The 2012 Mazda 3 earns a strong Total Car Scores in the Compact Sedan and Wagon category.
Reviewers praised the Mazda 3 for its precise and responsive handling, excellent stability, firm but comfortable ride, class-leading steering feel and all-around fun-to-drive character. Other positive feedback included a well-equipped interior with an impressive list of luxury options plus an extra shot of practicality from its four-door hatchback variant. Lastly, the Mazda 3 was lauded for the improved fuel economy of its new 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G engine.
However, critics complained about the Mazda 3’s pronounced road and tire noise and disappointing braking performance (Touring trim). Other minuses include limited cabin and cargo space, a too-small navigation screen and, for some reviewers, a comical grille. The base Mazda 3i SV model has been accused of being unreasonably spartan, lacking air-conditioning and power locks.
The Mazda 3 was fully redesigned three years ago. It is currently in its second generation. For 2012, the Mazda 3 offers an optional, new 2.0-liter engine (Skyactiv-G), yielding better performance and fuel economy than the standard 2.0-liter engine. This year the 3 also gets an expanded range of trim levels, minor styling enhancements and a few new standard features.
The 2012 Mazda 3 is available in two bodystyles: sedan and four-door hatchback. Each comes in two primary trim levels -- 3i and 3s -- which are broken down further into SV, Sport, Touring and Grand Touring sub-trims. The high-performance Mazdaspeed 3 hatchback is covered separately.
The base 3i SV and 3i Sport trims are limited to the Mazda 3 sedan. The SV brings standard power mirrors, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, 16-inch wheels and a four-speaker stereo, but no air-conditioning. The Sport trim includes a/c and keyless entry.
All of the other trim levels – 3i Touring, 3i Grand Touring, 3s Touring and 3s Grand Touring – are offered on both sedan and hatchback bodystyles. Standard on the 3i Touring trim is cruise control, Bluetooth and an upgraded six-speaker stereo. The 3i Grand Touring adds a sunroof, leather upholstery, an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat, seat heat and navigation.
The 3s Touring affords LED taillamps, sport seats, push-button start, 17-inch wheels, and dual-zone climate control. The 3s Grand Touring adds all of these items plus leather upholstery and a power-adjustable driver seat.
Standard safety equipment includes ABS, stability control and six airbags. The 2012 Mazda 3 earned above average crash test scores from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the highest possible ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
The front-wheel drive Mazda 3 offers three engine choices. The first is a carryover 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine generating 148 horsepower and 135 pound-feet of torque. Energy channels through either a five-speed manual transmission or an optional five-speed automatic.
Next is the newly-developed 2.0-liter four-cylinder Skyactiv-G engine making 155 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. This unit utilizes either a six-speed manual or an optional six-speed automatic.
At the top of the range is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder. Output is 167 horsepower and 168 pound-feet of torque. This engine pairs with either a standard six-speed manual transmission or an optional five-speed automatic.
EPA-estimated fuel economy for the 2012 Mazda 3 with a base 2.0-liter engine is 25 mpg city, 33 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined with the manual and 24/33/27 with the automatic. The new 2.0-liter Skyactive-G engine’s fuel economy figures are 28/40/33 for an automatic-equipped sedan and 27/31/39 for a manual-equipped sedan. The Skyactiv-outfitted hatchback is expected to return 28/39/32 with the automatic and 27/38/31 with the manual. Fuel economy ratings for the 2.5-liter engine are 20/28/23 with the manual and 22/29/25 with the automatic.
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