Our Cars: Mazda CX-3 2.0-litre SE-L

16 May 2017: What is SKYACTIV?

The Details

Current mileage 3534
Claimed economy 47.9mpg
Actual economy 43.2mpg

There’s a small badge on the back of the CX-3 that says SKYACTIV. A small badge with an awful lot behind it. SKYACTIV probably means very little to you - why should it?

So, what is SKYACTIV?

The name first appeared back in 2011 to describe technologies or features on Mazdas which increase fuel efficiency and performance. Mazda’s approach has differed to other manufacturers, so instead of focussing on just improving engine performance, they’ve looked at optimising the entire car, so as well as new, more efficient engines, the entire car - including engine, transmission, body and chassis have been designed with fuel saving and performance in mind from the start.

When it comes to the CX-3, it comes with both petrol and diesel SKYACTIV engines and manual and automatic transmissions and the option of all-wheel drive.

The SKYACTIV engine element in this CX-3 is a 2.0-litre "SKYACTIV-G" engine with 120bhp, rather than the 1.5-litre engine that’s in the Mazda 2 on which it’s based. That 2.0-litre unit is the most popular engine option and is available with front-wheel drive. There’s also a 150bhp option which is available with all-wheel drive too. And this is where things start to get technical. Mazda says that the 2.0-litre engine "features a compact 4-2-1 exhaust system, which lowers the in-cylinder compression temperature to help prevent knocking, improve the scavenging effect and with it combustion efficiency, with the end result of extra torque – especially at low engine speeds." I'll level with you, much of that goes over my head. What I do know is that fuel efficiency is proving to be rather good, even though there aren't many miles on the clock. Low 40s already - pretty impressive for a car of this size and edging towards the official combined figure - a subject that I'll return to in future.

You'll see that SKYACTIV name liberally applied to other parts of the running gear too. Mine's a manual, so it's a SKYACTIV-MT, while SKYACTIV-Drive is the automatic transmission. The manual version earns its SKYACTIV name as less effort is required to change gear with a short shift lever stroke. It’s a snappy, almost sportscar-like gearchange that makes the CX-3 much more involving to drive than many of its competitors.

Start-stop technology is on offer on both engines. Mazda calls it i-stop and is noteworthy as it works differently to other similar systems, using combustion energy to restart the engine and only an electric-powered starter motor to provide a small amount of momentum during the initial restart. It’s still the only system of it’s kind and works smoothly and effectively every time. Unlike other start-stops that can be erratic, this one restarts sweetly every single time.

Other SKYACTIV tech that isn’t on this CX-3, but are on others include i-ELOOP, which uses recovered braking energy to power things like the headlights, climate control, audio equipment and anything else electrical in the car. That’s available on the 150bhp version of the 2.0-litre petrol engine.

So, that's it in a nutshell: SKYACTIV is a single name for a suite of technologies that are designed to make the CX-3 more efficient and better to drive. 

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Updates
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