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Mazda SkyActiv pitch: 'It's not a hybrid'

Automotive News reports on Mazda's marketing effort for its new, fuel-efficient drivetrain.

TOKYO--"It's not a hybrid. It's not an electric vehicle. It's a new challenge from Mazda."

Or so goes the Japanese TV tagline for the face-lifted Mazda2 subcompact--the first model with Mazda's SkyActiv fuel-efficient engine technologies.

Mazda is banking on the new power train to lure green-thinking customers who might otherwise opt for the Toyota Prius hybrid or Nissan Leaf electric car. Mazda, a latecomer to electrification with its first hybrid due only in 2013, is positioning SkyActiv as a more affordable alternative.

In Japan, the Prius starts at 2.05 million yen, or about $25,300. The Mazda2 with SkyActiv starts at the equivalent of $17,300.

SkyActiv, which was years in development, combines direct injection, high compression, and stop-start engine technology with a new, more fuel-efficient transmission to improve fuel economy. Future models will combine the improved power train with an overhauled, lightweight chassis structure.

The SkyActiv package is one of several trim levels available on the Mazda2. It gets 71 mpg under Japan's testing cycle, a 30 percent increase over the base engine. But it comes in below the Prius' 84 mpg in Japan.

The United States won't get the SkyActiv option on the Mazda2 anytime soon.

Mazda CEO Takashi Yamanouchi said that for now, the automaker instead will offer SkyActiv in larger vehicles for international markets.

SkyActiv will be rolled out globally this fall and first appear in the United States as a power-train option for the Mazda3 sedan. The upcoming CX-5 small crossover will be the first Mazda model getting the new engine, transmission, and chassis.

(Source: Automotive News)