While much has changed under the hood of some Mazda3 models for 2012, this small-car family looks mostly the same as it did last year—save for a minor styling refresh.
The Mazda3 was completely redesigned a couple of years ago, with more expressive sheetmetal and a smoother, more upgraded interior feel. But the 3's freakshow grin was more often maligned than appreciated, and for 2012 it gets resculpted into more of a relaxed smirk. For 2012, all Mazda3 models get a resculpted front airdam and fascia that transition nicely into the flared front fenders. To match the somewhat different look, there's a new rear fascia as well, with two new wheel designs to complement. And throughout, what you might notice more than anything else is that there's more trim that's body-color than ever—no more dark molded plastic.
Through those few subtle changes—mainly those to the front end—Mazda has boosted its coefficient of drag to 0.27 for the sedan, 0.29 for the five-door.
SkyActiv models are distinguished only by a small badge on the right side of the hatch (or trunk), a blue engine cover, and blue instrument lighting (instead of the base cars' gray lighting).
Of the two body styles—a five-door hatchback and a four-door sedan—we think the hatchback is the way to go, as it's the better-looking and more expressive of the two; the sedan isn't completely frumpy, but it's more ordinary-looking. .Nothing much is different inside, and against most of the small-car rivals to the Mazda3, it feels sporty but also somewhat drab. The 3's cockpit received a set of substantial upgrades with its last redesign, with refined curves and expansive pieces of black and toned plastic, some of which looks less pleasing than other bits. It has one screen for a trip computer (or nav system on upper trims) and one for the climate control; both are now the same hue.