The i-Start of Something?
This dilemma is precisely why we haven't yet seen i-Stop in any North American Mazda to date. Jeremy Barnes, communications director for Mazda North America, tells us the company is quite keen on bringing the system to North America (especially Canada, where some providences have anti-idling regulations), but the problem comes when trying to illustrate the benefit to the consumer.
The touted ten-percent figure is based upon Japan's 10-15 fuel economy test cycle, which incorporates multiple lengthy stops. The EPA's city cycle test regiment, however, incorporates only one full stop. In that case, Barnes says i-Stop will only improve the Mazda3's EPA rating by one-tenth of one percent. Couple that meager improvement with the added cost of the system (estimated to be roughly $500-600) and it's easy to see why many American consumers would avoid taking the plunge.
Barnes notes Mazda's first priority is to introduce the SkyActive technologies across its global portfolio, but suggests introducing i-Stop in additional vehicles -- even those bound for North America -- could be the next step in improving fuel economy and paving the way for hybrid drivetrains further down the line. No precise timetable was given, but unless the EPA decides to alter its city cycle test methodology, expect i-Stop's American introduction to be part of Mazda's long-term solution, not a short-term fix.
2010 Mazda Axela (Mazda3) i-Stop
On Sale: Now, in European, Japanese, and Australian markets
Engine: Direct-injection 2.0-liter I-4
Output: 151 hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 141 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed automatic or 6-speed manual