The Mazda 3 has long been one of our favorite compact cars, largely because it’s fun to drive, well constructed, and practical. In 2.3-liter turbocharged Mazdaspeed 3 form, it’s a rough-and-tumble riot. The 3 can be very well equipped with options befitting larger cars–things like rain-sensing wipers; swiveling, automatic bixenon headlights; LED taillights; a Bose ten-speaker sound system; and, for the first time, a blind-spot monitoring system. The big focus this year is on fuel economy, and where some of this car’s competitors have included efficiency as standard equipment, Mazda is allowing its customers to decide for themselves the importance of fuel economy is. Customers who don’t care can choose one of the port-injected, normally aspirated four-cylinders, which carry over from last year. For a bump in economy, they can choose a Skyactiv model. For an extra $850, ecoconscious customers get the direct-injected 155-hp, 2.0-liter engine; headlights with transparent blue rings around them; and badges inside and out. It’s an outspoken strategy for a car that can just barely match the regular Hyundai Elantra’s EPA ratings. Having four engines, three transmissions, and two body styles (sedan and hatchback) might seem excessive, but the 3 accounts for more than half of Mazda’s sales in the United States, and having choices is rarely a bad thing for customers.

Drive: Front-wheel
Trim levels: SV, Sport, Touring, Grand Touring, Mazdaspeed

Body styles: Sedan, hatchback, 5-passenger

Engines: 2.0L I-4, 148 hp, 135 lb-ft
2.0L I-4, 155 hp, 148 lb-ft
2.3L turbo I-4, 263 hp, 280 lb-ft
2.5L I-4, 167 hp, 168 lb-ft

Transmissions: 5- or 6-speed manual,
5- or 6-speed automatic

Passenger Volume: (sedan/hatchback)
94.3/95.4 cu ft

Cargo space: (sedan/hatchback) 11.4/17.1 cu ft

Mazda’s best-seller gets a subtle front face-lift and a new powertrain family to help fuel economy. The old 2.0- and 2.5-liter port-injected four-cylinder engines carry forward, but Skyactiv models receive a 2.0-liter direct-injected engine and the choice of an automatic or manual six-speed transmission. It produces more power than the base engine, but fuel economy jumps significantly from the bottom of the class to near the top.

Standard features include front, side, and side curtain air bags, along with ABS, traction and stability control, and a tire-pressure monitoring system. Blind-spot monitoring and adaptive, swiveling bixenon headlights are optional.

All: 18-28 mpg city/28-40 mpg highway

  • Good handling
  • Fun to drive
  • New economical engine
  • Economy costs extra
  • High trim levels get expensive
  • Torque steer (Mazdaspeed 3)

Mazda’s mainstay car goes Skyactiv.

  • Honda Civic
  • Hyundai Elantra
  • Nissan Versa
  • Toyota Corolla

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