If you’re considering whether to buy a Toyota Prius hybrid or a Nissan Leaf electric car, you may also want to look at the facelifted Mazda2 subcompact -- the first model to use Mazda's SkyActiv fuel-efficient engine technologies.
Mazda’s Japanese TV tag line for this model is: "It's not a hybrid. It's not an electric vehicle. It's a new challenge from Mazda." This new powertrain is targeted at consumers who are looking for environmentally friendly vehicles. Mazda’s first hybrid is set to arrive in 2013. It is working to promote SkyActiv as a cheaper alternative.
The Prius has a starting price of ¥2.05 million, or about $25,300, in Japan. But the Mazda2 with SkyActiv is priced from $17,300. SkyActiv was under development for several years.
It features direct injection, high compression and stop-start engine technology, and a new more fuel-efficient transmission to boost fuel economy. In the future, the cars will be fitted with an improved powertrain and will be built on an overhauled, lightweight chassis structure.
The SkyActiv package is just one of the many trim levels offered on the Mazda2. In Japan's testing cycle, it recorded a fuel economy rating of 71 mpg, a 30% increase over the base engine. In comparison, the Prius boasts 84 mpg in Japan. The SkyActiv option on the Mazda2 won’t be offered in the U.S. anytime soon.
According to Mazda CEO Takashi Yamanouchi, SkyActiv will be offered in bigger vehicles for international markets. SkyActiv will be released globally in the fall. It will make its first appearance in the U.S. as a powertrain option for the Mazda3 sedan. The first Mazda model to receive the new engine, transmission and chassis is the upcoming CX-5 small crossover.