What is Mazda SKYACTIV Transmission?

November 23rd, 2020 by

Modern Mazda vehicles boast engines matched with the company’s advanced SKYACTIV transmissions. What does this mean, and why does it matter? Here’s a rundown of what SKYACTIV transmissions are and how they take your driving experiences to the next level.

Automatic and Manual SKYACTIV Transmissions

Mazda Engine in Fort Worth, TX

Image via Pixabay by RitaE

Image via Pixabay by RitaE

There are two main types of Mazda-made transmissions: the SKYACTIV-Drive and SKYACTIV-MT. The first is Mazda’s version of an automatic transmission and the second is a manual transmission. The SKYACTIV-Drive transmission is by far the most common one, but there are still a couple of new Mazda models that boast the manual transmission. However, if you’re looking for the best performance, fuel economy, and comfort a Mazda has to offer, the automatic transmission is the way to go.

What does the SKYACTIV-Drive transmission do differently than other automatic transmissions? Let’s take a look.

SKYACTIV-Drive vs. Other Automatic Transmissions

The SKYACTIV-Drive transmission is a six-speed automatic transmission that is also offered in two versions to take on different levels of torque strength. The primary goal of this Mazda-made transmission is to combine the benefits of dual-clutch, continuously variable, and conventional step automatic transmissions to provide drivers with an enhanced shifting experience.

Here is an overview of each of the types of automatic transmissions and their pros and cons:

Dual-Clutch Automatic Transmissions

Dual-clutch transmissions switch between two sets of gears: one for even gears and one for odd. These transmissions often feature steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters that give your automatic vehicle a manual race feeling. They’re also known for maximizing fuel efficiency at both low and high speeds, but they fall short when it comes to launching and easy hill-climbing. Dual-clutch transmissions are most often found on sport- and performance-minded vehicles.

Continuously Variable Transmissions

Continuously variable transmissions — often seen as “CVTs” — don’t have a limited number of gear ratios like conventional automatic transmissions. Instead, CVTs seamlessly change through gear ratios for a shiftless experience. In the United States, you’ll most often see CVTs on hybrid vehicles, though more gasoline-exclusive models are beginning to offer them.

This type of transmission is sought after for its fuel economy at low speeds, easy launching, and easy start-up on hills. People also choose a CVT for the smooth, shiftless experience they offer. However, CVTs fall short in maintaining fuel economy at high speeds and providing drivers with an engaging, direct feeling with their vehicle’s shifts.

Conventional Step Automatic Transmissions

Conventional step automatic transmissions are what most people think of first when it comes to automatics. They’re the traditional automatic systems that progress through a finite number of steps, or gears. A conventional eight-speed automatic transmission has eight gears it progresses through. These types of transmissions excel at maintaining fuel economy at high speeds and providing easy launching and up-hill start-ups.

Benefits of SKYACTIV-Drive

The SKYACTIV-Drive system removes the shortcomings of each of these automatic transmission styles and combines their advantages. This means improved fuel economy at low and high speeds, easier launching and up-hill start-up, and a more exhilarating shifting experience for drivers to enjoy. Some Mazda models offer the paddle shifters that many dual-clutch automatic transmission provide so that you can be more in touch with your vehicle’s shifting.

Whether you’re out for a thrill-seeking joyride or you’re trying to save fuel on the way to work, the SKYACTIV-Drive transmission gives you the best of many worlds.


The SKYACTIV-MT specializes in sports car driving experiences, giving drivers a more hands-on approach to their vehicles. Mazda makes two sizes of SKYACTIV-MT transmissions: “large” and “mid.” Both are six-speed manual transmissions — their difference is the amount of engine torque they’re able to handle.

Despite the advancements in high-performance automatic transmissions, many drivers still seek the exhilarating hands-on experience a manual transmission offers. If you’re looking for this experience in a Mazda, check out these 2021 models that offer SKYACTIV-MT:

2021 Mazda3

If you’re looking for a dynamic hatchback performer with a manual transmission, the 2021 Mazda3 can be outfitted with the SKYACTIV-MT at the Premium trim level. This hatchback is equipped with the 186-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder SKYACTIV-G engine, as well as the G-Vectoring Control Plus system. The Mazda3 sedan does not offer the SKYACTIV-MT.

2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata

The classic manual coupe experience the Miata offers is difficult to find elsewhere. All three of the 2020 MX-5 Miata‘s trim levels — the Sport, Club, and Preferred — have the option between the SKYACTIV manual and automatic transmissions. The 2020 model year Miata is outfitted with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 181 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque and a rear-wheel-drive system.

You can also get the manual transmission in the 2020 MX-5 Miata RF models. The RF stands for  “retractable fastback,” referring to the model’s convertible hard-top roof. The standard Miata is also offered as a convertible, but only with the soft-top option.

Complete SKYACTIV System

The SKYACTIV transmissions are just one part of the four-part SKYACTIV technology system. These transmissions are paired with Mazda’s well-engineered engines, such as the 2.0-liter and 2.5-liter SKYACTIV-G engines. These engines are designed to draw more energy from every bit of fuel that enters them.

These engines and transmissions sit in the SKYACTIV chassis made with ultra-high tensile-strength steel. This chassis is designed to strike the perfect balance between strength and lightness. The goal is to make the Mazda more dynamic and nimble at low speeds and more secure and smooth a high speeds.

The final piece of the SKYACTIV puzzle is the SKYACTIV Vehicle Dynamics system with G-Vectoring Control. This performance-enhancing system seeks to reduce driver fatigue by making Mazdas drive smoother around corners. The system balances power delivery and shifting vehicle weight while turning to improve driver comfort.

If you’re ready to experience the Mazda difference, come take a test drive of one of the SKYACTIV transmissions at Hiley Mazda of Fort Worth. Reading about these top-notch transmission is one thing — feeling them firsthand is something else entirely, especially when they’re joined with the whole-system SKYACTIV philosophy.

Posted in Mazda