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Mazda's SkyActiv Fuel Saving Technology Meets Volkswagen's Turbo Direct Injection (TDI) for MPG

Updated on February 4, 2012

Well, because of the Federal laws for better MPG for American cars are looming on the horizon by 2015 or so, suddenly, like magic, nearly all of them starting with 2012 models, have 35% better MPG than the 2010-11 models. Hmm, I guess all it took was a swift kick and LAW to get the companies to create cars with 30\35MPG ratings. The automotive makers are like teenagers. They have to be coerced to comply.

Take the Mazda 3 with "skyactiv technology", which is a combination of using lighter material and use of direct injection, which has always been a far more fuel efficient way to cars to use fuel. All of them get much better MPG. Take the 2012 Subaru's, geez, in less than a year, the company increased their cars MPG by 30-35%. They all are suddenly switching to direct injection.

The funny thing is this: Volkswagen has been doing it for about 10 years. They have been building TDI (Turbo Direct Injection) cars in their Golf, Passat and Jettas from 2000 to now. VW has made this available in their diesel cars only, however. The diesel engine is far stronger and more durable than any gas engine due to much higher pressures. They have no distributor, spark plugs, plug wires. Their engines last well into 300,000 miles when maintained and serviced. The new Mazda 3 is just now getting 600 miles to 14.5 gallons. My 2006 Jetta TDI has been getting that and more for years. In fact, city driving provides about 32-33 MPG, or 170 miles to a quarter tank. Highway's is where the diesel shines, hitting 45 MPG. This still beats the newest cars coming out and its not a hybrid.

Granted, the Mazda 3 has a 155 Hp, 4 cyl engine compared to VW's 107 Hp, both cars are about the same weight. The VW TDI reaches this horsepower at 4000 rpm producing 236 ft-lb in torque. The cars about the same wheelbase and length. Even 0-60 mph is about the same-9 seconds or so. The VW has 16 cu.feet of cargo, the M3, 12. Driving VW's diesels are a slightly different experience, a bit sluggish from the standstill, but but 3rd gear, it is a different story, by 6th gear, you are zooming and sipping fuel, not gulping it.

Most people have no clue the VW is a diesel because it is so clean (no black smoke), although, the sound of the engine is different. That is the other thing, the engine on the highway is nearly silent. One hears more wind noise than the engine. This was quite the opposite to my former Subaru Outback wagon. The transmission is dual clutch or DSG, which is automatic, again, Mazda seems to have taken a few lessons from VW. The tranny in Sport mode for the VW provides a sport car feel and downshifts rapidly so the driver seldom has to use the brakes. Oh, that is the other thing about the VW TDI, cars with 175,000 miles on them still have the original brake pads and rotors from when the car was new-they have never been changed. All because the driver learns how to distance stops and barely has to step on the brakes. The Mazda 3 feels and handles like the VW-tight and hard or solid. Hmmm, did Mazda dissect the Volkswagen\BMW to learn its secrets?

The bottom line to all this is the VW TDI new is around $22K, the Mazda 3, $23K. The bigger difference is used. You cannot get the Mazda 3 with this MPG unless it is 2012 model, but you can with any Volkswagen TDI from 2000+ and that means the cost of the car is WAY less, at least, 50% less and you still get the fantastic MPG!


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      TexasCarGuy 5 years ago

      This article brought back my good old memories. I had a 2000 VW turbo diesel and now I just bought a Mazda 3 skyactiv. So to be fair, I should be a well qualified judge on these two models. The VW diesel is truely a mpg champion. In the past, I averaged 47-49 mpg regardless how you drove. VW's Precise handling was so much fun. Why did I give up this fine car?! Well, the answer is maintenance. Back in 2000, VW diesel is timed with a belt that required replacement every 60000 miles. Oh, it got even better!! When you wanted to get any maintenance done, you needed to call in to a dealership ahead of time to make sure they had a diesel tech. Once, I was done in the southern Texas. The dealership had no qualified tech working on diesel VW. I ended up delaying my service until heading back Houston. I ran into very frequent answers "Well, I never work on a diesel VW, but I sure can try". Ha, Ala, sure, I would let anyone experiment on my car. The parts avalibility is another issue. If you do own a VW diesel, be sure to carry your VIN when purchasing your parts. Don't get my wrong, VW diesel was a very well made car and I love it. But, I would not own it unless I can appoint a tech that is sold with the car. I had my Mazda 3 for 2 months now. The handling is equally good to VW and I am constantly getting 35-40 mpg.

      Why did I buy a Mazda 3? Skyactiv is the answer. It is the closest thing that is gasoline engine to diesl engine. I reviewed the service requirement. It supposily required pretty low maintenance: Chain driven timing mechanism, mostly solid construction, and sealed transmission unit. Well, we find out in few year whether it is a keeper or just another hard to dealt toy that does not make on my list.