The much anticipated SkyActiv-D Diesel from Mazda for 2012 has arrived in Canada, and it was well worth the wait. Born of a revolutionary design that gives it some rather non-diesel-like specs.

To begin with, Mazda claims that the SkyActiv-D engine will boost fuel economy by 20% over the 2.2-liter diesel version currently in service in Europe. Perhaps more significant are its power numbers. The SkyActiv-D diesel makes 165 hp at 4500 rpm, and nearly 340 lb-ft. of torque at only 2000 rpm. Very impressive indeed. Such low compression and high revs were previously unheard of in a production automotive diesel engine.

The upshot of all this is a power curve that brings torque to the wheels throughout the rpm range, whereas traditional diesel-provided torque would typically drop off beyond about 3000 rpm. This lower compression (at 14:1, the lowest of any production diesel currently available) means lower combustion temperatures, which mean more complete, hence cleaner, combustion. In this way, the Mazda SkyActiv-D diesel engine is set to meet North American emissions standards without benefit of a NOx after-treatment system.

Not content to merely re-make their engines, Mazda opted to revamp their transmissions as well. The 6-speed manual transmission has been improved with a shorter throw, for quicker shifts that take full advantage of the SkyActiv-D power band. Technology that provides low-compression, high-rev, economical and clean power is a pretty unbeatable combination.