The sky’s the limit

This new diesel is a quan­tum leap for­ward, writes Mark Hinchliffe

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive -

THE Sky era at Mazda will be­gin later this year, with the next up­date to the class-lead­ing Mazda3.

The en­gines and trans­mis­sions de­vel­oped un­der the Sky­ac­tiv banner prom­ise greater econ­omy and ef­fi­ciency, and there is also sus­pen­sion work to come on all new mod­els — start­ing with the re­place­ment for the Mazda CX-7.

‘‘Sky will give us brag­ging rights,’’ man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Mazda Aus­tralia Doug Dick­son says.

‘‘Mazda hasn’t gone down the con­ven­tional routes; that gives us an en­dur­ing edge. This tech­nol­ogy cov­ers ev­ery­thing from en­gines to ma­te­ri­als, weight, chas­sis and man­u­fac­tur­ing, with fuel econ­omy im­prove­ments up to 30 per cent by 2015.

‘‘We will have a fu­ture Mazda fam­ily car with Sky tech­nol­ogy that will of­fer 4.2 litres/100km fuel econ­omy and CO emis­sions of just 112g/km.

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‘‘It will also be more re­fined, more affordable to make and more fun to drive, which is ab­so­lutely fun­da­men­tal to Mazda.’’

Though the en­gines and trans­mis­sions will be cheaper to man­u­fac­ture, it’s un­likely they will be cheaper in show­rooms. The pay­off will come at the pump.

Kyoshi Fuzi­wara, one of four Ja­panese ex­ec­u­tives who ran brief­ings in Aus­tralia on the new tech­nol­ogy, also could not prom­ise cheaper pro­duc­tion would flow through as cheaper prices, but he said prices would be likely to ‘‘stay the same’’ with the new mod­els.

The first Sky car will have a Sky­ac­tiv-G petrol en­gine and Sky­ac­tiv-Drive au­to­matic trans­mis­sion this year. Dick­son prom­ises the Sky­ac­tiv-D diesel en­gine with Sky­ac­tiv-Drive au­to­matic trans­mis­sion will ar­rive next year.

‘‘But we’re not say­ing which ones yet,’’ he says.

Dick­son says Mazda is no dif­fer­ent from other man­u­fac­tur­ers in pro­duc­ing new tech­nolo­gies to save fuel and re­duce green­house gas emis­sions.

‘‘Cus­tomers ex­pect that their brand will be fuel efficient, mak­ing them free to make their buy­ing de­ci­sion on de­sign, price and fea­tures,’’ he says.

Mazda is fol­low­ing in­dus­try trends with the use of light­weight ma­te­ri­als, but some Sky­ac­tiv meth­ods used to achieve bet­ter econ­omy and emis­sions are unique.

Driv­ing the first Sky cars in Aus­tralia, in a very short sam­pling, shows they are a leap for­ward.

The Sky­a­tiv-D pro­to­type, even with­out the noise damp­en­ing of a pro­duc­tion car, sounds qui­eter than the cur­rent diesel. With the au­to­matic gear­box, it ac­cel­er­ates in a lin­ear fash­ion like no other diesel, pulling to 5300 revs and chang­ing smoothly and de­ci­sively.

Brag­ging rights: Mazda’s Sky­ac­tiv-D pro­to­type diesel is smooth.

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