2012 Mazda MAZDA3 Review

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8.0
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9.0
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7.0
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8.0
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9.0
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Fuel Economy
8.0
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2012
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor

With its new Skyactive powertrains, the 2012 Mazda3 is the eco-conscious choice that sure doesn't drive like one.

The Mazda3 has long been one of the most fun-to-drive compacts on the market, combining flamboyant styling with crisp handling and a little more eagerness and sports-car attitude than most other small cars. But for shoppers putting a priority on gas mileage numbers, too, this model used to disappoint.

For 2012, Mazda has made good to both enthusiasts and the eco-conscious with a new Sky-G engine, paired to either an all-new six-speed automatic transmission or a new six-speed manual. This engine makes a respectable 155 horsepower and feels very refined and responsive, yet it goes about 20 percent farther on a gallon of gas—with fuel economy ratings of up to 40 mpg highway.

Beware, however, that if you want these new powertrains, you'll have to go for the Mazda3i Touring or Grand Touring models; base 3i SV and Sport models still get the old base 2.0-liter engine, while 3s versions get the 167-horsepower, 2.5-liter engine that's somewhat more torquey but much thirstier (we really don't consider it worth the extra money).

No matter which model, handling is the Mazda3's key to delivering 'zoom-zoom' behind the wheel. The suspension tuning is firm, and the overall feel of the Mazda3 is athletic, without sacrificing too much comfort. Brakes are strong four-wheel discs (unusual in this class), and the steering is surely the best among small, affordable cars—thanks to a sure-feeling electro-hydraulic setup rather than the iffy electric units that rival models now have.

Inside, you'll find generous, supportive front seats and a reasonably accommodating back seat—plus a low, flat cargo floor with the seats folded down. However, in addition to somewhat difficult rear-seat entry, the 3's downfall remains road noise.

Outside of the new powertrains, the Mazda3 gets a few other relatively minor changes for 2012. The instrument panel lighting has changed, and display screens are now a cool blue. Most notably, Mazda has redone the front and rear airdams, added more body-color trim, and toned down the look of the 3's front end, which was not well received on introduction a couple of years ago; it's now a smirk, rather than clownish grin. Inside, the cockpit is sophisticated and plush, but some will find fault with all the rather drab, hard plastic trim within.

Base cars are surprisingly well-equipped for around the $16k mark, but it's some of the tech features available in the Grand Touring—including bi-xenon adaptive lighting, three-position memory power seats, rain-sensing wipers, ten-speaker Bose surround sound, and (new for 2012) a blind-spot monitoring system—that really set this model above most of the competition, all for around $26k loaded.

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The Car Connection Consumer Review

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April 14, 2015
For 2012 Mazda MAZDA3

Great Small Car for the fuel -conscious!

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GS-Sky motor gives good performance and fuel economy. The car is surprisingly comfortable for long road trips with lots of space for two. Stereo isn't the highest quality but passable. A joy to drive!
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October 7, 2016
2016 Mazda MAZDA3 5-Door HB Manual i Touring

Sporty looking but slow off the mark

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This is a seriously good looking car but sporty looks belie what's going on under the bonnet. Even though it's got 2 litres to go at, it's desperate for a turbo. Having said that it will pull away in an... + More »
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April 24, 2016
2016 Mazda MAZDA3 5-Door HB Automatic s Grand Touring

Half of an M3 for one third the price

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My 2016 Mazda3 HB is a solid, comfortable, small car that gets better the more enthusiastically is it driven. It's really a 4-dr coupe as there's not a lot of rear seat/leg room. It's agile in town with good... + More »
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January 25, 2016
2016 Mazda MAZDA3 4-Door Sedan Automatic i Grand Touring

Very Great and Sweet Ride :)

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I love the Mazda 3 Sedan because when i was buying the car my main objective was Affordability , Stylish , Navigation System and Fuel Economy. So Far I Love it . If you see fuel consumption at 9.5/100 Litres... + More »
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January 11, 2016
2016 Mazda MAZDA3 5-Door HB Automatic s Grand Touring

What an amazing car. I couldn't be happier

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What a great car; The engine is responsive and the drive quality is fantastic. Sport mode absolutely lives up to its name, and you can engage it while in the manual shifting mode of the car. The active radar... + More »
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December 12, 2015
2016 Mazda MAZDA3 5-Door HB Automatic i Touring

Affordable,Stylish Automobile

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The Mazda has a smooth,comfortable ride,with adequate leg room space in front and back. The hatchback has a good size cargo area to meet most needs of storage space,etc. Reasonably priced,affordable for a... + More »
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August 23, 2015
2016 Mazda MAZDA3 5-Door HB Automatic i Touring

A Great Mazda for the Family

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It has a great body with wonderful interior. It has features found in luxury cars. Our unit is made in Japan so the quality is good. It even has a comfortable ride and the 1.5 liter engine is very capable. The... + More »
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August 13, 2015
2016 Mazda MAZDA3 4-Door Sedan Automatic s Touring

Excelent car, fullfil all requirements

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Everything excelent! Real superb handling, real enjoy driving! Very nice features. A premium car with normal price.
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March 1, 2016
2015 Mazda MAZDA3 4-Door Sedan Manual i Grand Touring

Fun car with sharp looks and great for the $$$

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This is the 2nd Mazda 3 I've had and it is so much fun to drive. I have the iTouring and wish I got the grand touring model with better performing engine. Base engine lacks passing power. The Mazda Connect... + More »
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September 12, 2015
2015 Mazda MAZDA3 5-Door HB Manual s Grand Touring

After 12 years time for a fun car!

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I started looking at this car back in February. As a dedicated manual driver I really liked this model with most of the options AND a 6-speed manual. Since my 5-speed stick 03 Tundra with 240000 miles was... + More »
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