In times of downsizing, Mazda did not follow the mainstream trend and, in fact, applied the opposite philosophy: increasing the displacement of its engines (right sizing). Such is the case of the MX-5, which began its career with a 1.6-litre engine, and now, in its fourth instalment, adopts a 2.0-litre block from the SKYACTIV family.

In this article we'll take a look at this powertrain range, which has always been characterised by a good dose of power (at high revs) and good efficiency. Mazda seems to have got it right, as it is still used in its current models after more than ten years of operation.

The SKYACTIV concept

The SKYACTIV engine story began around 2010. Mazda, having returned as an independent brand after leaving Ford's orbit, was in the midst of an ambitious relaunch to reassert its own identity, but at this delicate stage it could not invest heavily in the development of entirely new engines and platforms designed from the ground up.

For this reason, a complex technical programme called SKYACTIV was launched which, in the case of the engines, consisted of evolving and improving the previous L-series units, making them more efficient and compliant with emissions standards. The SKYACTIV-G petrol and SKYACTIV-D diesel engines were born.

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Motor Mazda SKYACTIV-G 2.0 PE-VPS

Mazda 2.0 SKYACTIV-G engine in transverse position.

The SKYACTIV petrol programme included, among other things, the adoption of direct injection (first introduced on the 2.3-litre engine), an upgraded exhaust system and an increased compression ratio from 11:1 to 14:1 to improve combustion and reduce harmful substances. For the turbodiesels, the opposite was true and the ratio was reduced from 16.5-17:1 to approximately 14:1.

There was also a redesign of the intake and exhaust systems, a new piston head design and multi-hole injectors. The blocks were all-aluminium, with twin overhead camshafts and VVT variable valve timing, but without turbocharging.

Motor Mazda SKYACTIV-G 2.0 PE-VPS

SKYACTIV-G 2.0 engine in the Mazda MX-5 RF.

Virtue in the middle ground

Between 2011 and 2012, when they debuted, there were three SKYACTIV-Gs, a 1.3-litre, a 2.0-litre and a 2.5-litre. The mid-displacement, labelled PE-VPS, had a bore and stroke of 83.5 x 91.2 mm, as well as a displacement of 1,998 cmand developed slightly less power than its predecessor, with 158 bhp versus more than 168 bhp, but with a better balance of efficiency and emissions.

It was the most widely available engine, powering compacts, saloons and SUVs, from the Mazda3, Mazda5 and Mazda6, to the CX-3 and  CX-5, and then the CX-30, plus other models not sold in Europe.

Motor Mazda SKYACTIV-G 2.0 PE-VPS

SKYACTIV-G logo.

The fourth-generation MX-5 debuted in 2016, along with the 118 bhp 1.5 SKYACTIV-G powertrain. The 2.0-litre engine, which could be mated to either a six-speed manual or automatic gearbox, claimed 158 bhp at 6,800 rpm and 200 Nm at 4,600 revs.

These were figures that allowed the roadster to go from 0-100 km/h in 7.3 seconds, 7.5 for the RF retractable hardtop version, which weighed a little more but was still under 1,100 kg.

On the MX-5 alone, in 2019 the 2.0-litre engine underwent an upgrade focusing on intake and exhaust, injection pressure and cylinder treatment, which boosted power to 181 bhp at 7,500 rpm and torque to 205 Nm. As a result, the two-seater cut 0-60 to 6.5 seconds.

To top it off, the 2.0-litre SKYACTIV-G forms the basis of the sophisticated SKYACTIV-X, which introduced complex variable compression technology designed to further improve efficiency. It will be offered from 2019 in SUVs and saloons, starting with the new CX-30.

Undoubtedly, everyone who has tested these engines praises their smoothness and purity of drivability, as you need to maintain a rather high engine speed to get the most out of them, which means you need to be more focused behind the wheel. Good for Mazda!

Gallery: Mazda Skyactiv-G 2.0 PE-VPS engine