I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Mazda, the company who brought us “Zoom-zoom.” I finally got a chance to drive the all-new Mazda3 sedan and see for myself see what Mazda’s “Zoom zoom” was really all about.
Performance: The car Mazda delivered was the 2012 Mazda3 sedan with the all-new SKyActiv engine under the hood. We’ve covered the SkyActiv engine at length before, but to summarize, Mazda engineers have used a combination of direct injection, a high compression ratio, and special pistons to deliver a powerful-yet-efficient driving experience.
Over the course of the four days I got to drive the Mazda3, I averaged 33 mpg in mostly city driving. Rated at 28 city and 40 highway, this was much better than expect, especially given that I drove the Mazda3 much harder than the Mitsubishi i I also reviewed. This isn’t what I would call a rocket-ship car, but I had plenty of fun driving up on-ramps and dipping through the back roads surrounding my local reservoir.
One Sentence Review: The SkyActiv engine is everything Mazda says it is, powerful, efficient, and capable of delivering a fun driving experience.
Exterior: Everybody has their own opinion when it comes to the looks of the 2012 Mazda3. Personally, I wasn’t all that enthused with anything save the paint, Sky Blue Mica (pictured). But every female I showed to the car absolutely fell in love with it from front to back. My sister, who drives a slightly-older Mazda3, got right on trying to convince my parents that she needed THIS one.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad looking car…but I much prefer the hatchback look. That’s just me though. Also, pardon the use of stock photos…my camera died just days before I got the Mazda3, and my camera phone pictures just weren’t up to snuff.
One Sentence Review: Not a bad looking car, especially in this color, but I prefer the looks of the hatchback over the sedan.
Interior: The 2012 Mazda3 has some of its strongest and weakest elements on the inside. I love the dash layout, and I found the radio controls to be perfectly placed and amongst the easiest to operate of any modern compact. The seats were comfortable enough, though I’ve had better. But what really knocks the Mazda3 down a few pegs is road noise.
This is not a quiet car. Engine noise is constant, and not exactly pleasant. I didn’t have a chance to take the Mazda3 on any particularly long drives, but I could see myself getting annoyed at all the road noise generated by the tires. I have to say, this was by far the most disappointing aspect of the car, and one that should be given a lot of attention going forward.
One Sentence Review: A well-designed interior that is often drowned out by noise from the road and engine.
Value: With a MSRP of $24,970, the as-tested price of this Mazda3 puts its solidly in mid-size sedan territory. Granted, this is a fully, fully loaded car that includes ambient lighting, a technology package with an EXCELLENT blind spot monitoring system, alarm, xenon headlights, and other premium features. Add to that the 155 horsepower SkyActiv engine that is amongst the most powerful and efficient motors in this segment, and you have a compact car that definitely feels a bit more upscale.
With a starting MSRP of $17,275, the Mazda3 is on the higher end of the scale in terms of pricing, with cars like the Ford Focus ($16,200) and Chevy Cruze ($17,130) being cheaper, though the list of standard features is long and impressive. It is also arguably the sportiest offering in the compact car range, though I feel like I missed out on the best part of the driving experience with the optional automatic transmission.
One Sentence Conclusion: The 2012 Mazda3 with SkyActiv technology is both fun and efficient as billed, but that performance means sacrificing comfort and spending a little extra.