Mazda might just be earning itself a place at the top of our list of manufacturers whose cars we’re most looking forward to over the next two decades. While other car makers forge noisy (in marketing terms) paths down various routes of electrification, Mazda has done what no other brand has done, and said: “y’know what, fellas, I think we’ll stick to internal combustion only for the time being.”
The Japanese automotive minnow is cooking some electric ideas in the background as part of a new deal with Toyota, but as we reported earlier this week, its main focus is a clever new combustion cycle that uses much higher compression than today’s engines.
If you haven’t read that story, essentially the tech allows engineers to achieve a ‘super lean burn’ without the loss of power normally associated with air-rich cylinder mixtures, or the issues with excess heat and reliability. It could mean petrol engines with as much as 30 per cent better fuel efficiency compared to today’s cars. To make that picture more colourful, imagine an MX-5 that could average 60mpg. We’re definitely on board with that.
This ‘homogeneous charge spark ignition’ (HCSI) technology, which is part of Mazda’s appallingly-named Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030 initiative, is the next big step in making internal combustion more efficient. It’s a simple premise: use less fuel per crank rotation, but it’s extremely difficult to make it work. Mercedes has dabbled in the closely-related homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI), having created its DiesOtto prototypes, and we know Nissan is working on it too.
But while Mercedes and Nissan both have clear visions for their futures, centring on electrification above all else, Mazda’s comparatively meagre budget means it’s not going there wholesale – at least until the benefits of the Toyota partnership start to kick in. HCSI is definitely happening; Mazda has even called this new engine tech SkyActiv-X, in line with its SkyActiv-D diesels and SkyActiv-G petrols.
Mazda has serious engineering form since beginning its SkyActiv revolution. It’s the only car maker we can think of that neither had to downsize its diesel engines nor resort to injecting AdBlue into the exhaust in order to meet its Euro 6 emissions obligations. No one else in the mainstream still makes a 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel family car that conforms without caveats. If anyone can make HCSI work without having to charge a fortune for it, we’d back Mazda, and with suggestions that they could even strap a supercharger to an HCSI engine, we’re absolutely drooling with anticipation.
Mazda has also proved itself a crafty little master of making cars lighter and making them feel fundamentally good to drive. All the way from the dinky little 2 hatchback to the CX-5 crossover, driving a Mazda is never a bad experience… unless you crash it, maybe. Mazda’s idea of ‘doing it right’ for the next couple of decades is exactly what we want to see. We can’t wait for (sigh) Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030 to start bearing its juicy fruit.