The brand's new high-tech petrol engine will be down on power compared to the current 2.5-litre engine, but promises to sip at fuel, not swig.
Mazda has revealed how much power its high-tech 2.0-litre Skyactiv-X petrol engine, which leans on diesel-style compression ignition, will make when it launches in the European Mazda 3.
First up, the numbers. Peak power is 132kW (177hp) at 6000rpm and peak torque is 224Nm at 3000rpm, and the engine will return 53.5mpg (5.3L/100km) on the WLTP combined cycle with a six-speed manual transmission, or 44.4mpg (6.4L/100km) with a six-speed automatic.
Now, the technology. The X is reliant on a process Mazda calls Spark Controlled Compression Ignition (SPCCI). Unlike a normal petrol engine, which relies on spark plugs to ignite the air/fuel mixture, the Skyactiv-X can operate like a compression-ignition engine. In other words, a diesel. The engine is also reliant on a low-capacity supercharger.
The setup allows Mazda to run a far leaner air/fuel mixture and minimises parasitic losses to heat energy, an evolution of the philosophy underpinning its current range of Skyactiv engines.
When conditions demand it, the car will use spark ignition like a regular petrol engine. That allows it to avoid one of the issues that's held other manufacturers back while developing compression-ignition petrol engines – the fact they do their best work in a narrow temperature band.
Along with its lean-burn tech, the Skyactiv-X engine will exclusively be available with a 'Mazda M Hybrid' 24V mild hybrid system designed to harvest energy under deceleration, which will then be used to power an electric motor "that assists the engine".
Although its numbers are down on the current 2.5-litre atmospheric petrol engine, which has 7kW and 28Nm more than the X, Mazda claims the newer engine will offer better acceleration and response. The proof, of course, will be in the pudding.
Power outputs for Australia haven't been confirmed, but they could differ slightly from those offered in Europe.