The new Mazda3 Skyactiv-X
The new Mazda3 Skyactiv-X

Caroline drives the new Mazda3 Skyactiv-X.

Mazda has been working behind the scenes on a multi-solution approach to the decarbonisation of transport. While the brand will launch their first electric vehicle, the MX-30, towards the end of 2020, they have certainly not given up on the internal combustion engine. In fact, Mazda is very much committed to improving the efficiency of the internal combustion engine with innovative engineering that will continue to meet the transport demands of many people whose circumstances just don’t match electric vehicles right now.

One of the brand’s most astounding innovations has been the introduction of the Skyactiv-X petrol engine. It is billed as a revolutionary engine, the world’s first engine to use spark controlled compression ignition combining the spark ignition of a petrol with the compression ignition of a diesel. The brand promises more power, performance and efficiency. It was time to take a test drive in the new Mazda3 Skyactiv-X to get to grips with this new engine and test the claims Mazda makes about it.

To recap, Mazda launched a new generation of the Mazda3 in Ireland in 2019. Along with the launch of the brand’s new CX-30 compact SUV, these models spearhead a new generation of Mazda vehicles built on a new platform. Mazda’s famous KODO design language evolves for even more refined surfacing and showstopper looks. Note the magic in the curvature of the metal of the new Mazda3’s C pillar.

Inside the new Mazda3

The interior of the new Mazda3
The interior of the new Mazda3

The premium design continues to the inside of the vehicle. Here the interior of the Mazda3 has matured again. It’s plush, sporty and well-appointed with the latest technology features and infotainment. All models feature a seven-inch colour TFT driver instrument display and the latest version of the Mazda Connect infotainment system. My test car was a beautiful GT Sport with burgundy leather. This interior finish really springs the Mazda3 into the company of premium hatchbacks like the BMW 1 Series, Audi A3 and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

Inside the Mazda3 will seat five, but some rivals do rear seating space better. At 351 litres, the boot is about average for the compact class. A Mazda3 saloon is also available with a bigger boot at 444 litres.

Now Mazda has expanded the engine range to include the 2.0-litre, four cylinder Skyactiv-X with 180 hp and 224 Nm of torque. This new engine joins the 2.0 Skyactiv-G petrol (122hp) and the 1.8 Skyactiv-D diesel (116hp). Manual and automatic gearboxes are available.

Skyactiv-X offers more power in the Mazda3
Skyactiv-X offers more power in the Mazda3

So what about Skyactiv-X?

When we reviewed the Mazda3 Skyactiv-G back in 2019, we noted that at times this naturally aspirated engine could feel a bit lazy as we’re used to driving turbocharged engines in cars like this from other manufacturers. Now Mazda gives us Skyactiv-X. They’ve squeezed out more horsepower and it feels more lively on the road, though it’s still far from a hot hatchback. But the extra flexibility is welcome. And the good news is that this extra power hasn’t come at a cost to efficiency. The Mazda3 Skyactiv-X actually falls into a lower motor tax band than the Skyactiv-G and over a week of driving my fuel consumption was the same – 6.6l/100km.

This is not the diesel-like economy Mazda promised with this engine. And some refinement has been lost with Skyactiv-X with more diesel-like noise in certain scenarios. But by and large this is a very pleasant car to spend time with, and certainly in this spec it feels like a true range topper. The Mazda3 is poised on the road, smooth and engaging to drive.

This new engine technology does carry a premium with the Skyactiv-X range starting from €31,920. For example, the Mazda3 Skyactiv-X GT Sport on test has a list price of €35,420, putting it well into the territory of premium hatchbacks. Lucky that the Mazda3 is so well designed and appointed that it can sit very comfortably in this company.

Mazda3 Skyactiv-X available from €31,920
Mazda3 Skyactiv-X available from €31,920

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Mazda3 2.0 Skyactiv-X Petrol 180 ps 6 Speed Manual Transmission 2WD 
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol
180 hp
Torque: 224 Nm
8.2 seconds
Top speed: 216 km/h
Fuel consumption (WLTP): 
5.8 l/100km
CO2 emissions (WLTP)/NEDC2:  
Motor Tax: €190 per year