2012 Mazda Mazda3 Preview: 40-MPG SkyActiv, New Base Hatch

August 4, 2011

Change is coming to Mazda's compact Mazda3 hatchback and sedan family for 2012, and the Japanese automaker looks poised to broaden its niche appeal to shoppers who want a responsive-driving car that also gets good mileage.

Think 40 mpg for some Mazda3 models, plus better manual gearboxes and automatic transmissions in those models—as well as a toned-down front-end appearance and new grille, refreshed rear styling, and some other details like new wheels.

Those 40-mpg models are the forerunners of a new generation for the automaker. The 2012 Mazda3 will be the first model in the U.S. to get an all-new range of engines and transmissions that fall under a massive engineering initiative the company is calling SkyActiv.

Through the clean-slate initiative, which affects all aspects of its cars, including powertrains, body structures, and chassis components, Mazda aims to produce a fleet of vehicles that preserves the nimble, responsive driving feel that shoppers have come to know, yet a 30-percent improvement in fuel economy by 2015, from 2008 levels.

No spoil-sport

The new 2012 Mazda3 SkyActiv will achieve its 40-mpg rating without the need for special tactics that like low-rolling resistance tires, thinner body panels, reduced noise insulation, a 'lazy' throttle calibration, or other measures that might make the car less enjoyable to drive. "We're not talking about rock-hard tires that take away road feel," commented U.S. spokesman Jeremy Barnes.

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