Mazda is not one of the really big global carmakers. So what does Mazda do to stay at the forefront of technology?
Mazda believes that because it does not have as big a budget as larger manufacturers, it must be smarter and apply better joined-up thinking.
This has been the approach of the man who is the driving force behind Mazda's new technological revolution - Skyactiv. Seita Kanai is the executive vice president of reserch and development at Mazda. He is arguably the most important person in the Mazda organisation because he is responsible for steering a seemingly complex, yet simple, future for this Japanese marque.
He told me at a European presentation of its new technology that he had tasked his engineers a few years back to renew all their base technologies. The results as demonstrated to us today are remarkable in their attention to detail, their simplicity, and their chosen materials.
To put the targeted improvements in perspective, Mazda promises to refine its engine combustion process to achieve a 30 per cent improvement in fuel economy across the range by 2015.
Mazda chose to follow a route that minimised constraints, bar those that are enforced requirements such as Euro 6 compliance.
Skyactiv results in a petrol engine that gives 15 per cent more fuel economy than the current Mazda6. That is on a par with the current Mazda6 diesel power unit. At the same time, you get 15 per cent lower CO2 emissions, which should be good for the price of the car (lower VRT ) and also lower road tax. But because Mazda markets itself as a fun brand - 'Zoom-Zoom', the savings do not come at the expense of performance with 15 per cent better torque.
But what about diesel, which now dominates our new car market? Well the promised improvements are even greater - 20 per cent lower fuel consumption and CO2 emmissions going hand-in-hand with a boost in low and high-end torque.
I drove a pre-production Skyactive Mazda6 with the world's lowest compression ratio diesel engine in a mass-produced diesel car. In addition to the new engine technology, it has new suspension geometry, shorter steering gear ratio, and a new rear trailing position, which boosts ride comfort and gives better stability. This car is 14 per cent lighter than the current Mazda6 diesel, and it promises a 100kg reduction in the weight of all base models from Mazda3 upwards. This should translate into more agile cars, delivering better performance and drivability, along with all the efficiency benefits such as more mpg.
But it is also important to lay to rest that lighter weight means poorer crash safety. Thanks to bodies such as Euro NCAP, manufacturers have had to develop more rigid bodies and crumple systems that deliver better crash safety and this is also promised by Mazda.
On the track, the improved performance was disernable, as was even better drivability. At higher speed and when cornering, the stability has improved, as has the ride comfort. It also offered very assured braking.
In addition to many advances with bodies and chassis, the great improvement in both the diesel and petrol engines have been completed by the development of new manual and automatic transmissions.
What this means for Mazda buyers in Ireland will become evident from next year. The first new car to have all the benefits of Skyactiv will be the CX5, which will arrive here next April.
The next Mazda6 will be the first of those to be launched in Europe. Smart thinks means that the Skyactiv has raised Mazda's ability to compete on many levels.
Mazda confirmed as new Connacht Rugby sponsor
Last week, as reported by sports editor Linley Mackenzie, car manufacturer Mazda was confirmed as the official title sponsor of Connacht rugby in a deal worth over €1.5 million over the next three years. This is a major sponsorship deal, which will facilitate the development of both brands.
With Connacht Rugby’s participation in the Heineken Cup this season, the support offered by Mazda as Official Title Sponsor of the club will allow Connacht Rugby to build on the excellent work carried out both on and off the field last season and compete at the highest level in club rugby, testing their skills against the toughest opposition in Europe. Connacht Rugby supporters will also get the unique chance to see some of rugby’s biggest names in action on their own doorstep.
As official title sponsor, Mazda will work closely with Connacht Rugby to develop marketing activities which will help drive support for Connacht Rugby across the province, using big match days to bring the sponsorship to life for supporters.
According to Michael Howe, country manager of Mazda Ireland: “Mazda Ireland is delighted to be the new title sponsor for Connacht Rugby. The passion and ambition of Connacht’s management and supporters is immense. We are thrilled to support this exciting new chapter in Connacht Rugby’s proud history.”
“Mazda, like Connacht, is beginning an important new chapter, as we prepare to launch our sixth generation of cars with SkyActiv Technology. This technology will deliver major fuel savings and emission reductions, whilst retaining Mazda’s fun to drive characteristics. The sponsorship of Connacht Rugby provides an excellent platform for new customers to experience our cars.”