Mazda keeps faith in diesel

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Go Auto -

Mazda Aus­tralia will defy global trends of re­duc­ing diesel-en­gined ve­hi­cles by re­tain­ing an oil-burn­ing line-up as a back­stop to po­ten­tial fuel price rises ahead of the launch next year of its in­no­va­tive com­pres­sion­ig­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy.

Diesel en­gines are cur­rently of­fered in its BT-50 work­horse, Mazda6 mid­size sedan and wagon, CX-5 mid-size crossover and newly-launched CX-8 seven-seater, while a new 1.8-litre oil-burn­ing unit – re­plac­ing a 1.5-litre en­gine – was in­tro­duced to the CX-3 range last week as part of a rangewide up­date.

How­ever, diesels might have a short life­span at Mazda as the Ja­panese car-maker pre­pares to launch its com­pres­sion-ig­ni­tion en­gine next year in the Mazda3 sedan and hatch un­der the Sky­ac­tiv-x la­bel.

At the launch of the up­dated CX-3, Mazda Aus­tralia mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor Alas­tair Doak said po­ten­tial fuel price rises had kept the diesel safe in the short term.

“We still have some de­mand for diesel and it’s no real bur­den on us to bring diesel mod­els into Aus­tralia,” he said.

“It has only one per­cent of sales as a tar­get in the CX-3. If de­mand goes up then we’ll be in the for­tu­nate po­si­tion of sell­ing more. If fuel prices con­tinue to re­main high then his­tory shows that peo­ple turn to diesel be­cause of the econ­omy. So we will have a ve­hi­cle to suit.”

Mr Doak said the com­pres­sion­ig­ni­tion en­gine – which uses a fuel and air mix­ture about three times as lean as a con­ven­tional petrol en­gine – is be­ing launched glob­ally next year in the next-gen­er­a­tion Mazda3, but would not be drawn on Aus­tralian tim­ing.

As a cru­cial global market for Mazda, the Aus­tralian launch of the fourth­gen­er­a­tion Mazda3 is ex­pected to take place not long af­ter its in­tro­duc­tion to in­ter­na­tional mar­kets.

The cur­rent third-gen­er­a­tion Mazda3 has been on sale since 2013 and was avail­able, from 2014 un­til 2016, with a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel en­gine that is also of­fered in the Mazda6 mid-sizer and the CX-5 and CX-8 SUVS.

The 2.0-litre Sky­ac­tiv-x en­gine uses a high com­pres­sion ra­tio of 16:1 and a very lean fuel mix­ture.

The fuel quan­tity is so low that a nor­mal en­gine with spark plugs can­not ig­nite the mix­ture, so very high diesel-like com­bus­tion pres­sure is used to cre­ate the tem­per­a­ture needed for a clean burn.

Mazda claims Sky­ac­tiv-x will have up to 30 per­cent bet­ter fuel econ­omy – and the same re­duc­tion in emis­sions – than the cur­rent 2.0-litre petrol en­gine with sim­i­lar power out­puts and per­for­mance.

Mr Doak said diesel re­mained on many buy­ers’ shop­ping lists, ev­i­dent by the sales of Mazda’s diesel-only CX-8 SUV.

“The CX-8 is above tar­get in the first two months we’ve had it,” he said.

“It has done re­ally well for us and is do­ing ex­actly what we thought by bring­ing peo­ple into the show­room.

“They’re ei­ther walk­ing out with a CX-8 or a CX-9, so we’re happy with that.

“We al­ways say that it doesn’t mat­ter which one they buy, as long as it’s a Mazda and that they have a great cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence.

“We have mod­est tar­gets for the car be­cause that was a fac­tor with sup­ply and de­mand and the fact that we al­ready have a seven-seater avail­able.”

Since launch­ing in June, Mazda has amassed 376 new CX-8 reg­is­tra­tions to the end of July.

DIE HARD: Diesel en­gines will re­main in Mazda Aus­tralia’s line-up for the fore­see­able fu­ture, with oil-burn­ing pow­er­trains of­fered in its CX-3, Mazda6, CX-5, CX-8 and BT-50.

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