Motoring: Putting Mazda’s Skyactiv to the real world test

With the automotive world gravitating to electrification, Mazda is alone in betting everything on the internal combustion engine.

The 2014 Mazda6 (GS model shown) is a mid-size sedan that offers greener operation with a suite of energy-saving technologies called Skyactiv.

The 2014 Mazda6 (GS model shown) is a mid-size sedan that offers greener operation with a suite of energy-saving technologies called Skyactiv.

Is Mazda’s Skyactiv fuel-saving technology for real or just clever marketing?

Regular readers may remember I attended the press introduction of the 2014 Mazda6 mid-size sedan in Texas earlier this year. Driving a pre-production vehicle, I covered more than 300 miles at mostly highway speeds and translates roughly as 7.7L/100 km, which is good in a larger car.

But Canada is Canada and I wanted to see just how good Skyactiv is—or isn’t.

Skyactiv is the name Mazda uses for a suite of engineering solutions to get better mileage without relying on hybrid/electric technology.

With the automotive world gravitating to electrification, Mazda is alone in betting everything on the internal combustion engine.

Don’t forget it was Mazda that persevered with the rotary engine and made it work after all the other manufacturers including General Motors and Mercedes-Benz tried and failed.

Basically Skyactiv involves gasoline and diesel engines and applying steps such as pistons with hollowed tops for better gas ignition, 13:1 compression ratio, lighter internal parts, reduced friction and the Formula One four-into-two-into-one exhaust system.

New six-speed manual and automatic transmissions are dramatically lighter.

In addition to the current gasoline engine we will get a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel later this year with a range of about 1,000 km.

Also coming is Mazda’s capacitor-based brake energy regeneration system called i-ELOOP. Mazda claims i-ELOOP is the world’s first capacitor-based brake energy regeneration system to provide power to all the electrical mechanisms in a vehicle.

So as to not keep readers in suspense, Mazda claims fuel consumption numbers of 8.1/5.3L/100 km city/highway for the six-speed manual and 7.6/5.1L/100 km for the six-speed automatic for the Masda6.

On the Easter weekend in a Mazda6 GS with six-speed automatic I registered 6.4L/100 km or 44 mpg after covering 541 km at just under half of the 62-litre gas tank.

With 503 km showing on the odometer I still had a half tank showing. From this I would say 900-plus km on one tank is theoretically possible and 700-800 km in real life with judicious use of the gas pedal is attainable.

Now to clarify, the 541 km was almost all highway driving at the speed limit or slightly above to stay with the flow of traffic.

It was not possible to use cruise control because of the volume of Easter traffic, but my wife did all the driving and she is much smoother than I am.

Mazda6 pricing starts with the GX at $24,495 followed by the GS at $28,395 and the GT at $32,195. The manual is standard and the automatic is optional.

We were driving the GS automatic with the optional Luxury Package ($1,800) that includes leather trimmed upholstery, eight-way power driver seat, power driver lumbar support, leather-like door trim and navigation system made by TomTom. Also optional was Snowflake White Pearl paint at $200 for a total as tested at $30,395, not including the $1,595 shipping fee.

The TomTom unit was clear and colourful with the road to be followed in a brick-red with pointers showing when the route was going to the left or right usually about one mile before we got to that point.

I say miles because it was set in miles not kilometres. There is probably a button somewhere to change it over, but I didn’t bother.

With the main gauges in kilometres and the driver info readout between the speedo and tachometer in metric including the all-important fuel consumption average in litres, I was good to go.

An interesting thing I noticed in Texas and again over Easter here was a portion of the TomTom on the lower left that shows the speed limit where you are at that given moment. In this case on the highway it showed the limit at 60 mph—about 100 km/h.

It also showed the speed we were going. But when we went a little over, usually about 67-68 mph, the background turned from black to red as a warning.

Pretty nifty and a nice thing to have on a holiday weekend with police out in force.

In addition to a backup camera as part of the Luxury Package, it also boasts Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Blind Spot Monitoring.

The latter proved exceedingly helpful in not just alerting us to people passing on the left or right, but also when we were passing another car.

As you pass, an orange icon in the outside mirror lights up indicating a vehicle in the blind spot. Instead of turning your head to look behind, you just wait until the icon goes out and you know there is a safe amount of room to pull back in.

Normally engines tuned to run lean also run out of steam early on, but not the Mazda6.

On-ramp acceleration was about the same as the normal 2.5-litre Mazda3 my wife drives, but the road manners were more comfortable probably due to the longer wheelbase and the more flexible six-speed automatic compared to my wife’s five-speed.

The ride was uneventful except for the wind-sensing wipers clicking in every now and then, giving me a chance to sit back and enjoy the view of spring just starting to appear.

As mentioned about, Skyactiv is not the first time Mazda has marched to a different beat, but based on my real life numbers, they’re proving there’s still of lot of potential left in the internal combustion engine.

Mazda6 GS 2014

Body Style: Mid-size sedan

Drive Method: front-engine, front-wheel drive.

Engine: 2.5-litre DOHC inline four-cylinder (184 hp, 185 lb/ft torque

Fuel Economy: (Regular) six-speed manual 8.1/5.3L/100 km city/highway; six-speed automatic 7.6/5.1L/100 km.

Tow Rating: Not recommended

Cargo Volume: 419 litres

Prices: GX, $24,495; GS, $28,395; GT, $32,195. GS price as tested, $30,395 not including $1,595 shipping fee

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