2012 Mazda MAZDA3

I SV FWD 4-Dr Sedan I4 man trans

2012 mazda mazda3 Reviews and News

Five Car Comparo Parked Front View
The majority of the compact-sedan class has been heavily revised or totally redesigned in the past two years, and Dodge has just rolled out its Alfa Romeo-based Dart, the latest entry in a hotly contested segment. Will the Dart be able to topple the best of the bunch from the top spot?
The 2013 Dart is more than just a new model -- it is Dodge's first competitive small-car offering since the Neon was killed off in 2005. Most notably, it is the first Dodge byproduct of the Chrysler-Fiat merger. Modified versions of the same platform and powertrain found in Alfa Romeo's Giulietta hatchback hide beneath the Dart's slick sheetmetal.
Last year, we rounded up the top six compact sedans and we came away impressed by the high style, advanced technology, and fun-yet-frugal engines offered in the segment. To see how the Dart compares, we've pitted it against the top four contenders from last year's test: the Ford Focus, the Honda Civic, the Hyundai Elantra, and the Mazda 3. Last time, the Toyota Corolla and the Chevrolet Cruze finished in last place and second-to-last (respectively), so we opted to leave them out of this comparison.
We wanted to look at what most consumers will be buying, so we avoided top-trim models in favor of automatic-equipped, mid-grade sedans. There were two exceptions: Ford did not have a sedan available for our testing so we used a hatchback instead (however, almost half of Focuses sold this year were hatchbacks, so we let it slide). We wanted to test the Dart's new MultiAir 1.4-liter turbo-four, but Chrysler had just begun production of its new dual-clutch automatic, so a six-speed manual had to suffice for our test. In this very competitive group, does the 2013 Dodge Dart Rallye have what it takes to beat the 2012 Ford Focus SEL, the 2012 Honda Civic EX, the 2013 Hyundai Elantra GLS, and the 2012 Mazda 3i Touring?

Dollars and Sense

For many buyers in this segment, it's all a numbers game. Our most expensive car - the Ford Focus - rang in at $25,420 with destination. However, that includes $3325 worth of options. Forego the finicky MyFord Touch and navigation systems, the flashy 17-inch polished aluminum wheels, and the premium red candy metallic paint, and the Focus would cost an easier-to-swallow $22,565 and still include goodies such as heated seats and Ford's Sync voice-activation system with Bluetooth. Sadly, even those deletions still place the Focus higher than all but the Dart.
All of our cars came equipped with Bluetooth, but only the Focus and the Dart came with navigation. Dodge's crisp 8.4-inch touch screen also includes a backup camera -- the only one offered in the segment. The high level of equipment gave the Dart the second-most-expensive price here: $23,360 with destination. One of the big reasons was the MultiAir engine, a $1300 option. Our Rallye-trim car also came standard with projector-beam headlights (only available elsewhere from Mazda). The Mazda and the Honda Civic were mid-pack price-wise, running a reasonable $21,695 and $21,455 including destination charges, respectively.
At an as-tested price of just $19,350 (including destination), the Hyundai Elantra is a whopping $6070 below the most-expensive Focus. While it may not be the most tech-laden of the bunch, our Elantra GLS with the Preferred Package included things such as heated seats, Bluetooth, and fog lights. Hyundai also offers the best warranty of the cars here, at 10 years or 100,000 miles, which helps to keep costs down over the lifetime of the car. Buyers willing to splurge on a fully loaded Elantra Limited will shell out just $24,070.
Advantage: Hyundai Elantra GLS

The Inside Story

"The level of amenities and comfort here were unimaginable in the compact-sedan segment only a few years ago," stated deputy editor Joe DeMatio. Even in the blandly styled Civic, it's clear that plenty of man-hours were spent determining the placement and action of every button, knob, and switch in the cabin. While the Civic may have some of the best ergonomics, its drab beige palette, oddly grained plastics, and too-dark displays left us wanting more.
Hyundai was one of the first to spice up the segment with the Elantra and its swoopy, violin shaped center stack and fashionable-yet-simple concentric climate controls. While the Koreans have done an admirable job of graining plastics, some of the surfaces still look and feel cheap. The Elantra does benefit from the largest trunk in the group, at 14.8 cubic feet. Next would be the Focus sedan (not the hatch we tested) at 13.2 cubic feet, followed closely by the Dart's 13.1 cubic feet with an opening that is deep and wide. The other two cars fell below the Dart's size: the Civic at 12.5, and the 3 at 11.8. However, the Mazda's low lift-over height and deep, square shape belied its smallest-in-test measurement. (I found it easiest to enter, exit, and fit my slim 5'9" frame in the Mazda's trunk, as the pictures show.)
Decked out here with the optional MyFord Touch system complete with an eight-inch touch screen, the Focus' cabin oozed European sophistication. "It feels like a very high quality car," said DeMatio. It was also the only car in our comparison to come with automatic climate control, which is part of the $2530 201A equipment group. However, "every button is too small, even the digital ones on the touch screen," complained road test editor Chris Nelson. Foregoing the MyFord Touch system won't solve the problem either - without the touch screen, the Focus' center stack is sprayed with almost two dozen cell-phone-sized buttons that are no easier to operate than the slow and counter-intuitive MyFord Touch. "The dashboard is so overwhelming in every Focus I've driven," noted graphic designer Tom Hang. "There are just so many buttons and controls."
Stepping into the Mazda 3 from any of the other four cars was a breath of fresh air. The cabin is thoughtfully laid out with straightforward controls, and the look is attractive with a sweeping dashboard and modern, blue LED accent lighting. Everything is clear, legible, and within reach. Contributor Ron Sessions loved "the large gauge that indicates what gear you're in. It looks like it is right out of a Porsche." But the all-black interior was dour and dated to some eyes, and Mazda's too-small audio and trip computer screens won no fans.
While the Dodge's interior may not have been well liked among our editors, we found ourselves talking non-stop about the cabin's size. Our Dart was decked out in diesel gray cloth with "citrus" accents - a very bold combination of a drab gray hue and an eye-searing neon yellow. The Dodge was also, however, the largest car in our test and felt a class bigger when you were sitting in any of the seats, despite head- and legroom that actually fall mid-pack. The more time we spent in the car, the clearer it became that Chrysler's engineers made sure that every touch point was soft and that the controls were all quick to learn and easy to operate. As is the case in other Chrysler products, the oversized touch screen is sharp and lightning-fast in response. There were some complaints that the citrus accents could soil easily and that the gray gave the interior a rental-car-grade feel. Dodge also offers black/red and black/gray interior combinations that look much more upscale than our citrus-trimmed tester.
Advantage: Dodge Dart Rallye

Skin Deep Beauty

Until recently, function led form with inexpensive cars; thankfully, that is no longer the case for most of the segment. Not for all, however: the Honda Civic was variously described by our editors as "bland," "conservative," and "downright boring." Sessions claimed that the Honda was "straight from Planet Strange with its odd proportions and disappointing details," while associate web editor Ben Timmins faulted Honda "for not pushing the envelope in terms of the design."
Surprisingly, bland was a word also tossed around regarding the Dart. While the front and rear fascias were stylish and aggressive - the Rallye-spec blacked-out grille looked menacing in rearview mirrors and the LED taillights were a premium touch on a sub-$25,000 car - the rest of the exterior was an anonymous jelly-bean shape. Despite having reflectors that mimic the larger Dodge Charger's alluring "racetrack" full-width LED taillights, only the top-spec Dart R/T receives a similar treatment; all other models have C-shaped LED units only - a real styling let down.
Mazda also offers LED taillights, but only on its loaded Mazda 3 Grand Touring. Our mid-level Touring model was still sharp, dressed in cheery sky blue metallic paint. The 2012 update softened the 3's Cheshire cat grin, but the front visage still has a gaping smile of a grille that may not appeal to everyone. The rest of the car is athletic looking with swollen front fenders and a sharp crease bisecting the door handles and rising from the front doors to the taillights. It's a sporty design free of overwrought detailing.
The eye catcher of the group was the Elantra. Hyundai's Fluidic Sculpture design language translates well to the 178.3-inch-long sedan, its flowing lines deemed "sexy and sensuous" by Nelson and "far from boring with all its surface excitement" according to Sessions. The front end has one of the best executions of the brand's hexagonal grille and the rear is simple but interesting thanks to the wraparound taillights. That said, all of our editors agreed that the Elantra's design may be sexy and innovative now, but could look as dated as a flip phone in five years -- that consensus kept the Hyundai from winning in the exterior design department.
Both timeless and daring at the same time is Ford's Focus. "The Focus is one sharp little character that manages to look beautiful and aggressive at the same time," opined Sessions. "I'm not sure the Darth Vader chin will stand the test of time, but it's contemporary as hell." Like the interior, the exterior is very Euro-chic with large wraparound taillights, creased bodylines, and a steeply raked windshield. We feel that the Focus' design is mature and will age well as the years go by; it looks like a package designed by a single, very experienced team.
Advantage: Ford Focus SEL

Getting From A to B

No matter how much it costs, how stylish the interior or how good it looks, the main use of a car is to drive. But we weren't looking for the ultimate driver's car here, instead we sought the best all-around consumer compact.
When our testing started, we expected the Elantra to rank highly here -- at first, the ride was comfortable and the Elantra felt like an ideal commuter car. The more time we spent with the Hyundai, though, the more its wallowy ride on the highway, its poorly controlled body motions in the twisties, and harsh impacts on broken roads worked against it. Sessions also noted that "the steering lacks feel and is rather numb." Everyone came away unimpressed with the Elantra's dynamics.
The best driver's car here is the Ford Focus, hands down. The 2.0-liter I-4 is powerful - its 160 hp is tied with the Dart as the most powerful - and the chassis is rock-solid, which inspires confidence behind the wheel. "The supple ride quality, precise steering, and responsive brake pedal feel are all very good for a car of this class," said DeMatio. Thanks to the spot-on steering, the Focus was a breeze to wheel around town and easy to place in the middle of a highway lane, no matter how narrow or badly patched. The Ford's biggest demerit came from the company's new PowerShift dual-clutch automatic. Around town, the PowerShift is clunky and hesitant between shifts, and often hunts for the right gear at low speeds. Once on the highway (and in sixth gear), it's fine but overdrive gives little passing power. Thankfully, downshifts at speed are smooth and unobtrusive.
The Dart was a close second in the race for best driver's car. Selecting the turbocharged engine paid off - the forced-induction unit was the most fun to wind up and felt the most powerful thanks to its 184 lb-ft of torque avaliable at a low 2500 rpm. But find yourself below that 2500-rpm threshold and the Dodge bogs down, its heaviest-in-test weight of 3191 lbs very apparent. The six-speed manual has long throws but great clutch feel; however, we couldn't help but wonder if the upcoming dual-clutch automatic would keep the turbo spooled better than we did. Will the Chrysler-engineered transmission be as slick as Volkswagen's much-lauded DSG or as much-maligned as Ford's PowerShift? More than anything, the Dart felt like the quirky car of the bunch, its inner Alfa Romeo coming out - we agreed that it almost was like an older Saab 9-3 or Audi A4 1.8T thanks to its slow-spooling turbo and larger size.
Also occasionally short of breath was the 155-hp Mazda. Its power rating placed it mid-pack, but any kind of passing left us wanting more oomph. Otherwise, the direct-injected 2.0-liter Skyactiv four-cylinder felt peppy around town and had enough power for getting up to speed on the highway. "Acceleration off the line is good without being abrupt," said DeMatio. "Transmission shift mapping is also nicely done, and the tap-shift is quick to respond," pointed out Sessions. The 3's steering was also second-best to the Ford's, nicely weighted and direct -- however, the suspension caused some head bounce over the pothole-strewn roads of downtown Detroit.
The Honda Civic was the Goldilocks of our group -- neither too stiffly sprung to turn off commuters, nor too soft to spurn enthusiasts. "I actually changed lanes on our way into Detroit to get on worse roads to test the Civic. Not only did it pass with flying colors, but the Honda has brilliant ride and handling paired to a responsive and creamy powertrain," raved Timmins. "Somewhere a Hyundai engineer is scratching his head trying to figure out how to make a car ride this well." The Civic also had very good steering. It communicated just the right amount of feel from the front tires and the wheel itself was the best size and shape with its small diameter and thick rim. The transmission was down a cog compared to the rest (five instead of six), but was still smooth and unobtrusive, which is "exactly what most Americans expect from an automatic," DeMatio pointed out. The Civic wasn't perfect, however: Honda's quest for cost savings sacrificed sound deadening, and the steering, while communicative, felt too boosted to be as good as the Ford's or Mazda's.
Advantage: Honda Civic EX

Your Mileage May Not Vary

Our contenders' EPA fuel economy ratings all fell within spitting distance of one another:
1. Hyundai Elantra GLS: 29/40 mpg city/highway
2. Mazda 3i Touring: 28/40 mpg
3. Honda Civic EX: 28/39 mpg
4. Dodge Dart Rallye: 27/39 mpg
5. Ford Focus SEL: 27/37 mpg
As we found during our First Drive - the Mazda 3 will achieve 40 mpg on the highway in the real world. Like the Elantra, the Mazda achieves 40 mpg without any special packages. However, the 2.0-liter Skyactiv I-4 is the only Mazda 3 engine that achieves the rating - the base 2.0-liter is good for just 33 mpg highway, while the larger 2.5 manages only 29 mpg. Hyundai offers just one engine for all Elantra sedans.
Both Honda and Ford offer high-mileage variants (the Civic HF and Focus SFE, respectively), but ask for extra coinage to gain efficiency. For the Honda, the HF costs $20,395 compared to the $19,595 Civic LX on which it's based (an $800 difference) and is rated at 41 mpg highway versus 39 mpg. For just $95, Ford will add the SFE package to a Focus SE sedan, gaining an additional three highway mpg (37 versus 40). Both Honda and Ford utilize aerodynamic tricks like different wheels, low rolling resistance tires, and active grille shutters to achieve the higher highway ratings.
Speaking of efficiency, the Dodge is not only the second-least car here, but it is also the only car in our test to recommend premium fuel. While it can be filled with regular, the automaker doesn't guarantee the full 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of power if regular is used, although Chrysler says fuel economy would be unaffected.
Advantage: Hyundai Elantra GLS

The Winner

You can't go wrong with any of the five cars here. The Hyundai Elantra won two categories, the only car to do so, and is a perfectly competent small car. Said Timmins, "If you're looking at a Toyota Corolla because you think you have to, look at the Hyundai instead." But the fact that the Elantra is a better variant of a long-in-the-tooth car does not endear us to it over the others here, despite the Elantra’s bargain price and (by a hair) best-in-test EPA numbers. The Hyundai Elantra lands in fifth place.
Ford went out on a limb, trying a clean-sheet design and was willing to push the envelope. In some ways it worked, in others it didn't. The Focus was the most fun to drive of the five, but at the cost of fuel economy, cabin space, and a high price. Technology issues also prevented the Focus from a better finish - MyFord Touch's clunky and slow interface turned off even the technophiles in our group and the poorly calibrated transmission had us drawing straws for who would be stuck in traffic with the Ford. Thus the Focus landed in fourth place. In quite the opposite direction from the Ford, Honda opted to stick to its tried-and-true formula. Thanks to its slick transmission, smooth ride, and thoughtful ergonomics, the Honda Civic finds itself dead center with a third-place finish. However, a low-rent interior, boring design, and obvious cost-cutting keeps this veteran of the compact sedan segment from placing higher. In quite the opposite direction from the Ford, Honda opted to stick to its tried-and-true formula. Thanks to its slick transmission, smooth ride, and thoughtful ergonomics, the Honda Civic finds itself dead center with a third place finish. However, a low-rent interior, boring design, and obvious cost-cutting keeps this veteran of the compact sedan segment from placing higher.
None of the six editors agreed on how the second- through fifth-place cars would rank, but the victor was unanimous. Despite being the newest entry in the field, the Dodge Dart did not win. However, its second-place finish shows that the merger of Chrysler and Fiat has a lot of promise. Dodge has crafted a car that drives well, looks good, and has space to spare, but "you can't put a few funky touches on a car and expect everyone to like it," remarked Nelson. The turbocharged engine is peaky and a price that's on the high side kept the Dart from the top spot. The Dodge put up a good fight, but came up a little short.
"It's funny," noted Sessions, "the oldest car in the test feels like comfortable sneakers." In fact, all of our editors related the Mazda 3 to perfectly-worn-in shoes. One commented, "Getting into the Mazda, even for the first time, feels like you're at home. Everything is exactly as it should be." Our logbooks filled with comments like "I can't think of many negatives about the 3" (DeMatio) and "a great all-rounder that has everything you need and nothing you don't" (Timmins). What kept us from naming the Mazda as last year's winner was an unrefined five-speed automatic and poor fuel economy. Both issues are remedied by opting for the new Skyactiv powertrain.
Nelson hit the nail on the head: "I've got nothing to add to the pile of praise for this car. The 3 is so good. No matter what, the Mazda is always an enjoyable experience." It might not have won any individual categories, but with its combination of a reasonable price, a user-friendly and attractive interior, a stylish exterior design, fun-to-drive road manners, and excellent fuel economy, the Mazda 3 can’t be beat.
2012 Mazda3 Right Side View 2
Where I live, the prices at the gas station all start with the number 4, and the alarmist local TV station is speculating that gasoline could reach $5 a gallon by this summer. All of that means demand for small cars should remain strong; but some small cars are likely to benefit more than others, as I expect that buyers will increasingly scrutinize EPA numbers, and those small cars that can post big digits will be the biggest winners.

A timely boost in MPG for the Mazda3

If so, the Skyactiv powertrains added to the Mazda3 for the 2012 model year are arriving just in time. As much as we've liked the Mazda3 since the current generation was introduced for 2010, the car's one glaring weakness has been its fuel economy. A 28-mpg highway rating for a compact starts to look pretty ridiculous when there are much larger, mid-size sedans that can hit 35 mpg.
Actually, some versions of the Mazda3 still are only rated at 28 mpg, which underscores the need for Mazda buyers to educate themselves on the three different four-cylinder engine choices. Basically, the one you want is the Skyactiv 2.0-liter. It maxes out at an impressive 29 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, in the sedan with the automatic transmission. The hatchback shaves 1 mpg from both figures, as does opting for the manual transmission in the sedan. The manual-transmission hatchback drops them both a further 1 mpg. However you slice it, though, this is excellent gas mileage and it puts the Mazda3 in league with the class leaders. Other gasoline-powered compacts that can reach 40 mpg are the Hyundai Elantra (all versions), at 29/40 mpg; the Ford Focus (with SFE package), at 28/40 mpg; and the Chevrolet Cruze (ECO model, manual), at 33/42 mpg.

Three four-cylinders

While the Skyactiv engine is far and away the most economical Mazda four, its 155 hp and 148 pound-feet of torque put it in the middle of the trio of Mazda3 engines. Base sedans are equipped with the old 2.0-liter MZR engine, which makes 148 hp; it gets 25/33 mpg (5-speed manual) or 24/33 mpg (5-speed automatic). At the top of the lineup is a larger, 2.5-liter four; it makes a bit more power, 167 hp, but has a serious drinking habit. Its 20/28 mpg (manual) and 22/29 mpg (automatic) ratings are embarrassing for a compact.
At least as confusing as the engine offerings are the Mazda3 trim levels. There are the Mazda3i models, which are then divided into four trim levels: SV, Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring. There are also the Mazda3s models, which come as Touring and Grand Touring only. SV and Sport are the price-leader sedans with the MZR engine. To get the Skyactiv powertrain, you have to seek out the Touring and Grand Touring versions of the Mazda3i, sedan or hatchback; all Mazda3s models have the 2.5-liter engine. (You're not missing out on much by passing up the "s": sport seats, 17-inch wheels, and LED taillights, are the most notable "s" exclusives.)

What's makes it "Skyactiv"?

The fuel economy gains for the Skyactiv engine do not stem one major new technology but instead are due to a host of smaller changes to both the engine and the transmissions (a six-speed automatic and a six-speed manual). Direct injection is employed, as is variable valve timing, a high compression ratio, redesigned fuel injectors, and reshaped piston cavities; the automatic transmission optimizes the use of its lockup torque converter; both transmissions and the engine are fractionally lighter.
Happily, squeezing more miles out of every gallon has not squeezed the fun out of the Mazda3 driving experience. The car's essential goodness remains. The driving position is excellent, with a prominent dead pedal and very good sight lines. The firm, composed chassis gives the 3 a lively feel. Even on squishy, Bridgestone Blizzak winter tires, the Mazda 3 turns in eagerly. The 155 hp and 148 pound-feet of torque make for acceleration that is lively (in the context of 40-mpg compacts), if not blistering.
The current Mazda3 was on the vanguard of the movement to add more premium features to small cars, and my Grand Touring test example is evidence of that trend. Standard items include Mazda's mini-sized navigation system, leather, heated seats, a power driver's seat, Bluetooth, and a 10-speaker audio system. Blind-spot monitoring and swiveling bi-xenon headlamps were the highlights of the optional technology package, but it's richly priced at $1400. Actually, the Mazda3i Grand Touring sedan, although well equipped, is pretty richly priced, at just over $23,000. But you can get the Skyactiv powertrain in the 3i Touring, with a sticker price that starts under $20,000.

2012 Mazda3 i Grand Touring 4-door sedan

Base price (with destination): $23,095
Price as tested: $24,970
Standard Equipment:
Skyactiv-G 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine
6-speed sport automatic w/manual shift mode
Front-wheel drive
16-inch alloy wheels
Power windows
Power door locks w/remote
Power mirrors
8-way power driver's seat
Heated front seats
Leather-trimmed seats and door panel inserts
Power moonroof
16-inch alloy wheels
AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system w/aux input
265-watt Bose Centerpoint 10-speaker surround sound audio system
Leather-wrapped steering wheel w/Bluetooth, cruise, and audio controls
Full-color compact navigation system
Cruise control
Tilt/telescopic steering column
Variable intermittent windshield wipers
60/40 split-fold rear seat
Two 12-volt power outlets
Options on this vehicle:
Technology package - $1400
Blind-spot monitoring system
Sirius satellite radio w/4-month subscription
Perimeter alarm
Rain-sensing wipers
Bi-xenon headlights w/auto leveling and auto on/off
Pivoting, adaptive front lighting system
Auto-dimming mirror w/compass and Homelink - $275
Interior lighting kit - $200
Key options not on vehicle:
Rear wing spoiler - $425
Fog lights - $350
Fuel economy:
28 / 40 / 33 mpg
2.0L I-4
Horsepower: 155 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 148 lb-ft @ 4100 rpm
6-speed automatic
Curb weight: 2950 lb
16 x 6.5 inch aluminum alloy
205/55R16 Bridgestone Blizzak WS70 winter tires
Chevrolet Cruze
Ford Focus
Honda Civic
Hyundai Elantra
Kia Forte
Nissan Sentra
Subaru Impreza
Toyota Corolla
Volkswagen Jetta
2012 Mazda3 I Grand Touring SkyActiv G Sedan Right Side View
Forget acceleration times or base prices: new small cars are now measured against the benchmark of 40 mpg. There are now at least 16 new cars on sale with EPA ratings of 40 mpg highway or better. Mazda has decided to get in on the action with the 2012 Mazda 3, but instead of resorting to turbocharging or hybrid technology, Mazda has employed its new suite of SkyActiv technologies.
2012 Mazda3 I Grand Touring SkyActiv G Sedan Rear Left View
The 2012 Mazda 3 is the first American-market application of SkyActiv powertrains, which use a series of innovations to improve the efficiency of traditional engines and transmissions. That result is that the 2012 Mazda 3 sedan equipped with the SkyActiv-G engine and SkyActiv-Drive automatic transmission receives a 40-mpg highway rating.
We put that claim to the test by driving the Mazda 3 from Automobile's offices in Ann Arbor to Kalamazoo, Michigan and back while carefully measuring our fuel consumption. Does the SkyActiv-G engine live up to its lofty 40 mpg promise? Read on to find out.
SkyActiv Drivetrain
Base trims of the 3 sedan continue to be offered with Mazda's older 2.0-liter engine, called MZR, while i Touring and Grand Touring models receive the SkyActiv-G engine. The new 2.0-liter has direct fuel injection, a relatively high 12.0:1 compression ratio, specially shaped pistons, and multihole fuel injectors designed to more evenly distribute fuel in each cylinder. The SkyActiv 2.0-liter engine is also 4.4 pounds lighter than the older MZR 2.0-liter.
The resulting benefits are twofold. With 155 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque, the SkyActiv-G engine makes five percent more power and ten percent more torque than the MZR engine. It also is 21 percent more fuel efficient than the MZR, with the SkyActiv-equipped 3 sedan rated at 28/40 mpg (city/highway) with a six-speed automatic transmission and 27/39 mpg with the six-speed manual. Hatchback models score the same in city tests, but are rated at only 38 mpg highway because they are slightly heavier and less aerodynamic than the sedan.
A new optional six-speed automatic transmission, called SkyActiv-Drive, also helps reduce fuel consumption. Many of its components are lighter than in Mazda's previous five-speed automatic, and the torque converter can be locked-up over a broader range of vehicle speeds to improve efficiency. The standard six-speed manual, called SkyActiv-MT, is over four pounds lighter than the transmission it replaces.
Real-World Performance
To see how the SkyActiv technology works in the real world, we drove a 201-mile highway loop. With the cruise control set at 70 mph, we averaged an impressive 40.8 mpg, on par with the 40-mpg highway number predicted by Mazda and the EPA. (Incidentally, the car's trip computer optimistically reported 42.8 mpg.)
In spite of that impressive economy, the SkyActiv 3 drives just as well as any other Mazda 3. The engine feels peppy off the line in town and provides as much acceleration as most buyers will ever need, with plenty of urgency for merging onto busy freeways. The engine note becomes coarse when the engine is pushed, but it is never unpleasant. The new six-speed automatic is well matched to the engine and executes shifts with Lexus-like smoothness. At 70 mph with the transmission in sixth gear, the Mazda's engine turns at just 2100 rpm.
The 3 continues to be one of the best-driving cars in its segment, with its chassis drawing praise from our ranks. Its well-weighted steering and taut suspension make the 3 fun when driven on winding back roads, yet its ride remains compliant enough for freeway slogs or pothole-ridden commutes. The automatic transmission downshifts promptly when the driver calls for more acceleration, while its manual-shift mode is quick and responsive.
The SkyActiv-G's power figures make the Mazda 3 one of the most powerful sedans in its class, with its 155 hp and 148 lb-ft beating out the engines in the Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Elantra, and Honda Civic. The Volkswagen Jetta 2.5 and Ford Focus, however, are slightly more powerful than the Mazda.
When it comes to overall fuel economy, the SkyActiv engine competes admirably with its competitors. All models of the Hyundai Elantra are rated for 29/40 mpg (city/highway). Only special fuel-saving models of the Ford and Chevrolet can hit the 40-mpg mark: the Chevrolet Cruze Eco manages 28/42 mpg with a six-speed manual transmission, while the Ford Focus SFE scores 28/40 mpg with its dual-clutch transmission.
No-Pain Efficiency Gain
If you absolutely must drive a car that gets 40 mpg, the Mazda 3 SkyActiv is one of the best choices. It returns excellent fuel economy without forcing the driver to sacrifice acceleration or driving enjoyment. Even better, Mazda permits SkyActiv buyers to configure their car in various different ways: the engine is available with an automatic or manual transmission, and in either sedan or five-door hatchback guise. (Only the automatic sedan returns 40 mpg.)
The 2012 Mazda 3 is the first car equipped with SkyActiv technologies in the American market. It will be followed by the Mazda CX-5 crossover, which was designed from the ground up to incorporate SkyActiv innovations to reduce fuel consumption. Based on our experience with the 3, we're confident future Mazda products will continue to provide a compelling blend of driver involvement and improved fuel efficiency.
2012 Mazda3 i Grand Touring SkyActiv-G Sedan
Base price (with destination):
Price as tested: $24,495
(Options include $1400 tech pkg)
Engine: 16-valve DOHC I-4
Displacement: 2.0 liters
Power: 155 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 148 lb-ft @ 4100 rpm
Drive: Front-wheel
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 28/40 mpg (city/highway)
2012 Mazda3
2012 Mazda3
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.
2012 Mazda 3i Grand Touring Front Right View
Since its debut, the Mazda 3 has been one of the best choices for enthusiasts on a budget. The 2012 3 has lost some of the previous car's character but it makes noticeable gains in refinement. In the cabin, the central console is still dominated by hard plastic, but its shiny finish has been toned down slightly and the new HVAC controls are easier to use by feel, so you don't have to take your eyes off the road. The overall design is also more cohesive and the look is more upscale, especially in the two-tone color scheme in this tester.

2012 Mazda 3i Grand Touring

2013 Mazda CX5 Dr Seuss Truffula Tree
What does the new Mazda CX-5 crossover have in common with Dr. Seuss? Not that much, but it seems Mazda felt the new film adaptation of The Lorax provides the perfect opportunity to talk up its new range of Skyactiv technologies.
Mazda Skyactiv D Engine
Mazda predicts its current fiscal year, which ends the end of March, will mark its fourth straight year of ending in the red. Its financial burden comes from a combination of its global sales slipping to 0.2 percent to 1.25 million units and the yen’s strength against the U.S. dollar and other currencies.

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3
2012 Mazda MAZDA3
I SV FWD 4-Dr Sedan I4
25 MPG City | 33 MPG Hwy
Top Ranking Vehicles - MPG
2012 Honda Civic
HF FWD 4-Dr Sedan I4
29 MPG City | 41 MPG Hwy
2012 Kia Rio
SX FWD 4-Dr Sedan I4
30 MPG City | 40 MPG Hwy
2012 Mazda MAZDA3
2012 Mazda MAZDA3
I SV FWD 4-Dr Sedan I4
Top Ranking Vehicles - Price
2012 Mazda MAZDA3
2012 Mazda MAZDA3
I SV FWD 4-Dr Sedan I4
Top Ranking Vehicles - Horsepower

2012 Mazda MAZDA3 Specifications

Quick Glance:
2.0L I4Engine
Fuel economy City:
25 MPG
Fuel economy Highway:
33 MPG
148 hp @ 6500rpm
135 ft lb of torque @ 4500rpm
  • Air Conditioning (optional)
  • Power Windows
  • Power Locks
  • Power Seats (optional)
  • Steering Wheel Tilt
  • Cruise Control (optional)
  • Sunroof (optional)
  • ABS
  • Stabilizer Front
  • Stabilizer RearABS
  • Electronic Traction Control
  • Electronic Stability Control
  • Locking Differential (optional)
  • Limited Slip Differential (optional)
  • Airbag Driver
  • Airbag Passenger
  • Airbag Side Front
  • Airbag Side Rear (optional)
  • Radio
  • CD Player
  • CD Changer (optional)
  • DVD (optional)
  • Navigation (optional)
36,000 miles / 36 months
60,000 miles / 60 months
Unlimited miles / 60 months
36,000 miles / 36 months
NHTSA Rating Front Driver
NHTSA Rating Front Passenger
NHTSA Rating Front Side
NHTSA Rating Rear Side
NHTSA Rating Overall
NHTSA Rating Rollover
IIHS Front Moderate Overlap
IIHS Overall Side Crash
IIHS Best Pick
IIHS Rear Crash
IIHS Roof Strength

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5-Year Total Cost to Own For The 2012 Mazda MAZDA3

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Fuel Cost
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Five Year Cost of Ownership: $23,871 What's This?
Value Rating: Above Average