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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.

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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.

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“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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