it for the time being in Europe ….. let them be the BETA TESTER

        • 0 avatar
          thegamper

          Europe might be a better BETA tester than the US, but if you really want a Beta tester, somewhere that lacks serious regulation, a functioning court system, consumer protections, etc… would be better. Parts of Asia, Africa, Middle East, South America.

          My guess is that the engine, production capacity or parts are simply not widely available yet, get the engines to your most promising markets. Mazda is a bit player in the US. We clearly care nothing for fuel economy here (See exhibit A, Pickup Sales), have very cheap gasoline where a few MPG isnt going to launch your vehicle to the top of anyone’s shopping list.

          Makes sense to send every one you can make to where they will sell, without heavy discounts based on their trump card…fuel economy.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            This. The engine we do get is more than efficient enough, and spending all of that money to bring the engine here would just be a losing battle.

    • 0 avatar
      Raevoxx

      2.5T, with choice of FWD w/LSD, or AWD, and the new upscale Mazda interiors… it would probably be closest to a GTI competitor. In fact, it would probably slot between the GTI and Golf-R, really.

      In which case, that would likely put the MSRP somewhere around $35-$37k; fully-loaded Autobahns MSRP around $38K as it is. A base Golf R starts at $40k.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I’d say they should skip on making it a GTI/Golf R fighter – VW owns that segment. Make it a entry-lux sedan.

        A fully loaded 3 with AWD runs $29,000 now. Figure another couple grand for the hotter engine. You’d have a $31,000 no-excuses entry-luxury sedan.

        It’d crap all over the A-class in terms of performance and price. It’d offer more interior space and a lower price than the A3. Meanwhile, the BMW 2-series is two-door only, and the Acura ILX is a silly thing that no one buys anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      They won’t kick the crap out of BMW/MB/Audi…because those cars have aspirational badges that Mazda lacks. Loaded up in the new A class out techs the Mazda (as will the new A3 and BMW) granted at a higher price point.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        “Higher price point” is one thing. But we’re not talking about a few grand here.

        Loaded up, the new A-class pushes fifty grand, and all the stupid LED screens don’t hide that it has a punk motor; an A3 is plenty fast (ask the man who owns one) but a loaded copy comes in around forty, and has a very small back seat and trunk. Performance and space count in this segment too.

        Mazda would DEFINITELY find these kinds of buyers at +/- $30,000 if the 3 had the right motor. That’s really the only thing it lacks.

        • 0 avatar
          whynot

          They will find the enthusiast who care about performance. They won’t find the buyers who care about the badge though. And that makes up a large segment of the A/CLA/A3 buyers. I mean just look at the success of the first gen CLA, which is a terrible vehicle for its price.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Keep in mind the CLA shows up on Hertz lots, so I wonder how “successful” it really was. I can’t imagine anyone who owns one currently wanting another one.

            Audi basically started selling “performance without the badge,” and it worked for them, and since Mazda seems to be following their example, it’s not the worst way to go for them.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Why in the world doesn’t Mazda build a 1.8 Turbo? They could easily meet their fuel economy/performance targets with this. They just have to be Kodo cooler than everyone else whil VAG spits out Golf/GTI/GLIs that are less expensive, and more fun to drive .
    If only Honda was more executionary with their recent mid cycle exterior refresh of the Civic they’d continue their dominance as well.
    Meanwhile the KDM are getting more dynamic and fun to drive each passing generation of the Elantra line.
    A shame really, I saw a 2019 3 sedan this week for the 1st time, very pleasing to the eye for sure.

  • avatar
    chris724

    I never understood why Mazda struggles so much with fuel economy.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      I’m not sure if this was said in jest, but Mazda is amazing at fuel economy? I wonder why other companies can’t do what little old mazda, with its minimal budget, manages to pull off!

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Me either, zoom-zoom must be a fuel hog.

    • 0 avatar
      Jerome10

      I’d argue they do not have a problem.

      CR overall pulled 28mpg in a Mazda6, 42 real world on the highway. 29 is the EPA rating combined, and 35 on the highway. I believe it was the best non-hybrid sedan CR has tested in real world economy.

      The question is does the Skyactiv-X really deliver on the 20-30% improvement? Would be impressive if they can hit 30% more….real world is 54mpg based on that 42mpg highway number.

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        Over the 25,000 miles I’ve tracked in my Mazda6 I’m just a tick under 31mpg. Most tanks recently have been the 28 or 29 variety and should increase as weather continues to warm up and winter blended fuel is phased out for the season. I am not at all unhappy with this car’s mileage.

        I daresay it does better real world than the 2013 Focus SE 5MT I had. Then again that ran 2750rpm at 70mph. My records for that were lost when I had to delete my mileage tracker application.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Mazda, and I have owned several in my life, seems to be taking a lot of mis-steps the last few years.

    1) Diesel delayed for how long now? Released….disappointing all around.

    2) ND Miata – Beyond clear with the recent engine upgrade that they were caught flat footed in North America with the ND release. They decided to go with the 2.0L too late to massage it for proper sports car duty. 2 years late.

    3) Skyactiv-X – My gut feeling is a few things. 1) the engine costs too much and the fuel economy savings isn’t significant enough to justify it. Therefore it goes to Europe first. They seem to be willing to pay more for fuel savings. In USA, gas is just too cheap. Might never see it 2) makes less power than the 2.5L gas, but will cost more to buy. 3) Reliability issues.

    It is too bad. I had been quite interested in seeing a Skyactiv-X with manual hatch. But now that the 2.5L with stick is $28k and Skyactiv-X is nowhere to be found, I’m thinking forget it. Probably a $30k+ compact.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    I think Mazda wants to dump the 2.2l turbodiesel in Europe because it has been criticized there for being a bit of a dog both in performance and economy. Same with the Honda 1.6. Peugeot and Renault make the good ones. So SkyActiv-X would be the replacement for the diesel there and in Australia where Mazda is the number one importer.

    Gas is cheap in the US, so if production facilities are limited to begin with, then North America gets the SkyActiv-X last. The engine does run in detonation in lean mode – that’s how it works and why they use a very strong block like the diesel to keep things together. Why they waited until now to introduce the dog of a diesel itself here is beyond me though – it’s likely to ring up about zero sales.

  • avatar
    James2

    If Mazda was based in Silicon Valley they would be accused of making vaporware (and I’m a Mazda fan).

    It almost sounds like a case of ready, fire, aim.

    Of course, they probably started developing S-X (and S-D) when gas prices were in the $4 range, but R&D takes its sweet ‘ol time and…

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Mazda builds the stuff they promise, they just don’t bring it to the US in any hurry. That’s not really vaporware. Might as well focus on the markets that matter.

      • 0 avatar
        bullnuke

        80% of Mazda’s market is outside the US. That is truly where their market focus should be. Someone mentioned in one of the numerous Mazda articles on TTAC over the last week that there may be some “desperation” on Mazda’s part in adding various features(diesel/AWD/turbo 2.5 and now SkyActiv-X) to the various deck chairs arranged on its listing deck. Note that the similar-in-size manufacturer Suzuki found itself in a similar declining US volume situation a few years ago and left the US market to focus on where it actually sells vehicles in fairly respectable volumes and is today doing well.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Skyactiv-X…. diesel… all the money and resources wasted on these technologies could have been spent on a proven efficiency booster:

    Good old hybrid technology.

    On average hybridization adds about 200lbs to a car’s curb weight, so that would kind of suck. But that’s 200lbs that lowers the CoG significantly and is a guaranteed 30-40% fuel economy boost. Probably more with Mazda’s ingenuity. They already have a partnership with Toyota… why not use it?

    Skyactiv-X def tickled my engineer brain but their reluctance to bring it out triggers my NY skepticism. We are deep into the realm of diminishing returns with the ICE and should def start looking at electrification as a more normal means of reducing emissions.

  • avatar
    jtk

    They should stop making esoteric engines and focus on improving their dealer experience. I like my Mazda but I probably won’t buy another one because the dealer that’s near me is just horrendous.


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