Issue: Dec 2010


MAZDA 2 GAINS POSITION AS HIGH VALUE CAR



by Bob Brooks

With higher oil prices and higher U.S. gasoline taxes in the wind, the compact Mazda 2 is fast gaining recognition among automotive journalists as an outstanding example of transportation value. For a first hand review of the car, this AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRIES (AI) correspondent road tested a Mazda 2 by way off a recent 1500 mile round trip between Illinois and New York State.

The Mazda 2, like it’s counterparts Toyota Yaris and Honda Fit with 1.5L engines may seem below the size range desired by typical U.S. car owners, the Mazda 2 in particular provides better interior space and comfort than expected. Driven for 14 hours non-stop, the comfort level provided by the Mazda 2 was excellent and in fact no more tiring than significantly larger vehicles we think of as “road” cars.

At steady highway speeds not over the 65 mpg limit, the Mazda 2 fuel economy indicated by the vehicle’s on-board computer system was in the 44-46 mpg range which is substantially higher than EPA’s adjusted window sticker value of 35 mpg highway.
One must realize that it is EPA policy for car makers to report fuel economy that reflects high speed and uneven driving practices rather than steady driving within legal speed limits.

The Mazda 2’s 35 mpg window sticker highway fuel economy, while good, will soon
be increased by one of the firm’s new Sky G engines (gasoline) with game changing 14:1 compression ratio. Compression at this level has been unheard of for street vehicles operating with common fuel octane ratings. The net result will be a further large gain in fuel efficiency believed to be near 50 mpg.

Separately and aside from Mazda’s forthcoming Sky D (diesel engine) the firm has announced a new 1.6L diesel for its Mazda 2 car (not planned for the U.S., however).
The new diesel is another example of thinking outside the box at Mazda as it has one, not two camshafts and eight, not sixteen valves. While this might be expected to limit engine air intake, its breathing limitation is offset by use of a variable rather than fixed geometry turbocharger. Fuel economy and performance are actually somewhat improved over common two cam, sixteen valve systems.

Although not confirmed by U.S. Mazda at deadline for this report, the single cam 1.6L diesel is also expected to have the firm’s advanced piezo driven fuel injection system with up to eight injections per piston cycle to greatly improve fuel efficiency and reduce exhaust particulate matter. Cooled EGR is also expected to greatly reduce or eliminate exhaust NOX after treatment.

Taken together, Mazda appears to be firmly on track with new IC engine technology that further limits the common wisdom that Otto and Diesel positions in the automotive market are being overtaken from the rear by electric, hybrid and gaseous fuel systems.


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