Track Tested: 2012 Mazda 3
April 10, 2012
While the Zoom-Zoom tagline is still at play in Mazda's PR department (and in the radio display), the real buzzword for the 2012 Mazda 3 is "Skyactiv." This new powertrain finally catapults Mazda's popular 3 into the 40 mpg club by way of the new 2.0-liter 155-horsepower inline-4 and a six-speed automatic. Well, 40 mpg with the sedan. Our hatchback gets 39.
But what happens if you use those ponies in anger instead of in a delicate dance with mother nature? Does the new, greener Mazda 3 still return smiles at the track?
Vehicle: 2012 Mazda 3
Driver: Chris Walton
Price: $25,520 as tested
Drive Type: Transverse, front engine, front wheel drive
Transmission Type: Six-speed automatic
Engine Type: Naturally aspirated, direct-injected inline-4, gasoline
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 1,998/122
Redline (rpm): 6,500
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 155 @ 6,000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 148 @ 4,100
Brake Type (front): 10.9-inch ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Brake Type (rear): 10.4-inch ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Suspension Type(front): Independent MacPherson struts, coil springs, twin-tube dampers, stabilizer bar
Suspension Type (rear): Independent multilink, coil springs, twin-tube dampers, trailing links, stabilizer bar
Tire Size (front): P205/55R16 (89H)
Tire Size (rear): P205/55R16 (89H)
Tire Brand: Bridgestone
Tire Model: Turanza EL400 02
Tire Type: All-season
As tested Curb Weight (lb): 3,017
0-30 (sec): 3.4 (4.0 w/ TC on)
0-45 (sec): 5.9 (6.6 w/ TC on)
0-60 (sec): 8.9 (9.6 w/ TC on)
0-60 with 1-ft rollout (sec): 8.6 (9.1 w/ TC on)
0-75 (sec): 13.3 (14.0 w/ TC on)
1/4-Mile (sec @ mph): 16.7 @ 85.1 ( 17.0 @ 84.5 w/ TC on)
30-0 (ft): 34
60-0 (ft): 136
Slalom (mph): 63.7 ( 60.3 w/TC off)
Skid Pad Lateral acceleration (g): 0.79 ( 0.78 w/TC on)
Db @ Idle: 41.9
Db @ Full Throttle: 72.3
Db @ 70 mph Cruise: 66.5
Acceleration: Responds exceptionally well to pedal overlap on launch and even more with TC off, where it manages to chirp the tires on launch. Linear power delivery, smooth upshifts, but it sounds pretty loud/strained at WOT. Tall gearing for a six-speed (1/4-mile in 3rd!?)
Braking: Hard tires pumped up to 36 psi (manufacturer's spec) don't offer much grip, hence long stopping distance. Pedal effort was medium-firm and remained so despite some brake fade.
Skid pad: Mild/moderate understeer, steering weight and resistance are appropriate at speed, but not much feel. With ESC on, it crept up to the point of understeer, then backed out of the throttle.
Slalom: Chassis feels better than the tires will allow. Feels like tires are inflated to 36 psi because they are. Lively, happy to play and rotate off-throttle, but there just ain't any grip. Precise friction-free steering without much feel.