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Manuals, six-speed autos to remain in small Mazdas

Shifting trends: Despite many car-makers dropping the number of manual variants, Mazda says it is committed to the gearbox.

Mazda keeps faith with manuals but eight speeds likely for autos in larger models

12 Sep 2017


Mazda Motor Corporation executive officer in charge of product strategy, Hidetoshi Kudo, has allayed any fears that the manual gearbox will be discontinued in the company’s mainstream passenger-car range moving into the next decade.

“Mazda intends to be the last Japanese OEM (original equipment manufacturer) to deliver a manual transmission,” he told GoAuto at the Mazda Global Tech Forum 2017 in Frankfurt late last month.

“It is our utmost desire to do so.” While Mazda talked up its new compression-ignition SkyActiv-X engine in Germany, it said that all information regarding future transmissions would be revealed at a later date.

However, Mazda Motor Corporation director and senior managing executive officer with oversight for research and development, Kiyoshi Fujiwara, revealed that while models from the Mazda3 and below would likely retain the six-speed torque-converter automatic transmission for the time being, larger models such as the Mazda6 and CX-5 upwards would eventually increase to eight speeds and beyond.

“Within compact cars or smaller cars, I think six speeds is OK, because our torque range is quite wide,” he told GoAuto.

“But in the future I don’t know. Heavier weight or a bigger car we have to consider (more ratios). Now because of the weight and size of the car six speeds is fine.”

Mr Fujiwara went on to criticise what he regarded as an excessive number of ratios in cars and SUVs in light and small segments, suggesting that it shows up fundamental flaws in engine design, torque management and tuning.

“I think going for eight or 10-speed gearbox in a small car is showing a bad engine,” he revealed. “A smaller range of torque and a smaller range for fuel economy means that the engine has to stay (in a small torque band) we are in a wider (band) range so six is enough.”

MMC managing executive officer in charge of powertrain and vehicle development and product planning, Ichiro Hirose, added that the new combustion-ignition tech does not need anything more than six forward speeds, and dismissed continuously-variable transmissions (CVT) for its cars.

“With the SkyActiv-X’s much wider fuel-efficiency band width, whereas before we needed the help of transmission (ratios) to get the best efficiencies,” he said. “And with the downsized European engines they have a much smaller bandwidth of torque to operate within, so they need a turbo to help the engine produce really high torque that require long, long transmission ratios to land within that narrow strip. And because of that, they see the trend for multiple gears“But of course, now we’ve got the efficiencies, and we also want to provide the performance and really linear feel so we don’t want to give buyers too much step, that’s why we have the gearboxes that we have, and we believe for the time being that should be enough.

“If you just take increasing the number of gears, and the objective is to give you better driving performance and fine-tuning with many gears, then that’s still valid, I think. But Mazda won’t go as far as having a CVT.

“I’m hoping with (all the advances with SkyActiv-X) you’ll be able to go back to that good old car feel, where you’re shifting and you can feel that the drive force being connected at the appropriate time, and you have the freedom to whenever you want you can shift, as if it was a good car from the old days.”

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