THE 2012 MAZDA MAZDA3 i SEDAN REVIEW
Full Review by Andy: Shut Up the Cynic
You probably know that the 2012 Mazda3 i sedan achieves 40 mpg thanks to SkyActiv technology.
“Well, that’s just great,” grumbles the automotive cynic. “Just another compact sedan that gets 40 mpg. Big deal! The Mazda3 is late to the game.”
Be quiet, cynic. Your opinion is not only unwanted but unwarranted. Forty mpg is only half the story. The second half is the better half, and it’s the one yours truly is about to tell.
The Mazda3 i visited the dentist for 2012. Its gregarious, manic grin has been appropriately downsized, but it remains reminiscent of Jerry Lewis more than Humphrey Bogart. The rest of the body has been slightly tweaked and streamlined, but if you didn’t like the looks of the 2011 Mazda3, you won’t like the automaker’s latest creation.
The Mazda3 i also visited a cardiovascular surgeon for 2012 (Good grief Mazda, how sick was the 3 i?) and received a heart transplant. It now has, for those who choose it, a SkyActiv-G 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.
(The following paragraph is for would-be mechanical engineers, car hacks, amateur automotive journalists, and auto techies.)
With a tall compression ratio of 12.0:1, you’d expect the SkyActiv-G I4 to slurp premium fuel or even diesel. Instead, it takes regular petrol, a feat for which its creators won the 2011 Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers Medal. Multi-hole injectors finely atomize the direct-injected fuel, which combusts in a specially crafted piston cavity designed to minimize combustion time and prevent knocking. The SkyActiv engine also uses dual sequential valve timing (S-VT). The new engine has 30 percent less internal friction and is up to 21 percent more efficient than the old MRZ two-liter.
In the end, you get 155 horsepower and 28/40 mpg – sort of. The Mazda3 i only receives the SkyActiv-G in Touring and Grand Touring trims, and maximum fuel economy requires the optional six-speed shiftable automatic. With the standard six-speed manual gearbox, fuel economy drops to 27/39 mpg. The carryover base 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine gets 25/33 mpg with the base five-speed manual and slightly less with the optional five-speed automatic.
All in all, sucking the maximum fuel efficiency and power out the Mazda3 i requires $19,300, which is $4,100 over the base MSRP.
“Nineteen grand!” laments the cynic. “That’s highway robbery!”
The SkyActiv engine is not turbocharged. Therefore, its long-term resale values and repair costs will be lower, on average, than competitors with forced induction. Secondly, a comparable Chevrolet Cruze or Ford Focus is more expensive. A similarly fuel-efficient Hyundai is less expensive, but who buys an Elantra to have fun?
That is what makes the 2012 Mazda3 i sedan so special. Other competitors can match its fuel economy, but nobody on the North American market can compete with the Mazda3’s quartet of power, price, fuel economy, and a frolicking good time. From its responsive and quick steering – a zoom-zoom trademark – to its nimble cornering and commendable acceleration, the Mazda3 reeks of flat-out fun. You want to know why the 3 has a silly smile? Drive it, and so will you.
The remainder of the compact car is mostly a carryover from 2011. With several years under its belt, the cabin is no longer the class-leader it once was; materials quality and ergonomics trail top dogs like the Chevy Cruze. The cramped rear seats are a demerit as is the 11.8-cubic foot trunk. The available sunroof significantly lessens headroom as well. Rivals, particularly hatchbacks, offer more room and superior ergonomics. With that said, the Mazda3’s quality is consistent with class standbys like the Honda Civic and Volkswagen Jetta.
To atone for its small space, the Mazda3 adds a few features for 2012. The base i SV trim ($15,200) is nothing more than a marketing calling card; who wants a car that lacks A/C and power locks? The mainstream i Sport trim ($16,845) adds those features along with keyless entry and a temperature display. Together with the SkyActiv-G engine, the i Touring ($18,100) trim adds a host of cabin comforts such as cruise control, a rear seat armrest, Bluetooth and a six-speaker sound system. The i Grand Touring trim ($22,550) deliciously tops it off with heated front seats, leather upholstery, a navigation system, ten-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system, and more.
That is the sound of a cynic with nothing to say.
2.0-liter inline four-cylinder: 148 hp@6,500 rpm/135 lb-ft of torque @4,500 rpm
2.0-liter inline four-cylinder: 155 hp@6,000 rpm/148 lb-ft of torque @4,100 rpm
Transmission: five-speed manual, five-speed shiftable automatic, six-speed manual, six-speed shiftable automatic
Fuel Economy: 24/33 – 28/40 mpg
Base MSRP: $15,200
Need More Information on the 2012 Mazda Mazda3 i Sedan?
video: 2012 Mazda Mazda3 i Sedan
vehicle eBrochure: 2012 Mazda Mazda3 i Sedan
Find a 2012 Mazda Mazda3 for Sale in Your Area
Dealer Quote for the 2012 Mazda Mazda3 i Sedan
More>>> Car Reviews
Copyright © 2010-2012 zAutos All Rights Reserved. Watch car videos at zAutos.com