Deliveries of Mazdas with its Skyactiv-X engine—the tame but incredibly fuel-efficient engine that’s been in the works for years—began late last year in Europe, after Mazda had previously said that’s about when it might come to the U.S., too. But then in January Mazda said nevermind it was delayed for the U.S. Then the pandemic hit. I’m beginning to wonder if this will ever happen at all.
To recap, the Skyactiv-X is the first mass-produced compression gasoline engine on the market, a gas engine that makes 178 horsepower while getting fuel mileage up to 55 mpg depending on the standard you apply, or significantly better than the Skyactiv-G engine its intended to replace, while providing roughly the same amount of power.
It’s an amazing technological achievement for Mazda, and one that a lot of Mazda fans here—I know because they message me—are excited about, even delaying purchase of their new 3 in hot anticipation. But the longer it goes without the Skyactiv-X actually showing up, the longer the feeling that it might never will gets bigger.
Mazda said in January that it might not be powerful enough for the American market, which is fine but Mazda’s cars have always been a little underpowered so perhaps not a dealbreaker. Worse, Mazda reasoned (probably correctly) back then that Americans might not care so much about the fuel-efficiency gains and, if anything, the pandemic has proven them right as truck sales soar and small cars disappear in a time of low gas prices.
Which makes bringing it here less and less of an appealing proposition, in addition to its cost. What seems more likely is that the U.S. eventually might get a version of Skyactiv-X but not the 2.0-liter four-cylinder one that Europe gets, possibly a newer, bigger displacement version as Mazda has previously gestured toward. And that may be years down the road.
From Automotive News earlier this year:
“We think this Skyactiv-X can be used for larger engine displacement in the future, in line with our product planning,” [Eiji Nakai, Mazda’s executive officer for powertrain development] said. “This technology is applicable to other engine displacements.”
Mazda engineer Yoshiaki Yamane said such powerplants could better suit driving habits in the U.S., where drivers prioritize power for high-speed, expressway driving over fuel efficiency.
“Maybe U.S. customers require more power, because fuel economy is not the top requirement,” said Yamane, a powertrain engineer who worked on the Skyactiv-X setup.
That was in January and, sure enough, last month came news that the Mazda 3 would be getting a turbo, further suggesting that Skyactiv-X is nowhere near close to coming here.
I emailed Mazda today to ask what the timeline is on bringing Skyactiv-X here and how and if the coronavirus pandemic had affected that timeline. A Mazda spokeswoman offered this:
We have no timeline for Skyactiv-X availability in the US at this time.
There is a finality to that statement that suggests that Mazda isn’t even thinking about it and that might be true, since it is pushing ahead with the turbo, but it’s all kind of a shame, because when Mazda debuted the fourth-generation 3 last year it felt like Skyactiv-X was the only thing it was truly missing.