BY BRIAN BYRNE
I LEARNED my engines by pumping up the power on a Berini 50cc auto-cycle, with the help of sandpaper and an oxy-acetylene cutting torch.
Oh, how easy was technology then.
So to the Mazda3’s Skyactiv-X petrol engine. Which is claimed to give the same performance and economy as a diesel, without the downsides. Their engineers used more than sandpaper and a torch.
This column is not high-falutin’ about technology explanation. I like things simple to understand. Actually I can hold my own with automotive engineers a fair amount of the time, though I do know my limits.
Mazda has been taking a different road to many of its companion motor-makers in producing more efficient engines. The company’s engineering pedigree is excellent. So is its reputation for thinking outside everyone else’s box. And its commitment to sticking with a concept until any faults are ironed out is legendary.
The Skyactiv label is used to reference a suite of technical developments for Mazda’s cars. These include techniques to strengthen and trim structural weight. Also innovation in driver assist systems. And a range of powertrain invention.
The engine in my most recent Mazda review car reflects that last. In simple terms, they have merged the traditional spark-plug ignition used in petrol engines with the high-compression spark-less ignition of a diesel.
It’s more complex than what made my Berini 2-stroke engine run. A lot. I understand how they’re doing it, but all we really need to know is that the fuel burns more completely, more energy is transferred to pumping pistons. With significantly-reduced emissions.
More punch per litre of petrol, with 180hp. And they do it without using turbochargers, unlike most of their competitors in the petrol engine space.
Mazda mechanical magic, they could say. The car in which the magic was powering me is the latest version of Mazda 3. Visually one of the most beautiful in the compact family class. No surprise, as Mazda is as good in styling as it is with engineering.
My review car was in a very machine-like grey, which suited the non-bling design of the Mazda 3. Altogether a very elegant vehicle.
The interior is equally svelte, with subtle curves which create a pleasant sense in the space. The Mazda 3 doesn’t make you want to be dramatic, even if there’s the power to do that.
I can imagine it as a really good car in which to travel the width of Ireland on a late drive home, without ever feeling stressed. The journey will be level, even if the conditions are not. The sound does have a hint of diesel to it, without the bass throb.
In my past, I never asked my Berini auto-cycle to take me on such a journey. But I did later have a 98cc Motobi scooter which in several late teens summers brought me down to Kerry and back to my Kildare home. And yes, I had also taken the sandpaper and torch to that one.
Which will never be necessary with the Mazda3 Skyactiv-X.