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SP20 points Sky-wards for Mazda

Sky's the limit: The 2012 Mazda3 SP20 automatic brings the first in a long line of efficient SkyActiv powertrain and chassis technologies.

Details still sketchy but facelifted Mazda3 is just the tip of the SkyActiv iceberg

5 Jul 2011

ANNOUNCED at the Melbourne motor show on Friday, the 2012 Mazda3 SP20 automatic brings the first in a long line of SkyActiv powertrain and chassis technologies that will eventually form the basis of every model in Mazda’s passenger car and SUV line-up by 2015.

Next year’s CX-5 compact SUV will be the first model to incorporate all of Mazda’s next-generation engine, transmission and platform technologies.

Due on sale here in the middle of 2012 following its global debut at the Frankfurt motor show in September, the CX-7-replacing CX-5’s re-engineered platform and body will be complimented by SkyActiv engines and transmissions to reduce fuel consumption and emissions by up to 30 per cent.

The compact SUV – previewed by the striking Minagi concept - will also give Australians their first taste of Mazda’s new SkyActiv-D turbo-diesel engine, as well as the SkyActiv six-speed manual gearbox.

According to Mazda Australia managing director Doug Dickson, the CX-5 will be one of the most eagerly anticipated models in the company’s recent history.

“I can’t wait for the CX-5 to arrive. It will give us a more size-appropriate competitor than the CX-7 in the compact SUV segment, while offering an even more space-efficient interior as well as all the SkyActiv benefits,” he told GoAuto.

22 center imageLeft: Mazda Minagi (aka CX-5). Below: Mazda BT-50.

“We’re expecting big things from this car. We’re very excited.”

Further down the track the next all-SkyActiv Mazda will be the completely redesigned Mazda6 (2013), followed by all-new Mazda2, Mazda3 and MX-5 models – although which order these will appear in is still shrouded in speculation.

Only the all-new BT-50 one-tonne pick-up co-developed with Ford Australia and its T6 Ranger will eschew the SkyActiv technology rollout for Mazda’s future model rollcall.

For now though, the Mazda3 SP20 auto will be the sole SkyActiv model on offer here.

To be available in hatch and sedan guises - at prices that will not be revealed until closer to the range-topping model’s fourth-quarter release date – the SP20 is expected to supplement rather than replace any existing Mazda3 variants, including the SP25.

Pundits are predicting an asking price between the $28,360 Maxx Sport auto and $31,435 SP25 auto, although those prices are likely to change by the time the SP20 arrives as part of the facelifted MY12 Mazda3 range.

While Mazda isn’t yet divulging Australian fuel consumption or CO2 emissions figures, it claims the SkyActiv-G equipped SP20 – matched as standard with a six-speed SkyActiv-Drive automatic transmission - will be the most economical automatic model in the small-car class.

Aiding the SP20’s efficiency will be Mazda’s ‘i-stop’ idle cut-out system and body enhancements that are said to improve the car’s aerodynamic drag by as much as 15 per cent.

The newcomer’s high-compression 2.0-litre direct-injection four-cylinder petrol engine delivers 113kW of power at 6000rpm and 194Nm of torque at 4100rpm, making it around five and seven per cent better respectively than the existing MZR 2.0-litre found in other Mazda3 models.

So why has Mazda chosen to roll out its most important technological change for a generation in a vehicle that is halfway through its model life cycle?Conventional wisdom suggests that the staged rollout of SkyActiv will iron out any potential bugs or issues in a more manageable way. Mazda says that introducing it in just one version of Australia’s best-selling small car will slowly expose the technology in a vehicle that is known and trusted.

“We chose the SP20 as an introduction at this stage because of its partial SkyActiv technology and we thought it best to bring it in our best-selling car first,” a Mazda spokesman said.

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