Mazda gambles with advanced engine tech to bridge the shift to all-electric

Mazda Motor Corporation showed off two attention-grabbing concept models at the 45th Tokyo Motor Show. Looking past the curves and sightlines, the company’s plans for the revolutionary SkyActiv-X spark-controlled compression ignition motors captured as much if not more attention than the swoopy concept bodies.

Mazda Vision Coupe Concept
Mazda Vision Coupe Concept

We’ve already written about the Vision Coupe concept previewed as the next Mazda6, likely to launch in 2020.  Mazda also unveiled the Kai Concept four-door hatchback, an early look at the next generation 2019 Mazda3. Car and Driver recently drove prototype examples of the next Mazda3 in Germany with Skyactiv-X engines and the same body.

Mazda referred to the current Mazda3 design as “juvenile and fresh” and the Kai concept as “sporty and mature,” according to CarsGuide. In addition to its aesthetic appeal, the new platform is supposed to be quieter, with less vibration and ride harshness.

The Kai Concept, like the Vision Coupe, was created with Mazda’s Kodo design language. Kodo is a design philosophy that, instead of just shaping metal mass, envisions the process as “breathing life into the car.” Mazda’s long-term tech development vision is to leverage driving pleasure to “inspire people, enrich society, and help bring about a beautiful earth.” The company calls the vision “Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030.”

According to Mazda the Kai Concept’s muscular, solid proportions result in a dramatically quieter, more comfortable ride than the current model as well as an “enhanced performance feel.” CarsGuide states the next-gen Mazda3 will be about 2 inches shorter and 3.5 inches lower than the current model, with a 2-inch longer wheelbase and a 2.4-inch wider body.

Mazda SKyActiv-X compression ignition engine
Mazda SKyActiv-X compression ignition engine

The new Mazda3’s greatest test will be the success of the SkyActiv-X engine technology, with the new compression-ignition engine combining the advantages of both gasoline and diesel engine technologies. The new engine follows Mazda’s previous SkyActiv-G gasoline engine and Skyactive-D diesel engine. Using spark-ignition to control the compression ignition, Mazda’s positions the “X” as crossover technology.

If it works, the SkyActiv-X will deliver diesel engine-like torque and fuel economy along with the higher revs and cleaner exhaust emissions associated with gasoline engines. Mazda wants SkyActiv-X drivers to simultaneously enjoy the drive and take better care of the planet.