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What the Heck is Skyactiv?

Mazda - What the Heck is Skyactiv? - Readers' Reviews

Seriously, what actually is Skyactiv?

You may have heard about the famous Mazda SKYACTIV system before, either in commercial ads, from the sales people at the Mazda dealerships, or even from owners talking about their awesome new Mazda. That being said, the Skyactiv name is becoming very popular and gaining a large amount of exposure.
But what exactly is it?

It’s been made clear to me, that many people have heard of it, but do not know what it does, or what it’s purpose. I’ve asked several people, some being car enthusiasts and Mazda owners like myself, and they have no idea. And up until now, I’ve been referencing the Skyactiv system with a Blades of Glory quote. “No one knows what Skyactiv means. Its provocative, it gets the people going!”

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No one knows what Skyactiv means, but its provocative. It gets the people going!

So the question still stands: “What actually is this Skyactiv technology?” You may think that the name “SKYACTIV” has something to do with airplanes, or your personal trainer’s new workout plan, but I assure you it does not. If you guessed that SKYACTIV has something to do with engine efficiency, you guessed right! But according to Mazda, this technology has much more to do with than just a better engine. Because of this, I hopped straight into my research and scoured the web to make sense of this new technology. And thanks to my local dealership, Erin Mills Mazda, I was loaned a new Mazda for a day so that I could experience this technology first hand. Thanks Erin Mills Mazda!

The Basics of Skyactiv

Mazda - What the Heck is Skyactiv? - Readers' Reviews

Contrary to popular belief, (including my old beliefs) SKYACTIV is not just a brand name that the manufacturer slaps onto the car to provide a selling point. (It also might be, but trust me there’s more!) The name SKYACTIV and the fuel efficiency technologies actually serve a purpose by making the Mazda vehicles as fuel efficient as possible, a big trend in the auto industry today. For those that want to know, the “SKYACTIV” name comes from the belief that “The sky’s the limit.” Kinda cheesy eh? But believe me, Mazda really did go all out when they implement all this tech into their vehicles. And SKYACTIV is not just limited to the engine, which most would believe. Mazda’s mission with this Skyactiv technology wasn’t only to make the engine as efficient as possible, it was to make the vehicle as an entity an all round efficient, fuel saving machine, and making an attempt to stray away from units such as forced induction and batteries which would make the vehicles wildly expensive. It starts at the engine, but also makes it’s way around to the transmission, the platform and chassis. During my drive of the new Mazda 3, I also gained a sense of it in the interior equipment of the vehicle as well.

Engine

Mazda - What the Heck is Skyactiv? - Readers' Reviews

The engine is the heart of any vehicle and arguably the most important. It is also the main focus of the SKYACTIV technologies. Mazda implemented many adjustments to their engines to make them as fuel efficient as possible. They mainly make their engines fuel efficient by raising the compression ratio and fitting parts to make that possible. Most of the Skyactiv engines currently run a 13:1 compression ratio. This is among the highest that you will see at any car lot, and Mazda is able to do this thanks to parts such as:

“Low Profile, dome shaped cylinder heads”: I’m no engineer, the furthest thing from one, so I won’t question or inquire about the effects of altering the shape of the cylinder heads to assist with increasing the compression. Mazda and other researches state that these re-worked cylinder heads also have indentation in the top, this allows for a richer mixture and therefore, harnessing more energy from the fuel.

The exhaust manifold: Mazda has fitted all SKYACTIV-G class (gasoline) engines with a 4-2-1 exhaust manifold. The manifold aims to increase efficiency by separating the pressures caused by the individual cylinders. This overall reduces the interference of pressure between the cylinders, and can increase the speed of the exhaust gas release.

And the excitement continues with the transmission. (YAY! Trannies!)

For the tranny side of things, Mazda mainly set out to improve the overall efficiency of the vehicle by making the transmission much lighter than previous models. In fact, their new transmission that is connected to an All Wheel Drive system is a whole 40kg lighter than previous models.

Mazda - What the Heck is Skyactiv? - Readers' Reviews

Mazda also set out to make their automatic transmissions more responsive and smoother. When I was driving the new Mazda 3, I really noticed this. Not only did Mazda get the manual shift-up shift-down directions properly which mimics a sequential gearbox, (Mercedes, take notes) Pedal response is on point, gear changes are quick; and downshifts, which can be very harsh, are smoother than a baby’s bottom in the Mazda.

C'mon Mercedes.. Really? Who thought this was a good idea?
C'mon Mercedes.. Really? Who thought this was a good idea?

Body and Chassis

Mazda - What the Heck is Skyactiv? - Readers' Reviews

Lighter materials mean less mass. This reduction of mass means less work for the engine, and this means less fuel is needed for the vehicle to accelerate and get up to cruising speed.
Mazda used a combination of steel and aluminium to make up the bodies of their vehicles. Steel for rigidity, Aluminum for weight reduction, bro.

Mazda also focused on the exterior body of the vehicle, making an aerodynamic body that would decrease wind resistance on the vehicle, less fuel will be needed for the vehicle to maintain speed. When driving on the highway, there really isn’t much wind noise or even tire noise for that matter, frankly, the only noises I noticed were the sounds from the other cars. Unfortunately, myself and plenty of others do find the exterior quite ugly. The front just doesn’t have the same smiley face that I’m used to from the older Mazdas. Hey, the exterior may be no good, but as long as it’s aerodynamic it’s okay right? Hmm.. aerodymanic and ugly? Where have we heard that one before?

This makes the Mazda 3 a Bugatti Veyron :)
This makes the Mazda 3 a Bugatti Veyron :)

Interior and Equipment

Remember how I said it was ugly on the outside? Well the Mazda 3 really does make up for it on the inside, I really did fall in love with the interior of this car. The seats are so comfortable despite being cloth, all the controls are right where they should be. It comes with all the equipment you’ll ever need; but, I could sense a there was a touch of simplicity and minimalism when designing the interior of this car. When driving modern cars, I’m used to being surrounded by buttons and switches that do many functions and… things…. With the Mazda, there was a lack of unnecessary buttons, every button and switch served a major purpose, and made the all the systems very easy to use.

Mazda - What the Heck is Skyactiv? - Readers' Reviews

I think that Mazda was inspired a little bit by founder of Toyota: Kiichiro Toyoda. Mr. Toyoda set out to make vehicles with using the theory of eliminating the excess and minimalizing the waste in vehicles, making the vehicles overall more efficient. The ease of use and the minimalist approach, eliminating all the excess results in less difficulty and more efficiency, which is what Mazda set out to do with these Skyactiv technologies.

With the ever growing popularity of cutting back on our fuel expenses, it’s creating an auto manufacturing trend and an engineering challenge to make vehicles as fuel efficient as possible. Mazda really have pulled though with a strong effort to make their vehicles efficient with this Skyactiv technology. But it’s not only Mazda that are making their vehicles as efficient as possible. Many auto manufacturers such as Ford, Mercedes and Toyota are pulling out all the stops to increase the economy on their vehicles. Me personally, I don’t think that I’ll ever own a new vehicle, that means I won’t get to experience the benefits of the lower fuel consumption. But as long as other people are using less fuel so that I can burn more, well, that’s perfectly okay by me.
That’s my time guys, I’ll talk to you later,

Bennett Cook (Performanceandluxury)

Automotive Student. Automotive Enthusiast