Listening to an orchestra in concert is a pretty sweet experience.
Orchestras are comprised of several sections that are grouped by instruments. Brass, string, wind and percussion sections typically make up an orchestra.
With an experienced conductor at its helm, every instrument and every note can be played to its fullest potential – and in full harmony.
An orchestra in concert is the most apt analogy for Skyactiv.
Like an orchestra, Skyactiv technologies are comprised of several groups. These are the chassis, body, engine and gearbox.
Mazda says Skyactiv’s goal is to enhance driving pleasure, safety and environmental friendliness.
Well, that sounds like what any manufacturer would say, right?
After all, most carmakers today design and engineer cars that are relatively safe, reliable and have decent performance. But I am not alone in saying that there is something different and unique in Mazda’s approach to building cars.
Mazda says that Skyactiv’s four areas are engineered from the ground up to ensure that they work in harmony with each other.
For instance, the Skyactiv body and chassis are constructed with a large percentage of high-tensile strength steel, which is lighter and stronger than conventional steel.
This improves overall rigidity and also helps reduce NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) levels.
With regard to the suspension, engineers studied how forces travel from the tyre to the wheel to the cabin and tried to minimise their impact.
At the same time, these suspension components are tuned to deliver nimbleness at low speeds and stability at high speeds. The goals are polar opposites, but Mazda has found a way to bring them closer.
The carmaker has been particularly successful in implementing this in the latest Mazda 3 and CX-30 models.
Powerplant-wise, Skyactiv engines are known for their relatively high compression ratios, which improve thermal efficiency. A higher thermal efficiency enhances both performance and fuel economy.
Then there’s the Skyactiv-Drive automatic gearbox. It’s a torque converter automatic, but one with full-range lock-up. This helps minimise slipping, while delivering a more responsive feel.
Skyactiv-Drive is not as fast as a dual-clutch gearbox. But for a “regular” automatic, it is relatively quick. A bit of pressure on the accelerator pedal is usually enough to make the gearbox downshift twice.
When the Skyactiv technologies work in harmony, the driver feels that the car is responsive, precise and agile.
Power and speed are great. But as most enthusiasts will tell you, a car that’s neither responsive nor agile is not going to be much fun to drive.
Skyactiv was introduced back in 2011, and the first model to showcase it was the CX-5 SUV.
I did not read about Skyactiv before driving it. And that was a good thing. I didn’t want my perceptions to be prematurely coloured.
As I drove the CX-5, what immediately struck me was how tight the entire body felt. It was also “pointy” and handled well for an SUV. With the drivetrain’s responsiveness added to the mix, the result was a fun to drive car.
Since then, Skyactiv has become the distinguishing feature of Mazda models.
Does Skyactiv make Mazdas perfect? Certainly not. We wish certain models could be roomier. And it would be nice if there were more turbocharged engines for extra “zoom zoom”.
But what Skyactiv does is make you the conductor of an orchestra. And if you know what you’re doing, that orchestra can play every instrument and every note to its fullest potential – and in full harmony.
Check out our overseas review of the Mazda 3 Skyactiv-X
Read our review of the Mazda 3 1.5 Hatchback here
We drive the Mazda CX-30