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Mazda or the crusade for the gasoline engine

While others are dedicated to electrification, the Japanese manufacturer markets an original petrol engine, the Skyactiv-X, combining the responsiveness of a petrol mechanic with the flexibility of a diesel.

Just yesterday, the heat engine reigned supreme in the automotive imagination. The pinnacle of mechanical nobility resonated through the vocalizations of a V8, but we also knew, with our ears on the alert and my right hand clenched on the gear lever, to rev up a small four-cylinder. In those times, diesel was above all suspicion. With the implicit approval of environmentalists, this champion of low CO2 content prospered, praised for his sense of economy and energy efficiency. Until 2008 representing three quarters of vehicle registrations in France. Okay, it was polluting, but so much less than it used to be. This was enough to close the debate.
At the next Tokyo Motor Show, which will be held from October 24 to November 4, the brand will unveil its first car… 100% electric.
The fall was harder. Rising environmental perils and tightening regulations, shining a spotlight on the issue of emissions - not just carbon dioxide - quickly swept away these certainties. The gasoline engine found itself in the position of accused, weighed down by the cost of the penalties and dragged lower than ground because of the cheat organized around the level of pollution of diesel. Today removed from city centers, tomorrow promised outright banishment: its eradication is essential as a political objective. The Mobility Law, adopted in September, confirms the ban on the sale, from 2040, of engines using fossil energy.
It is in this twilight atmosphere, which sees the manufacturers reserving research and development budgets for the great cause of electrification, that the Japanese Mazda unveiled its new Skyactiv-X petrol engine. A two-liter four-cylinder marketed aboard the Mazda3 and the new CX-30 (billed, in this configuration, respectively from 30,700 euros and 33,200 euros) with an additional cost of 2,100 euros compared to the engine standard. For the Japanese brand, which declares itself, in a fit of mysticism, engaged in "a quest aimed at developing the ideal internal combustion engine", this launch takes on the appearance of a manifesto.
The technology but also the emergence of biofuels (the manufacturer works in particular on the transformation of algae) could regenerate this invention much more than a century. “Heat engines are the least expensive. In ten years, they will still equip 85% of the cars produced in the world. We must stop hysterizing the debate, "said Philippe Geffroy, president of Mazda France. While most car brands look elsewhere when it comes to tackling the subject, Mazda proudly advances as an apostle of the combustion engine. You have to admit, it's daring.
The engineer's Grail
The Hiroshima brand has long been known for its counter-current choices that have led it, among other things, to keep high engine capacities or to shut down the turbocharger. Skyactiv-X technology aims to reconcile the responsiveness of a petrol engine with the flexibility of a diesel while reducing average consumption. The engineer's Grail, in a way. Its great originality consists in associating a classic ignition with a spark plug, dear to petrol mechanics, and a compression ignition, characteristic of diesel. During the intake phase, a very lean mixture is injected into the combustion chamber, then fuel is vaporized around the spark plug, located in the middle of the cylinder, during compression. This “mixed engine” would solve the squaring of the circle; efficient in high revs and flexible during recovery.
The consumption level of the Mazda3 equipped with the Skyactiv-X block which delivers the respectable power of 180 hp at 6,000 rpm is announced at 4.3 liters per 100 km in the combined cycle (5.4 liters according to the WLTP protocol, more realistic, which will be generalized in 2020). For the current year, this data allows, depending on the version (traction or all-wheel drive, manual or automatic transmission), to escape the ecological penalty or, at worst, to take it for 75 euros. A tour de force for such a powerful model. During our test, which included all types of roads, the overall consumption was displayed at 6 liters per 100 km. In the glue of urban traffic, it turned a little below 10 liters while, on the road, it was necessary to divide this figure by half. On the highway, the on-board computer indicated an average of 5.3 liters. These readings would have been closer to those of the manufacturer if our car had been fitted with a manual gearbox. The phlegmatic genre of the six-speed automatic transmission fitted to the Mazda3 favors driving comfort rather than performance or fuel efficiency.
Conclusion: Skyactiv-X technology generates a very real gain in consumption but insufficient to hope to reverse the slow decline of the combustion engine. It should also be noted that the frugality which it displays also owes to the presence of a micro-hybridization system. A small electric motor (a 24-volt battery recovers energy when decelerating) which smooths out the revs and helps to contain the amount of fuel consumed. Excluding electrification, no salvation.
Read also Mazda 3, a Zen pleasure
Bravache, Mazda announces the next launch of a large in-line six-cylinder in Skyactiv-X version. Another act of faith. At the next Tokyo Motor Show, which will be held from October 24 to November 4, the brand will unveil its first car… 100% electric. “A model intended for the Chinese and Californian markets. With us, that does not trigger enthusiasm, "we admit internally. This is no reason to forget to insure your rear.