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Hyundai, Mazda named to Ward’s 10 Best Engines list

The SKYACTIV and 1.6 liter GDI Gamma engine were recognized for superior technology

by Caitlin AdamsPublished: December 13, 2011 03:15 PM

Ward’s AutoWorld, an auto industry news and trends publication, has named engines from two Orange County-based automakers to this year’s 10 Best Engines list. From Irvine-based Mazda, the SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter overhead camshaft gasoline engine, found in the 2012 Mazda3. Costa Mesa-based Hyundai was recognized for its 1.6-liter GDI (gasoline direct injection) Gamma engine, which is deployed in the all-new 2012 Accent.

The engines were selected among 34 submissions and evaluated on factors including power, technology, observed fuel economy and noise, vibration and harshness characteristics.

Mazda’s SKYACTIV engine was unveiled in the spring of this year, as a part of the company’s long-term Sustainable Zoom-Zoom technology-development plan. Combined with the accompanying powertrain technology, the Mazda3 carries an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 28 city/40 highway/33 combined.

WardsAuto World Executive Editor Tom Murphy suggested that the editors who evaluated Mazda’s SKYACTIV engine had enjoyed performing the assessment. "On their score sheets, the WardsAuto editors described this sophisticated engine as 'smooth,' 'quick,' 'frisky' and 'fascinating,' with an unusually high compression ratio. That's a sign of high thermal efficiency, and we confirmed that by getting more than 34 mpg during our overall test drive," Murphy said. "There are a lot of fine new affordable four-cylinder engines available in the market today, but the SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter engine in the Mazda3 compact car is the best of the lot."

Hyundai’s 1.6-liter overhead camshaft Gamma is the automaker’s smallest engine in the U.S. to use gasoline direct injection –– an updated form of fuel injection –– which improves a vehicle’s fuel economy and also lowers emissions. The 2012 Accent, priced around $14,000, is equipped with the GDI Gamma, with the option of a six-speed automatic or manual transmission. The package provides the Accent with dual best-in-class ratings for fuel economy, at 30 mpg city/40 mpg hwy, and horsepower, at 138.

"Hyundai spent three years on the [10 best engines] list with its excellent Tau 5.0-liter V-8, but 2012 brings evidence the automaker can deliver world-class small engines as well," writes Murphy. "The new 1.6-liter DI Gamma four-cylinder is powering entry level vehicles such as the Hyundai Accent and demonstrates its versatility in the Hyundai Veloster three-door coupe. Mated with an excellent six-speed manual transmission for our evaluation, this package makes the Accent an easy pick for B-class car shoppers."

Smaller engines are the norm on this year’s list, according to Ward’s; Murphy writes that more than one-third of the engines submitted for consideration were no larger than 2.0 liters, and that the average displacement was 2.8 liters. In years past, he says, when V-6s and V-8s ruled the market, a specific output of 100 horsepower per liter “seemed a stretch.”

“Automakers now routinely blow past that threshold. Does 150 hp/L represent the next benchmark?”

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