Photo: Mazda

Mazda’s new Skyactiv-X engine—which promises better fuel mileage thanks to a new type of gasoline combustion—is finally almost here. Mazda confirmed power and fuel mileage numbers today and said that deliveries of new Mazda 3s with the 2.0 liter four-cylinder would start in the fall in Europe. Deliveries in the American market shouldn’t be far behind.

It was always kind of weird that Mazda launched the fourth-generation Mazda 3 earlier this year without Skyactiv-X, since everything else about the car was top-notch. And yet still it had the Skyactiv-G motor under the hood, just like the previous generation had.

Mazda’s reps said at the time, basically, look, we’re a small company, we can’t do everything. And that’s true, though I wondered just how long it might take them. We always knew it would go to Europe first, because of tighter environmental regulations there, and with the news today, they are basically on time with the rollout.

We knew in February that Skyactiv-X would make a little less horsepower than the 186 hp that the 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G we get in Mazda 3s here makes, but now we know precisely how much less. That would be 177 horsepower, according to Mazda’s figures, or 132 kilowatts.

But the tradeoff is worth it for the fuel mileage. Mazda says the Skyactiv-X sedan will get up to 55 combined MPG in the front-wheel drive, manual configuration, per Europe’s NEDC testing standards. That’s an impressive number, made a little less impressive under the newer WLTP standards, which spits out 44 MPG for that configuration. In hatchback form and with the same drivetrain, the Skyactiv-X 3 manages about 43 MPG.

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For comparison’s sake, Mazda’s UK website shows that a 120 horsepower, 2.0- liter Skyactiv-G hatchback with a manual (this is also a mild hybrid, like all Skyactiv-X models) manages up to 38 MPG combined in WLTP tests, so the Skyactiv-X hatchback is significantly more powerful and roughly 13 percent more fuel efficient if I’m doing my math correctly. The diesel hatchback manual Skyactiv-D hatchback scores as high as 47 MPG combined on the WLTP cycle, but it also only makes 84 horsepower.

The Skyactiv-X Mazda3's ratings will probably be different still with the EPA’s own forthcoming tests, though whatever the numbers end up being they will almost certainly be better than those of the 2.5 liter Skyactiv-G, which gets at best 30 mpg combined in EPA tests.

Here are the full fuel economy details for the Skyactiv-X, per Mazda:

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Skyactiv-X uses what’s called “Spark Controlled Compression Ignition” for combustion, which in some ways mimics a diesel engine, and that is where much of the efficiency improvement comes from. It is a doubling down from Mazda that our fully-electric future isn’t quite here yet, and may not be for awhile. And it’s fascinating that centuries after the internal combustion engine was invented, we’re still finding ways to improve it.

Mazda has said that Skyactiv-X will be available in some American markets in late 2019, to follow everywhere in 2020.