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According to a recent article by Felix Page over at Autocar, the upcoming NE-generation Miata will feature Mazda’s advanced highly efficient Skyactiv-X technology. Mazda has declined to comment, but this could mean a healthy bump in torque for the little car without ruining its lightweight nature.

This is the second bit of information learned about the upcoming Miata after Car and Driver previously reported it would feature a mild hybrid setup. As of right now, there are no details about when the next Miata will be officially announced.

Welcome to Headlight. This is a daily news feature that lights up one current event in the car world and breaks it down by three simple subheadings: What Happened, Why It Matters, and What To Look For Next. Look for it in the morning (Eastern time) every weekday.

What Happened

U.K. publication Autocar reported that the next-generation NE Miata will use Mazda’s Skyactiv-X technology. Skyactiv-X is Mazda’s version of Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition (HCCI), which has a special combustion process that cuts emissions and boosts torque. It’s the company’s attempt at offering the best of both worlds, but it is currently not offered on any U.S. market Mazdas. Here’s how Mazda describes HCCI:

“To explain how SKYACTIV-X works, we’ll first need to cover some engine basics. In a gasoline engine the fuel-air mixture is ignited by a spark from the spark plug. In a diesel engine, the fuel-air mix is compressed and ignites through pressure and heat alone. Diesel is more energy dense than gasoline, which also means more air and less fuel goes in, making for better fuel economy. And although diesel engines tend to release less carbon dioxide than gasoline engines, they traditionally emit higher levels of particulates that can cause pollution. Diesels, which are often turbocharged, have a reputation for having lots of torque even at low revs, while gasoline engines can rev higher and produce more horsepower at those high revs.

“SKYACTIV-X offers the best of both diesel and gasoline engines with none of the disadvantages. It does this thanks to a new technology called Spark Controlled Compression Ignition (SPCCI). Running on regular gasoline, SPCCI works by compressing the fuel-air mix at a much higher compression ratio, with a very lean mix. The SKYACTIV-X engine uses a spark to ignite only a small, dense amount of the fuel-air mix in the cylinder. This raises the temperature and pressure so that the remaining fuel-air mix ignites under pressure (like a diesel), burning faster and more completely than in conventional engines.”

Why It Matters

As Page discusses in the Autocar article, the benefits could be music to enthusiasts’ ears. The current ND Miata is offered with a 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G engine that makes a claimed 181 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque. If a 2.0-liter Skyactiv-X engine is used in the future, it could bring approximately 30 percent more torque (about 196 lb-ft). Mazda also claims that this technology boosts real-world fuel economy by 20-30 percent, and HCCI helps cut down nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions and improve throttle response.

Though, there are some disadvantages, such as increased engine temperatures (enthusiasts have already complained of high-heat elsewhere with the ND), cold start smoothness, and trickier ECU tuning to make it all work. In our opinion, increased heat and complexity is the enemy of reliable, warranty-claim-proof OEM engineering.

It’s also important to point out that the system does have a supercharger, but it doesn’t affect the Miata’s classic, naturally aspirated qualities too much. As Page points out, the supercharger is only used to pressurize the air inside during spark-controlled ignition.

What To Look For Next

We reached out to Mazda USA for an official comment, but they did not have any information to confirm or share at this time.

“No announcements have been made for the next generation MX-5,” Mazda North America Product & Corporate Communications Senior Manager Drew Cary said in an email.

It’ll be interesting to see exactly how this unfolds, especially for the U.S. market. Mazda has been gunning for top marks in cutting emissions, and gas engines aren’t the only solution in play. As Car and Driver broke back in June, the next-gen Miata will feature some form of hybridization as part of its goal dubbed “Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030.” Mazda’s plan here is to have electrification across its entire lineup by 2030, whether through hybridization or having 25 percent of it be full-on electric vehicles.

Weight will certainly be a concern among enthusiasts. Will the added complexity, tiny supercharger, and hybridization mean more weight that could mess with the weight balance and feeling of the Miata? Tuning and reliability are important, but the most important thing is that the Miata retains what makes it special. Hopefully, the changes will not affect the Miata’s quintessential lightweight rear-wheel driving experience.

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