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Next-gen Mazda3 getting mild hybrid system

by Ronan Glon

Mild hybrid technology will help the Skyactiv-X engine deliver diesel-like efficiency.

The next-generation Mazda3 will make its debut later this month at the 2018 Los Angeles auto show. It will stand out with an eye-catching design, Mazda's new Skyactiv-X engine and the first application of the company's fuel-saving mild hybrid technology.

Details about the system remain few and far between. Industry trade journal Automotive News learned the mild hybrid technology will store electricity in a lithium-ion battery pack and channel it to the drive wheels via an electric motor to deliver a smoother, quicker driving experience while keeping fuel economy in check.

"Skyactiv-X is a very efficient engine in the first place, so we don't need a full hybrid. Mild hybrid is good enough," company CEO Akira Marumoto told Automotive News.

The Skyactiv-X engine comes with a technology called spark-controlled compression ignition that packs the best attributes of a gasoline and diesel engine into one unit, according to Mazda. Equipped with mild hybrid technology, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder will deliver the same punch as the firm's 2.5-liter four-cylinder while returning fuel economy on par with the numbers posted by a 1.5-liter turbodiesel engine.

It doesn't sound like the Skyactiv-X engine will be offered without the mild hybrid boost; at least not when the Mazda3 goes on sale in early 2019. For buyers not interested in going hybrid, Mazda will offer the next-generation 3 with an evolution of the 2.5-liter four that powers the current version of the car.

Mazda's mild hybrid technology will spread to other models in the not-too-distant future.

"We may be able to introduce it to an SUV in the not too distant future," Marumoto said without revealing the model he has in mind.