2011 New York: 2012 Mazda 3 loses the smile, gains a new engine

The Mazda 3 is getting a mid-cycle update for 2012, in which it gets a new front fascia that tones down the controversial “smile” look of the current car, as well as a new engine that hits the magic 40-mpg figure on the highway.

The new engine is the first application of Mazda’s strangely named SKYACTIV technology, which bring greater efficiency to engines, transmissions, and platforms. In the 3, the new SKYACTIV 2.0-liter four makes 155 hp and 148 pound-feet of torque. It can be paired with a 6-speed manual or a new 6-speed automatic transmission. In the sedan, it achieves fuel economy ratings of 28/40 mpg with the automatic; the numbers are 27/39 mpg with the manual. The engine is also available in the hatchback, where the fuel economy figures are slightly lower, at 27/38 mpg (manual) and 28/38 mpg (automatic).

Both the sedan and the hatchback will continue to offer their current engines as well as the new SKYACTIV 2.0-liter. The sedan’s base engine is a 148-hp 2.0-liter, available with a choice of 5-speed transmissions. Fuel economy is significantly less than the SKYACTIV version, at 25/33 mpg (manual) and 24/33 mpg (automatic)

The hatchback’s current 2.5-liter four also returns for 2012. It makes marginally more power and torque than the new four—167 hp and 168 pound-feet—but uses a lot more fuel. Mileage ratings are only 20/28 mpg with the manual transmission and 22/29 mpg with the automatic. The Mazdaspeed 3 continues with is 2.3-liter turbo four.

Other changes for 2012 include a switch to electric power steering, a new optional blind-spot warning system, additional interior refinements, and increased body rigidity.

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