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Mazda’s fuel-miserly 3 unveiled

Powering on: The new Mazda3 will sell as a hybrid version in Japan, mating a 2.0-litre petrol engine to the electric drivetrain out of a Toyota Prius.

Fuel-sipping Mazda3 Hybrid mates Skyactiv engine to Prius smarts

Mazda logo14 Oct 2013

MAZDA has launched a hybrid version of its strong-selling 3 small car – although it will only be available in Japan for now.

The hybrid version of the 3 features an electric motor paired with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder Skyactiv-G petrol engine, which is good enough to give the small car the equivalent fuel use of about 3.2 litres per 100 kilometres – making it more fuel-efficient than Toyota’s environmental hero, the 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol-electric hybrid Prius.

However, rather than develop its own hybrid system for the Mazda3, Mazda’s system patches on parts from the Prius’ drivetrain, and potentially matches it with cheaper nickel metal hydride batteries rather than more expensive, lighter lithium-ion ones.

As reported, Mazda also has a joint-development deal with rival Toyota to produce a light-car in Mexico.

The best fuel use for the current Mazda3 range on sale in Australia is a version powered by a 2.2-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder engine, which officially uses a combined 5.7L/100km.

However, while conventionally engined Mazda3s use either a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic transmission, the Japanese hybrid Mazda3 mates the petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain to a continuously variable transmission.

The late November on-sale date of the Mazda3 Hybrid in Japan – the only market so far to receive confirmation of the fuel-sipping model – coincides with an unveiling at the Tokyo motor show, where more details of the drivetrain are expected to be announced.

While the 2.0-litre Skyactiv-G engine produces about 116kW of power and 203Nm of torque, the electric motor is expected to add a 60kW dose of power to its performance and – more importantly – an extra 200Nm-plus of torque almost from idle.

The new Mazda3 range launches in Australia in early 2014.

Mazda Australia senior manager of public relations Steve Maciver said the Australian car-buying public was not ready for a hybrid version of what has, at times, taken the title as Australia’s best-selling car.

“When we launch the all-new Mazda3 we will have just the 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre petrol engines,” he said.

“It (the Mazda3 Hybrid) hasn't been offered to us at this stage.”

Mr Maciver said Mazda’s view was that few buyers would be willing to fork out extra money for a petrol-electric version of the small car.

“We see the importance of hybrids for the Japanese market. That's the focus of this car at the moment it's not about overseas markets including us, it's about Japan,” he said.

“Ultimately I'm not quite sure there's enough demand there for hybrid at the moment for us domestically.

“As you know, our main focus is private customers, and there's probably not a groundswell of private customers willing to go out there and purchase a hybrid at this stage.

“Obviously that may change, but when that change is closer it is something we will sort out down the line,” he said.

“The economics of it at this stage in terms of demand aren't there for us.”

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