Mazda has announced that the first recipient of its new SKYACTIV four-cylinder engine will be the face-lifted 2012 Mazda 3, set to debut at the New York auto show in April. The exterior styling has been tweaked, but the real story is, of course, the engine.
Redesigned for the 2010 model year, the refreshed 2012 Mazda3 is Mazda’s first application of SKYACTIV technologies in North America, receiving an all-new SKYACTIV-G gasoline engine as well as the all-new SKYACTIV-Drive six-speed automatic transmission and all-new SKYACTIV-MT six-speed manual transmission. It also features improved sporty driving dynamics, responsive handling and a comfortable cabin space.
Although the company hasn’t yet released specs on the SKYACTIV engine as it will appear in the 3, we know quite a bit about it from our drive of several prototypes equipped with the mill last August. You can read all the details here, but here’s the recap: The iteration we’re likely to see in the Mazda 3 is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which was good for 163 hp and 155 lb-ft during development. When it’s burning regular 87-octane gasoline, though, torque decreases by about five percent. For reference, the current 2.0-liter in the 3 makes 148 hp and 135 lb-ft, while the optional 2.5-liter four produces 167 hp and 168 lb-ft.
The 2012 Mazda3 achieves a high compression ratio of 12.0:1 and delivers 155 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 148 lb-ft of torque at 4,100 rpm. (The PZEV version of this engine sold in California and other states produces 154 hp at 6,000 rpm and 148 lb-ft of torque at 4,100 rpm).
Compared to the current Mazda3 MZR 2.0-liter engine, the maximum power of the SKYACTIV-equipped 2012 Mazda3 is increased by approximately five percent (from 148 horsepower at 6,500 rpm) and torque is increased by approximately 10 percent (from 135 lb-ft at 4,500 rpm). With improved torque, coupled with a drive control system that utilizes coordinated controls of the engine and transmission, Mazda3s with SKYACTIV technology excel in dynamic response, further maintaining the Zoom-Zoom idea of oneness between the car and driver.
Fuel economy also gets a boost from the combination of a SKYACTIV engine and transmissions. When equipped with the SKYACTIV-G gasoline engine and optional SKYACTIV-Drive six-speed automatic transmission, the 2012 Mazda3 sedan will achieve an EPA rating of 40 mpg on the highway, an approximately 21-percent improvement over the current MZR 2.0-liter engine equipped with the optional five-speed automatic transmission. With a fuel tank capacity of 14.5 gallons, the 2012 Mazda3 sedan with SKYACTIV has the potential of a 540-mile range, with still a gallon of fuel remaining.
Previously only available with the MZR 2.5-liter engine, the Mazda3 five-door hatchback model will now be offered in the U.S. with the SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter gasoline engine. This Mazda3 hatchback is estimated to deliver 27 city/38 highway (SKYACTIV-MT) and 28 city/38 highway (SKYACTIV-Drive AT). The slightly lower highway estimates can be attributed to different aerodynamics and the higher weight ratio between the sedan and hatchback.
The higher fuel economy of the 2012 Mazda3 equipped with SKYACTIV is a direct result of combining all the best features of the technology in today’s transmissions. For SKYACTIV-Drive, the key advantages of a conventional automatic transmission, Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) and Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) were integrated.
Also available on the 2012 Mazda3 is the highly-acclaimed Mazda MZR 2.5-liter engine. Alongside the SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter, the MZR 2.5 is a technology powerhouse as well. It offers an aluminum block with cylinder-bore liners made of a steel-molybdenum alloy offering strength and stiffness generally not seen in large-displacement four-cylinder engines. A forged-steel crankshaft provides strength at high revs, but rigidity to ensure low NVH characteristics.
Mazda3 sedan and hatchback models equipped with SKYACTIV-G gasoline engines will be further distinguished with exclusive elements, such as an all-new engine cover featuring a deep blue metallic paint finish with black sections along either side; headlamp units outfitted with a transparent blue ring around the center lens to emphasize the vehicle’s distinctive character; and a badge featuring a “SKYACTIV” logo against a clear-blue background.
The engine will pair with Mazda’s new SKYACTIV six-speed automatic transmission, which features an aggressive lock-up clutch for the torque converter. This, combined with the efficient engine, has Mazda hoping for an EPA rating of 30 mpg city/40 highway for the 2012 3—that’s up from bests of 25/33 and 22/29, respectively, for the current 2.0 and 2.5. Stick lovers can rest easy, as the engine will also be available with the company’s slick six-speed manual—although the company isn’t yet revealing the fuel economy for that combo.
The SKYACTIV engine and transmission will eventually be installed in the next-gen Mazda 6, it makes sense for the company to install it first in a small car, where it can reap the PR benefits of the magical 40-mpg figure. We’ll have more updated specs on the 2012 Mazda 3 as we approach its official unveil in April.