What is SKYACTIV Technology?

We’ve all seen the Mazda commercials touting their SKYACTIV Technology. We’ve seen the SKYACTIV badging on the back of vehicles. But, what is it really?

Mazda’s stated goal when SKYACTIV was initiated was “ultimate efficiency” across their entire line of vehicles. To do so, they started from scratch and engineered each major component of a vehicle to work harmoniously to marry “fuel economy and performance together.”

SKYACTIV Chassis and Body

Engineers redesigned front and rear suspension and developed speed sensitive electronic power steering to increase low and mid-speed agility while maintaining high-speed stability. The two elements work to keep appropriately sensitive low and mid-speed operation effortless while still maintaining a solid feel at higher speeds.

The overall structure of the suspension was revised to allow the vehicle to absorb more impact shocks from the road. They were able to do so without stiffening springs and dampers which can create a harsh ride over road imperfections.

Portions of the vehicle’s frame were also adjusted in the redesign. Some frame members were shortened, some were lengthened, some were removed. Traditional welding areas were redesigned to improve rigidity. This was done with functionality and safety concerns in mind. The changes result in superior rigidity and in the Mazda6 line a 14% weight reduction.

The body structure redesign was approached with an emphasis on “straightening and a continuous framework.” Curves were removed from the existing frame structure with an eye toward continuous frame members from front to back. Engineers additionally created four ring structures around the vehicle body to create more structural rigidity.

In addition to increased rigidity, the frame alterations improve safety. The straightened frame members work together to create multiple load paths for crash energy to transfer around the passenger compartment. Body panels contribute to both rigidity and safety through increased use of high-tensile steel. The strength of the steel allows for the Mazda6 to use the thinnest steel in its class.

SKYACTIV Engines

Mazda increased engine compression to 14:1, the highest of any mass-produced gasoline engine. This resulted in a 15% increase in fuel efficiency and torque. Increasing an engines compression ratio this high typically results in engine knocking. Mazda countered this by completely redesigning the SKYACTIV exhaust system. Knock-resistant technologies allow the higher compression with no knocking while still allowing use of 87 octane fuel.

SKYACTIV Transmission

Mazda designed the SKYACTIV-Drive 6-speed automatic transmission to be smaller than its predecessor while improving fuel efficiency 4-7%. The transmission’s torque converter and redesigned clutch work together to provide a direct feel–Mazda claims similar to a manual–when it comes to engine response. An advanced control module which Mazda calls a brain was built in to manage shifting precisely. Downshifts are rev-matched to ensure optimum efficiency and performance.

The SKYACTIV-MT manual transmission was also redesigned to be smaller and now boasts the shortest outing  internal shift throw of any transmission in its class.

image courtesy of Mazda
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