Added complexity doesn’t translate to added costs.
Customers worried Mazda’s new SkyActiv-X engine would cost more to repair should breathe a sigh of relief. In an interview with Cars Guide, Eiji Nakai, Mazda’s powertrain manager, said the new engine wouldn’t require more servicing nor cost more to repair when compared to a traditional gasoline engine. According to Nakai, Mazda worked to ensure its SkyActiv-X engine would operate as a conventional engine.
Mazda’s new 2.0-liter four-cylinder SkyActiv-X engine combines spark-controlled ignition used in most gasoline-fueled vehicles and compression ignition found in diesel engines to improve efficiency and power. However, combining the two technologies has increased engine complexity. The new ignition process is intricate with Mazda adding pressure sensors to each cylinder to send data to the engine computer. When we drove a prototype version of the engine in early 2018, Mazda research and development engineer Jay Chen said: “Only now are our engine control processors fast enough to control this event by event by event.”
The new ignition process, which Mazda calls Spark Controlled Compression Ignition (SPCCI), puts more strain on the engine internals than your standard gasoline engine, so Mazda beefed up their strength. As a result, the SkyActiv-X shares no parts with Mazda’s SkyActiv-G engine. Engineers during the drive event also noted the engine did cost more to build, too.
Gallery: Mazda SkyActiv-X Prototype: First Drive
However, the tradeoff is more power and increased efficiency. According to Mazda, the powerplant produces 177 horsepower (132 kilowatts) and 165 pound-feet (224 Newton-meters) of torque. In Europe, the mill is rated to return roughly 44 miles per gallon, but if the engine were ever to make it to the U.S., expect a different rating as the American EPA evaluation is quite different. Mazda says the new engine could improve fuel efficiency by 20-30 percent.
It appears much of the engine’s complexity comes not from the hardware, but from the software and sensors needed to keep the ignition controlled. New technologies often worry consumers and for good reasons. Reliability and service and repair costs are important factors to consider when buying a new car, and unproven tech can throw a substantial financial wrench into the ownership experience. Mazda’s SkyActiv-X engine shouldn’t be cause for worry.