Recently, we’ve seen automakers like BMW replace six-cylinder engines with smaller, turbocharged four-cylinder mills in cars like the 2012 328i, 528i and the upcoming 2013 X3. Now, early reports indicate that Mazda may follow suit when it redesigns the Mazda6 and CX-9.

Robert Davis, Mazda’s senior vice president of U.S. operations, spoke with Car and Driver to discuss Mazda’s Skyactiv engines, as well as what consumers can expect from the automaker in the future. “The 6 sedan and CX-9 currently offer six-cylinders (optional on the Mazda 6 and standard on the CX-9); the new, lighter 6 will make do with four-cylinders (we also expect a hybrid version of the next 6, while Davis says a new CX-9, which would be lighter as well, could get power and good fuel economy from a boosted four-cylinder,” writes Car and Driver. As a result, Mazda is focusing on developing four-cylinder engines, as well as a new rotary engine, which was last seen on the 2011 Mazda RX-8.

Moving away from V6 engines may help Mazda’s new vehicles get better fuel economy, but it could also help Mazda streamline production. Left Lane News says, “The move will help meet increasingly stringent global fuel economy standards and should allow Mazda to focus its energy on designing and building high-volume four-cylinder mills.”

While power-hungry car shoppers have traditionally opted for larger engines, technological advances have allowed engineers to squeeze more power out of fewer cylinders. “The new four-cylinder engines produce as much power as six- or even eight-cylinder engines, but use less fuel and emit fewer pollutants,” says the Detroit Free Press. “They achieve this thanks to turbocharging, high-pressure injection of fuel directly into the cylinders, electronic controls and new transmissions.”

Car shoppers generally appear willing to accept the push to smaller engines, as long as it doesn’t affect performance. Aaron Bragman, an analyst at IHS, an energy and engineering consulting firm, tells the Detroit Free Press, “Americans are willing to accept smaller engines as long as there's power. This is where the industry is headed."

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