2020 Mazda3 SkyActiv-X M Hybrid (car review)

INNOVATION and sustainability are alive and well at Mazda, and it’s a concept that is ever-present in the 2020 Mazda3 SkyActiv-X M Hybrid. The Japanese car maker’s sleek hatch this time sports a revolution in drive technology.

It’s a good looking car, particularly in its benchmark Soul Red Crystal Metallic colour, and the black grille and similarly coloured 18-inch alloy wheels, only serve to enhance the contours of its Kodo design methodology.

And while it’s a magnificent colour, we will say it shows up every speck of dirt. But whether or not Soul Red Crystal looks dusty or not, is not why we’re here. This particular hatch (or sedan if you’d rather go that way), has a secret under its hood.

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Mazda have changed the game on how engines produce energy, as well as innovated how kinetic energy is captured and stored for you. To begin with, Mazda have figured out how to maximise fuel efficiency by leveraging compression ignition.

It’s technology typically found in diesel engines, and they’ve combined it with conventional spark ignition (typical of petrol engines), into something they have called Spark Controlled Compression Ignition (SPCCI).

What this means for you, is that your car burns less petrol, and creates fewer emissions than a conventional engine of similar output. That’s not all though folks, Mazda have gone ahead and reimagined the starter motor too.

They’ve built something called an Integrated Started Generator, which captures kinetic energy usually lost in traditional vehicles. This energy is saved into lithium-ion batteries, used by the car for things that bring you comfort and pleasure.

These include climate control and entertainment systems. A regenerative-friction braking coordination system also captures energy when your slowing down. This vehicle is only a step away from becoming a self-sustaining machine.

Learn more: Mazda launches SkyActiv-X M Hybrid technology.

The 2.0-litre 4-cyclinder DOHC SPCCI petrol engine produces up to 132kW and 224Nm, which is delivered through a 6-speed auto or manual transmission. That’s pretty decent for the size of the car.

Don’t expect it to throw you back in your seat when you accelerate, it’s more of a gradual increase to your desired speed. If you’re in desperate need of an acceleration rush, you’re barking up the wrong tree. But that’s kind of the point. Economy is key here.

The Mazda3 is amazing to drive, and handles well. You do hear a little bit of the diesel-like combustion sound, even though the engine is insulated in a capsule for sound absorption and improved thermal insulation. It’s quiet enough, but it’s there.

The regenerative braking system will take a little getting used to, too. And while we’re talking issues, fuel economy during testing was good, but not great, especially given the technology.

Mazda reports 5.5-litres/100km from the 2020 Mazda3 SkyActiv-X M Hybrid, with an automatic transmission (impressive). Our week long test showed 7.5-litres/100km, with a good balance of city and highway driving (not so impressive).

Inside, the Mazda3 exceeds expectations. It’s incredibly luxurious and features a person-centred design focus that sees it jam packed with driver assist and safety tech. The fully adjustable electric black leather seats are super comfortable, and heated up front.

The dashboard is a beautiful fusion between traditional speedo and tacho gauge shapes, with digital displays inside. You also have a head-up display in the driver’s peripheral view, providing plenty of useful information without moving your eyes off of the road.

It’s one of the best HUDs we’ve come across because you can actually see the information through polaroid sunglasses. A subtle yet significant win. The 8.8-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system sits in the centre, tilted towards the driver.

It’s quite far back though, so there’s a bit of a reach, but Mazda has also provided a set of controls in the centre console, that are quite magnificently, perfectly placed when you rest your arm on the soft leather topped storage box between the driver and passenger.

It’s proper person-centred design, and it’s wonderful to experience. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also standard, along with two USB ports for phone/media connectivity. The sound system is next level, with BOSE coming to the party, as it were.

There’s an amp and 12-speakers to keep your beats pumping, and with a little messing with the treble and bass functions, it borders on cinema quality sound. The 360-degree camera view is another cool touch, because you can turn it on or off whenever you like.

When parking, there are front and rear cameras, and proximity detectors providing you feedback if you are getting too close to a solid object. But that’s just a small taste of what the 5-star ANCAP safety rated 2020 Mazda3 SkyActiv-X M Hybrid has.

There’s also traffic sign recognition, traction control, smart city braking, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, intelligent speed assist, forward obstruction warning, and blind spot monitoring, and that isn’t even half the list.

It’s priced at $46,237 (drive away) in Soul Red Crystal Metallic, but you can also choose Polymetal Grey Metallic, Snowflake White Pearl Mica, Jet Black Mica, Deep Crystal Blue Mica, Titanium Flash Mica, Sonic Silver Metallic, and Machine Grey Metallic.

Our test vehicle was provided by Mazda Australia. To find out more about the 2020 Mazda3 SkyActiv-X M Hybrid, contact your local Mazda dealer.


Driving experience
Exterior styling
Interior look and feel
Technology and connectivity
Family friendliness
Value for money


Pros – cutting-edge safety technology and intelligent driver assists; spark controlled compression ignition (SPCCI).
Cons – kinetic braking takes some getting used to; audible diesel-like engine noise; fuel economy; limited rear leg and head room.
Sabih Dean
Sabih Dean
Driving is one of my favourite pastimes. How much I enjoy it depends on the power, comfort, luxury, and panache of the car I’m in. It makes all the difference.


  1. Old specifications of the X-motor? 2021 has got an Update…and what about an update of the existing X cars? Not the hardware modification of the new model, but an engine software update that brings the car closer to the promised values… (!)

  2. We’re aware that there’s an update for 2021 Mazda3 SkyActiv X and the CX-30 that also carries the X M Hybrid motor, however we were testing a 2020 variant, and so the figures are obviously based on the car we were testing.

    What we also don’t know is if and when those updates will appear outside of the Japanese domestic market, as Mazda Australia is yet to confirm the ‘2021’ power and suspension update for the local market.


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<strong>Pros –</strong> cutting-edge safety technology and intelligent driver assists; spark controlled compression ignition (SPCCI).<br> <strong>Cons –</strong> kinetic braking takes some getting used to; audible diesel-like engine noise; fuel economy; limited rear leg and head room.2020 Mazda3 SkyActiv-X M Hybrid (car review)