This was NOT an easy feat to accomplish.
Change is never an easy undertaking to endure, especially in the automotive world. When a new trend or technology hits the market, there are nuances to be worked through. For example, the differences in how electric powertrains operate force many EV customers to alter their lifestyles entirely, charging at night instead of refueling a few times a month and working in a few extra stops into a traditional road trip during which to top off the battery.
And the same concept applies even to variations in existing technologies, which is one way you could characterize Mazda's SkyActiv X engine. SkyActiv X is the small Japanese automaker's way of combating the tightening fuel economy standards without spending billions on rushing an electric car to market. And though it's essentially a gasoline engine that ignites its fuel-air mixture like a diesel engine does, there's always a risk that its technological nuances make it less reliable than the more vetted spark-ignition engine.
However, CarsGuide has learned that Mazda expects its SkyActiv X technology to feature the same maintenance costs as its other cars. "No change to that, we make sure this engine can be used as per normal engines," explained Eiji Nakai, Mazda's Global Development head.
One reason for that is Mazda's use of conventional engine parts rather than specialized components. The spark plugs, which are still needed to ignite the fuel-air mixture by adding pressure to the combustion chamber rather than begin combustion using the flame alone, are the same you can find on other vehicles. And even though the combustion process will be different, the SkyActiv X engine won't require oil that's not easily available - just the same kind you find in a typical turbocharged engine.
Even the timing mechanism will be a chain rather than a belt, which requires more frequent replacement. But despite the attempt to reduce complexity, Mazda's SkyActiv X engine will have around 28 engineering parameters, twice the amount as its SkyActiv G engine but about half as much as the company's SkyActiv D diesel engine.
Making things better for Mazda is the fact that much of that complexity comes from the need for additional sensors and computer algorithms to digest the data they produce rather than unique mechanical parts that can break. That should help keep service intervals in line with what customers expect from normal gasoline cars, at least if Mazda can get the software right.