2012 Mazda MAZDA3 Long Term Road Test

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: Final Push to 20,000 Miles

November 22, 2012

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(Photos by John Adolph)

Our own John Adolph volunteered to drive our 2012 Mazda 3 last Friday. He had one goal in mind, to reach 20,000 miles before we had to return the car to Mazda the next Monday. So it was off to June Lake, California.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 20,000 miles     

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: Goodbye To A Great Car

November 14, 2012

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Yesterday, after 12-months and 20,000 miles, the long-term test of this very blue 2012 Mazda 3 came to an end. A nice man from Mazda came to our office, grabbed the keys and drove off. We'll never see the car again.

Goodbyes were quick, and for a few of us, emotional. The Mazda was popular around here. And our year with this Grand Touring example with Skyactiv proved once again that the Mazda 3 is one our favorite compacts. 

Look for a detailed wrap-up article with all of the Mazda's pros and cons to appear as soon as we can get it done.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 20,088 miles

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: Honest, Simple, Enjoyable

November 09, 2012

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I took what will probably be my last drive in the 2012 Mazda 3 yesterday morning. I didn't go anywhere special, just the San Gabriel Valley to walk a family member's dog, and as I was leaving, I noticed how our very blue Mazda 3 hatch matched the very blue sky. Around here, the sky only gets this blue just before or immediately after a storm. We're in the before stage right now (right now defined as 18 hours ago), which is why the San Gabriel Mountains are completely obscured by clouds.

I hastily parked the car (hastily yes, but still within the legally permissible 18 inches from the curb), took my picture and stared at the car. Aside from its goofy grin and the blue lenses around its projector-type headlights, the Mazda 3 Skyactiv is free of the gimmicks that adorn the other "fuel economy specials" in this class. It doesn't have a low-hanging front spoiler that catches on every driveway, or silly looking aerodynamic wheels, or low rolling resistance tires (although I would be resistant to purchasing this particular set of Bridgestones again).

Inside, the 3 has blue and white instrumentation and some questionable footwell lighting, but you're not forced to watch any kind of instant fuel economy gauge or made to feel like you should be putting the automatic transmission in an Eco mode.

It already does the Eco-ing for you, keeping the torque converter locked up as often as possible, and most the time, it all works out fine. You just drive the car and go about your business, and most of the time it returns great mileage -- we're averaging almost 31 mpg against an EPA combined rating of 32, which is ridiculously good by our standards. All the while, we've gotten to enjoy an efficient small car that still has sharp steering, a controlled ride and pretty firm brake pedal feel. What's not to like?

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 19,345 miles

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: Safety Smorgasbord

November 06, 2012

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Here in the newsroom at Edmunds, we often wear two hats: We're both journalists and sources for other journalists (it's a little weird after years of being the quoter to become the quotee). 

Anyway, a writer asked us last week if there's an "average" price for the newer safety features that some cars now offer--things like blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping, adaptive headlights, forward collision avoidance, etc.  

Our awesome data team came up with the answer, which is that there is no average price. Safety features run the gamut from stand-alone items that cost a couple hundred dollars to soup-to-nuts packages that would set you back $30,000 (on the 2012 Range Rover). Those a la carte options are fairly rare, too. As with lots of other optioning, if you really want one thing (let's say, blind-spot monitoring), you might have to buy a bunch of other things in order to get it. 

In our Mazda 3, blind spot monitoring (BSM) is part of the $1,400 Technology Package, which is sort of safety-oriented, despite its name. In addition to blind-spot monitoring (which you can turn off), you get rain-sensing wipers and adaptive, auto-leveling, auto on/off bi-xenon headlights.


But Sirius satellite radio and a perimeter alarm are also part of the package. If you want blind-spot monitoring or the adaptive headlights, you're buying those things, too. By way of comparison, blind-spot monitoring is a stand-alone option in the 2012 Toyota Camry. It costs $500. 

It would be a service to car buyers if carmakers would group their safety offerings into logical packages, or offer them a la carte. But I'm not holding my breath. 

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @19,629 miles

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: SEMA Trip Fuel Economy

November 01, 2012

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Driving to the SEMA show in Las Vegas from Los Angeles involves an interminably boring, soul-crushing slog through the desert up I-15. It's a tedious drive, but at least you can make some time.  

That is, you can make time in the places where road construction hadn't cut the freeway from three lanes down to one, adding an hour to the trip. Argh. Otherwise, cruising speeds on the open sections of the trip were between 80-85. 

I took our longterm 2012 Mazda 3. Here's the fuel economy result.

31.7 mpg

Naturally, this result is far cry from its 39 mpg window sticker highway rating, but not entirely unexpected given the elevated cruising speed of this particular trip (recall the average speed of the EPA highway cycle is something like 48 mph).

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: SEMA Roadtrip Ride

October 31, 2012

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Rolling out to Las Vegas in our longterm 2012 Mazda 3 reminded me how much I like this car's routine handling characteristics. While not out-and-out grin-inducing, the alert action of its steering, brakes and gearbox make for a satisfyingly cooperative driving experience. And that's welcome in the freeway nip-and-tuck maneuvers that always crop up on this long slog through the heart of the desert.

I had forgotten about the 3's seat, though. Its bottom cushion is just unyielding, and after a couple hours my butt was dead. Otherwise, the seat works well -- good seatback comfort and driving position.

I'll compile the trip's fuel economy tomorrow. Any guesses? 

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: Boom Boom Bose

October 31, 2012

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Bose is one of those companies you're aware of early on as you learn about audio gear. Either someone in your family has a pair of Bose speakers, or someone raves about the noise-cancelling headphones, or you buy a car with a branded audio system. Years ago, my father bought some Bose speakers for the house, the 301 Series II or III, I think. Oak-look cabinets with kinda drab black and khaki grille cloth.

At the time, Bose was touting its port technology, designed to produce stronger bass from smaller cabinets and the eight-inch woofers. Dad was ultimately disappointed and the speakers soon migrated to grandma's house.

You soon learn that Bose makes decent, if overpriced, audio gear. You also learn that they run shrewd marketing campaigns. The Bose system in our Mazda 3 is pretty good though, better than any compact car's system has a right to be. It came standard on our Grand Touring package, but it's available -- bundled with a sunroof -- for $1,400 on the lower iTouring trim with automatic transmission (but not the manual). Once again, you row-your-own types get the shaft.

Let's assume the sunroof is about half the cost of that package. So for $700, you get a pretty good 10-speaker Bose system that offers good clarity, good frequency response and good bass. Even if we're a little more conservative with the sunroof costs, the Bose system still seems like a decent value. You'd be hard-pressed to assemble an aftermarket package of equal quality.

Now, I know Bose does some pretty cool and innovative stuff. They undoubtedly have a good engineering corps, and I've read about some of the interesting frequency suppression work they've done on suspension systems with GM, I believe. If such a thing as a Bose fanboy exists, I'm sure I will hear from you. All I'm saying is that, for the dough, I'm looking at JBL or Harman all day.  

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: At Home with this Range

October 26, 2012

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I drove the 2012 Mazda 3 from Los Angeles to Napa Valley to attend the introduction of the redesigned 2013 Toyota Avalon and I was amazed at how far I could go on one tank of gas. I was so pleased with myself I pulled out the log book and searched other entries to see if anyone else went farther. YES! This was a record!

Way back when we first got the Mazda, Erin Riches predicted that we would see a lot of 400-mile tanks. We have seen five 400-mile tanks. But there were plenty of tanks pushing high 300s.  Anyway, here are the numbers.  

I drove 433.3 miles and used 11.55 gallons of 87-octane gas. That works out to 37.5 mpg. Since it has a 14.5 gallon tank, I could have gone another 110 miles and logged a 500-mile tank. The best part of all this was that I wasn’t hyper-miling – just going with the flow and keeping one eye out for the CHP. 

Philip Reed, Edmunds Senior Consumer Advice Editor @18,573 miles

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2012 Mazda 3 Skyactiv: Running Out of Time

October 19, 2012

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A couple days ago, I realized our 2012 Mazda 3 i Touring Skyactiv will be leaving us in less than a month. I don't know if we'll make it to the 20,000 miles, unless somebody takes a last-minute road trip to Seattle.

I figured I better grab a night in this car while I still can. You already know I like this car. It's my baseline for any future family car I might buy. Yeah, there are some days where I might want something like a VW GTI* (nicer cabin materials, extra rear legroom) or a Honda CR-V (larger cabin with tons of storage slots and cargo capacity), but the reality is that this Mazda does everything I need it to do.

It has just enough room for two adults (and a kid), and enough cargo room for 90 percent of my hauling jobs. It's comfortable enough for a long commute. The cabin furnishings are nice enough that I'm not always thinking about being in an inexpensive car. The controls are easy to use.

And somehow, I manage to have fun every time I go down the freeway in this 155-hp budget hatchback with an automatic transmission. For me, it's about the controlled ride, the impressive steering feel (impressive among the non-so-hot hatches anyway), the lively engine (OK, throttle response isn't perfect, but man, it revs like it cares) and the transmission's quick shifts. 'Course I'd probably shift slower if I had one of these with the manual gearbox, but I'd make that compromise any day of the week.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 17,477 miles

*Yah, that's a GTI in the driveway, along with a couple really stunning waste receptacles.

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: Light Pollution

October 19, 2012

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Every car with a navigation/infotainment display should offer a means to turn it off. Many do, but if I recall correctly, the Explorer/MyFord Touch did not. You could reduce the display brightness down to almost nothing, but never fully eliminate the glow. Often at night, driving home, I don't want glow. I want a dark cave illuminated only by instrument lighting. I want to unwind to the extent that one can while still doing 65 down the highway, and sometimes - most times - that doesn't include a three-, five- or seven-inch display staring back at me.

You can never fully defeat the Mazda 3's twin displays, but the multi-information display (left) has a weird quirk. If you're listening to CD or an Aux source, you can almost get a blank screen by cycling through the Info button on the steering wheel. The display will simply list the selected source at the top. But no luck if you're jamming some terrestrial radio; in place of the blank screen, you get a menu of presets.

Acceptable solution, to me anyway: whether you're listening to right-wing demagoguery or socialist propaganda on the AM dial, or wondering why Garth Trinidad tries so unbearably hard to sound hip and laconic, you can call up the little compass icon and long/lat coordinates to replace the presets menu.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

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Edmunds Insurance Estimator

The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2012 Mazda Mazda3 in WA is:

$176 per month*
* Explanation
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