Mazda Showcases Even More Efficient Mazda3

What am I looking at?

That’s the next generation Mazda 3 Fastback, on its way to a showroom near you soon, but Mazda is using it to tease us with two new powertrains.

So what’s new?

Well, using the “SkyActiv” philosophies of making larger, more versatile engines as efficient as possible through tinkering with compression, drivetrain efficiency, lightness and aerodynamics, the fastback bodied 3 can manage up to 55mpg in the petrol and 72mpg in the diesel.

But as is its wont, Mazda isn’t quite satisfied and has set about tinkering with unusual engine technologies. On display at Tokyo will be a petrol-hybrid 3 and a version of the same petrol engine which can use compressed natural gas (CNG) as a fuel source.

What powers it?

In both cases, the car will use the same 2.0 petrol SkyActiv-G engine. The CNG variant is pretty standard fare – SkyActiv petrols run at unusually high compression which suits them to the task of CNG reasonably well and adopting a dual fuel strategy, Mazda’s estimate is that emissions should be cut by 20%. This would translate to around 66mpg.

The unit in the hybrid will likely be developed specifically for the hybrid powertrain, but allied to the electric motor – jointly developed with Toyota – this version is pencilled in for over 80mpg. It’s also going on sale, but only in Japan (where it’s called the Axela), at the end of November, coinciding with the Tokyo Motor Show.

Anything else?

Well, if you are in a position to buy one, the hybrid will only be available with a CVT (continuously variable transmission). There’s also hints at the boot space being compromised from its 419-litre load space by the battery packs required for hybrid operation.

How much will it cost me?

About 10% more than the petrol car will – 2.5 million Yen. That actually translates to a pretty reasonable 16k – the price the 3 starts at over here – making it one of the cheaper hybrids and a bargain way to get 80mpg. Importing one will likely push that considerably higher.

With the CNG car in the concept stage, there’s no immediate plans to put it on sale. However it has been developed on the basis of increasing demand, Mazda say, so don’t rule out it popping up in the 18,000 range over here.

Any alternatives?

With it not being available to UK buyers, there’s only alternatives. For the Japanese-market money, the only candidate is the Honda Jazz hybrid, with Honda’s CR-Z and the Toyota Auris hybrid both coming in more expensive but fairly ballpark.

As for the CNG-powered version and even the normal diesel model, there’s not a lot in the sector that can lock price, pace and fuel economy horns with the 3 simultaneously, with the Ford Focus perhaps being the most natural competitor.

In a line?

Neat showcase for Mazda’s fuel-saving expertise in the rest of the 3 range.

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