Life With a Compact Hatchback - 2012 Mazda Mazda3 Long-Term Road Test

2012 Mazda Mazda3 Long Term Road Test

2012 Mazda Mazda3 Skyactiv-G: Life With a Compact Hatchback

December 26, 2011

2012 Mazda Mazda3

After I dropped a couple friends and their luggage at LAX on Christmas morning, I figured I'd stop off at the iconic Randy's Donuts in Inglewood to see what all the fuss is about. Randy's never closes. Except on Christmas Day. Nevermind. I probably didn't need a bear claw anyway.

I've spent the holiday weekend trying to convince myself that our 2012 Mazda 3 (and its Skyactiv-G engine) fits into my life, now and in the future.

The trip to the airport touched the limits of its utility. It was me and two friends, and one of the friends is well over six feet tall. They had two weeks' worth of luggage. I had presents and various paraphernalia for a family gathering I was driving to immediately after the airport run (and the donut stop).

My friends cast doubtful looks when they see I've already got stuff in the hatch, but I have some experience packing cars (I was nomadic in college and regularly tetris'd nearly all of my worldy possessions into a moldy '80s-era Camry). We manage to fit everything in (barely) and I still have a view out the back.

One of the friends grew up in Germany, so he likes cars, and is fond of hatchbacks, but is skeptical of small, gasoline engines (because diesel exists) and automatic transmissions. Of course, I start proselytizing about Skyactiv technology as soon as he indicates a willingness to listen. I go on for about five minutes and by then we've reached the freeway on-ramp.

"Watch what happens when I floor the throttle."

We listen as the 2.0-liter engine revs smoothly and sweetly, building strength in the midrange. It still feels strong as the transmission executes a nice, clean upshift at 6,100-6,200 rpm. In D, at least, that upshift comes just shy of the marked 6,500-rpm redline. Wish it was right at redline, but oh well, that's why there's a manual gearbox.

My friends do the right thing and indicate that they're impressed and that this car is the greatest.

Ah, well, maybe that's not quite how they said it, but even with all the weight on board, straight-line performance is still sufficient. Nope, this isn't a sport compact, but with the new, D.I. 2.0-liter engine, this car is quick enough that I wouldn't even consider getting the less efficient 2.5-liter engine and its less sophisticated automatic transmission.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 3,246 miles

Leave a Comment

Past Long-Term Road Tests

Have a question? We're here to help!
Chat online with us
Email us at
*Available daily 8AM-5PM Pacific
Call us at 855-782-4711
Text us at ED411