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future – but different

With a new mild hybrid drive, Mazda is showing another step into the electrified future. It will be different than others.

Mazda 3 (grey) and CX-30 (red) are available with the new mild hybrid drive.

Mazda doesn’t like to go with the flow. While other manufacturers sell e-cars with the largest possible batteries and huge range, the small Japanese manufacturer uses less battery capacity for the MX-30 in order to keep the CO2 footprint low. Instead, an additional, small Wankel engine is under discussion in order to cover longer distances.

When it comes to combustion engines, which are still important, Mazda is taking a different approach than most other manufacturers. Because experience has shown that engines with the smallest cubic capacity and turbocharging can achieve economical consumption values ​​for the sales brochure on the test bench – but in real everyday use on the road, they then push a surprising amount of petrol through their small combustion chambers. That’s why Mazda relies on a comparatively generous two-liter displacement in the compact segment and does without turbo technology. Recently, the engineers from Hiroshima (JPN) made a name for themselves with the launch of the “Skyactiv X” engine. Behind the cryptic name is a technology that has already occupied the development departments of some manufacturers – but has never been developed to series maturity. But in 2019, Mazda introduced a standard petrol engine with compression ignition for the first time.

Mazda3-mazda3

The usual, simple and elegant ambience remains in the interior.

More air instead of petrol

To put it simply, the “Skyactiv-X” engine combines the advantages of petrol and diesel engines. In a conventional gasoline engine, the air-fuel mixture in the combustion chamber is ignited by a spark plug. In order for the mixture to burn cleanly and for performance and fuel consumption to be right, air and fuel must be present in the correct ratio: 14.7:1 – or a lambda value of one, as they say in engine technology. If you step on the gas, the throttle valve opens and more air enters the combustion chambers. At the same time, more fuel is injected and more power is generated.

With a diesel, on the other hand, the power is regulated solely by the amount of fuel – the amount of air is always constant. Especially when there is little gas, there is excess air in the combustion chamber; a spark from a spark plug would not ignite this lean mixture, which is why a diesel has no spark plugs at all. Instead, it works via compression ignition: the mixture is compressed in the cylinder, causing the temperature to continue to rise until it finally ignites by itself. This principle would also have the advantage with a petrol engine that you could drive with significantly less air in the mixture – and that would save fuel. However, compression ignition with petrol is less predictable and therefore more difficult to control, which is why no manufacturer has yet used the principle. In the Skyaciv-X engine, therefore, one spark plug continues to work, allowing the engine to switch between conventional and compression ignition. In addition, a small compressor ensures that there is enough air in the engine.

For the first revision of the new drive, Mazda has now combined the system with a mild hybrid. This increases output and torque by 6 hp and 16 Nm respectively, while fuel consumption falls by 0.5 l/100 km. On the first drive, the drive, now called “eSkyactiv-X”, which is offered in the Mazda 3 and in the compact crossover CX-30, presented itself as quite spontaneous and elastic. The four-cylinder only seems a bit sluggish in the higher speed range, which could also be due to the tested combination with the now somewhat outdated 6-speed automatic transmission. A new automatic transmission is already in development, at least for the larger Mazda models – like so many things at Mazda. “By 2030 we will offer an electrified version for every model. By 2025 alone, 13 new Mazda models will be on the road, five of them as plug-in hybrids and three purely electric models,” says Mazda Switzerland boss Matthias Walker. The manufacturer intends to remain loyal to the combustion engine – this is shown by a first look at the new platform for larger models that Mazda will soon be presenting. It not only offers the option of a purely electric drive, but also allows plug-in hybrids and purely petrol or diesel engines. Even with a new straight-six.

Here, too, Mazda thinks differently than most manufacturers. “An internal combustion engine in itself is not harmful. The question is what I burn in it,” says Walker – and points out that Mazda has been researching synthetic fuels for ten years.

For Walker, it seems to be particularly important that the innovations hit the streets as quickly as possible – which is why the new “eSkyactiv-X” models are already on the market.

Mazda CX-30 eSkyactiv-X

Engine: 4 cyl. Petrol, 1998cc

Power: 186 hp/240 Nm

Drive: auto 6-speed, 4×4

L×W×H: 4395×1795×1540mm

trunk: 430-1406L

Weight: 1528kg

0-100km/h: 9.0 sec.

Vmax: 204km/h

Consumption WLTP: 6.6L/100km

Price: from 37450 francs

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