Review: 2012 Mazda 3

2012 Mazda 3
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2012 Mazda 3

The 2012 Mazda 3 made its U.S. debut at the 2011 New York International Auto Show in April. The exterior features a new front fascia and updated five-point grille for sedan and hatchback styles. New designs include more sculpted forms around the front bumper and a rounded fog lamp shape, changed from the wider version of the current model. While the new car has been face-lifted with new exterior and interior designs, the big news is Mazda’s Skyactiv engine technologies that can achieve 40 mpg on the highway.

The direct-injection Skyactiv-G 2.0-liter gasoline engine will be offered in addition to the Mazda 3’s current 2.0-liter dual-overhead-cam 16-valve four-cylinder engine . Mated to the 6-speed manual transmission or optional 6-speed automatic transmission, Skyactiv will be available in either the sedan or hatchback models. The normal 2.0-liter engine will continue to be available with the current 5-speed manual or the current 5-speed automatic.

The Skyactiv 2.0-liter engine uses multi-hole injectors, specially developed piston cavity shapes that ensure a shorter combustion time, and dual sequential valve timing. The new engine delivers 155 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 148 foot-pounds of torque at 4100 rpm, with maximum power increased by about 5 percent and torque increased by about 10 percent. The EPA rating of 40 mpg on the highway is a 21-percent improvement over the normal 2.0-liter engine, with a potential 540-mile range. City mileage for the sedan version also improves by 17 percent to 28 mpg. The Mazda 3 five-door hatchback model will also be offered in the U.S. exclusively with the Skyactiv-G 2.0-liter gasoline engine. For the Skyactiv-Drive automatic transmission, the advantages of a conventional automatic transmission, Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) and Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) were integrated into one unit, using a torque converter with a lock-up clutch.

The 2012 Mazda 3 will offer a 2.5-liter engine for performance customers. Generating 167 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 168 foot-pounds of torque at 4000 rpm, the 2.5-liter engine is available with a 6-speed manual transmission or a 5-speed electronically controlled automatic with manual shift control. The 2.5-liter engine achieves EPA figures of 20/28 mpg with a manual transmission, 22/29 mpg with the automatic. New body and chassis engineering features for 2012 include electro-hydraulic power steering and retuning of the front and rear dampers. Mazda says its setup enables light steering at slow speeds with more feedback and better feel at higher speeds. The body has been further reinforced by increasing the number of spot welds used to join the suspension crossmembers.

Mazda 3 sedans and hatchbacks with Skyactiv-G engines will be distinguished by their engine cover, featuring a blue metallic paint finish with black sections along either side, headlamps fitted with a transparent blue ring around the center lens, and a badge featuring a Skyactiv logo against a clear-blue background.