Recently, Bermaz Motor, the official distributor of Mazda cars in Malaysia organised the Mazda Skyactiv Challenge, sending 30 selected motoring journalists on a mission to prove just how economical their Skyactiv technology is.
The objective is to arrive in Johor Bahru (that’s approximately 348.3km from Mazda’s HQ in Glenmarie, Shah Alam to Permas Jaya, JB) in no more than seven hours (lunch break included), so time and speed are definitely of the essence.
|Name||Mazda2||Mazda3||Mazda CX-5 2.0L|
|Engine||1,496cc; inline-4 with VVT and DOHC||1,998cc; inline-4 with VVT and DOHC|
6-speed Skyactiv-Drive auto
|Max Power||114 hp @ 6,000 rpm||162 hp @ 6,000 rpm||155 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Max Torque||148 Nm @ 4,000 rpm||210 Nm @ 4,000 rpm||200 Nm @ 4,000 rpm|
|0 – 100 km/h||10.0 seconds||–||–|
|Top Speed||184 km/h||–||–|
|Price (OTR w/o insurance)||RM85,470.00||from RM106,105.30||from RM126,165.50|
The 30 journalists (yours truly included) were split into 15 pairs and each team was assigned to either a Mazda2, Mazda3 or the CX-5; some of Mazda’s most well received models in Malaysia. Sure they’re in different segments, but what they share in common is the revered Skyactiv-G engine, albeit in differing displacements.
Prior to the flag off, President of National Union of Journalists Malaysia (NUJM), Mr Chin Sung Chew was on site to verify that all cars had their fuel tanks filled (Shell FuelSave RON95) to the brim and made sure nothing could be tempered with, including the air conditioning, side mirrors, fuel tank and bonnet. This leveled the playing field and from an objective standpoint, the only variable involved in the challenge is how light one’s right foot is throughout the journey. And also, with a bit of luck, traffic conditions.
So there we were – 15 teams piloted by drivers with dogged determination, all eager to set a personal record of their slowest drive from KL to JB, ever. The predetermined route, measuring 348.3 kilometers, is comprised largely of highways (PLUS highway) with just eight percent of the entire stretch being in the city.
Whilst keeping our objective in check, the natural thing to do is ensuring that our speed is kept constant between 80 to 100 km/h. This required religious surveillance over the speedo and tachometer, including the ‘Current’ or instant fuel consumption gauge. Now, on a typical long-haul journey like this, it’s best to take scheduled stops and not drive over two hours at a time, so that’s the opportunity we took to swap drivers.
Seven hours and some 300 kilometers later, we’ve almost reached our destination – a Shell station in Permas Jaya, Johor Bahru. Believe it or not, it was at this very moment that we realised our fuel gauge had finally dropped one bar. And that’s after getting caught in a 45-minute bumper-to-bumper crawl along the way! We weren’t sure about the gauge’s accuracy, but the folks at Mazda leapt at the opportunity and said, “That’s Skyactiv for you”. We’re not kidding.
Much has been said and heard about Mazda’s Skyactiv technology. But really, what is it? The engineers over at Mazda Corporation Japan thought there’s still potential for Internal Combustion Engines (ICE; petrol and diesel) to be developed further, providing more power and increased fuel efficiency at the same time, all without going the hybrid way. Mazda added that hybrid cars are costlier to manufacture and maintain, which is true to some extent. Replacing the costly battery pack could potentially be the start of one’s balding process.
So back on the drawing board, Mazda’s engineers upped the ICE ante and developed the Skyactiv-G engine that operates with a compression ratio of 14:1, an unusually high compression for a gasoline engine. As a rule, petrol powered engines generally operate between 9:1 to 11:1 compression ratio. Any higher would invite premature detonation risks, but the challenge was dealt with a unique in-house developed chamber design. The result? An engine so flexible that’s delightfully powerful and frugal, as and when either is needed. Just so you know, some sports cars like Porsche have a compression ratio of 12.5:1.
The same mentality applies to the development of conventional torque converting gearboxes or slush boxes, as some would call it. Mazda’s six-speed Skyactiv-Drive automatic transmission features a unique lock-up mechanism that operates at speeds above 8 km/h. What it does is eliminate inherent slips commonly found in traditional slush boxes, thereby improving torque delivery and fuel efficiency. Another fuel saving technology to complement this regard is the i-Stop system which shuts down the engine at idle, but fires it back up again by injecting fuel into the engine.
Now, back to the Skyactiv Challenge. Once we’ve covered exactly 348.3km, each of the 15 cars were refueled and facilitated by Mr Chin himself. The end result may appear to be unrealistic and ‘too good to be true’, but remember, the figures achieved were corroborated by the President of NUJM himself, as well as the journalists involved in the drive. The results, as per the table below, are in the following order: Purple – Mazda2, Red – Mazda3, Green – CX-5.
We’re sure by now you’re questioning, “How can a CX-5 possibly be more fuel efficient than a Mazda2 or Mazda3? Or, even if it could, how is it that a 2.0L SUV consumed a full 3 litres less of fuel compared to the Mazda2 when both are driving in the same traffic conditions from KL to JB?” Admittedly, we were equally dumbfounded as well, but the fuel tank wouldn’t take an additional drop of fuel after the pump read 6.90 litres. If we are to cast the anomaly aside and focus on the how the rest fared, the results speak for themselves and are truly impressive. To answer your question – no, nothing ‘fuel conserving’ could be tempered with, not even the air conditioning.
Most of the cars (except for the anomalistic CX-5) had their fuel gauge dropped one bar, and the multi-info display indicated that all cars, at the very least, could manage to cover an additional 520km to 620km of tarmac. Mazda, through 30 motoring journalists who have just recorded their longest drive to JB, proved that a small change in driving pattern can yield astonishing fuel consumption, regardless of the car’s propulsion nature. To average it out, based on the results, one can potentially get from KL to JB with just RM25 of fuel, or even less! This is dependent on fuel prices and type of fuel used, of course. Technically, the less fuel you burn, the longer it will take for you to arrive at your destination.
So, with the Hari Raya holidays coming up, here’s something from us – five key ways you can conserve fuel for those planning their ‘Balik Kampung’ trip:
1. Avoid hard acceleration and braking. A smoother throttle input will go as far as to save you 20 percent of fuel.
2. Make sure your tyres are properly inflated. If you’re planning a journey with the entire family, refer to your car’s handbook to find out its optimal tyre pressure when the car is fully loaded. This will save you as much as 3 percent of fuel.
3. Avoid long idling time. If you’re taking a toilet break at an R&R stop, it’s best to shut the car off until everyone is ready for the next drive.
4. Adhere to speed limits. It’s much easier on the wallet when you don’t get speeding tickets and drive within the car’s comfortable pace. The faster you drive, the higher the engine revs. Also take into account the drag at higher velocities.
5. Lastly, make sure your car is properly serviced. Dirty oil and air filters, old spark plugs and low fluid levels spell poor fuel economy. Do yourself and your car a favour by sending it for a multi-point check. This eliminates unnecessary wear-and-tear risks and keeps you driving at peace, especially when Hari Raya is upon us.