Improved, yet again
Just as popular as when it first came out in 2004, the multi-award winning Mazda3 is a prime example of continual improvement. And with the debut of the SKYACTIV system this year, Mazda is taking a new look at fuel economy.
The 2012 Mazda3 GS-SKY's 2.0L engine, producing 155 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque, is responsive yet not at all a gas guzzler, consuming, on average, a low 7.5L/100km. This is a first for Mazda, typically known to offer somewhat less fuel efficient cars than its competitors.
The newly modified transmission has been slimmed down. As a result, it's a pleasure to drive, but still aggressive. While driving, you can really feel the bite when you change gears, there is no time lost between shifts. These seamless changes make you feel like switching gears is as natural as can be - a feeling that can convert an automatic transmission lover over to the manual transmission side.
Now 10% lighter, the engine and ignition have also been re-examined. Rather than cut back on the amount of fuel injected by increasing air volume with a turbo, the compression ratio in the engine has been intensified while friction has been reduced. By re-thinking the process by which air and fuel are mixed together, the engine consumption rate has been improved. A now longer 4-2-1 exhaust system keeps exhaust out and maintains the engine at a lower temperature, a bonus for better ignition control.
The redesigned 6-speed automatic transmission is also lighter. In fact, not only has its size been reduced, Mazda has optimized it for a FWD vehicle. Less friction between parts means gains in fuel efficiency. Obviously, much attention was paid to user comfort.
The car body itself has not escaped this slimming down effort either, losing 8% of its weight. According to Mazda, the chassis is also 15% lighter.
I appreciate the trouble Mazda took to soundproof the car. Ambient noise doesn't bother us, and neither does the din of a heavy rain shower pummelling down on the car. Wide open, the sunroof lets in just a little noise - the soothing sound of a gentle breeze. Still, our eardrums stay unabused even when we accelerate. All in all, the Mazda3 is nice and quiet.
Mostly black with some silver trim, the passenger cabin is also nice, light and easy on the eyes; details are scarce and nothing stands out in particular. To quote Wladimir Wolf-Gozin: "Simplicity is perfection in disguise," though some would blame the Mazda's simplicity on a lack of imagination.
This Mazda 3 starts at $15,595. With SKYACTIV technology, the minimum cost for the GS-Sky model is $18,995. Standard equipment includes rain-sensing windshield wipers, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, and heated front seats.
By fully loading the car with options, you can jump to $22,390, which is quite reasonable if you compare it to the competition. Ford's equivalent to a SKYACTIV Mazda3, the Focus with manual transmission, will cost you $24,599. At Honda, it's $20,185 for the manual Civic EX.
One good (and good-looking) deal
Comfortable, with great visibility to boot, the Mazda3 is a nice, quiet and easy-to-drive car. SKYACTIV technology has revamped the brand, which had been held back by its poor fuel economy, a sore spot over the last few years. But the car keeps on getting better, and 2012 has been a milestone year for the brand. The Mazda3 GS-SKY is a sensible compact that is just as fun to drive in the city as it is out on the open road.
This 2012 Mazda3 GS-SKY review was originally published on Auto-Venus.com.