November 09, 2012
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
October 19, 2012
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
August 29, 2012
As we've previously mentioned, the 3 doesn't exactly have your back when the mercury rises.
Today it was 90 degrees out, and I found myself constantly checking to make sure that I'd actually activated the Mazda's A/C. Since the air coming out of the vents was moderately cool and not cold, I thought for a minute that I had only the fan turned on. When the weather situation is dire enough to reduce you to a sticky puddle of sweat in mere seconds, you want frost and icicles in the cabin, not a mild breeze.
I spent 20 minutes in the 3 today, and at the end of it, the cabin still wasn't completely cooled. Lots to love about our cheerful little Mazda, but blazing-hot weather is its kryptonite, apparently.
Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor
August 28, 2012
Overall, I like our Mazda 3's cabin, and it's holding up pretty well with over 14,000 miles on the odometer and a road trip or two under its belt. The beige-and-black color scheme may not be the most practical, but to my eyes, it works to give things a fairly upmarket look.
I also like the leather used on the seats. It's nicely grained, and it's also proving to be quite durable.
I'm not too crazy about some of the plastics used, though. Specifically, those plastics on the center stack, which look cheap and monotonous.
Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 14,440 miles
August 28, 2012
Wuuut? I haven't done a dog report on our 2012 Mazda 3 yet? Well, I'm gonna fix that right now. This past weekend was all about my dog Mya. On Friday we took her to the beach for Edmunds' annual company picnic, Saturday to the beach again and Sunday on a hike to the Griffith Observatory. Not surprisingly, the Mazda 3 did well as a dog chariot. Not only is it the right height for ease of entry and exit for her but everything else about it was easy, too.
Love that the seatbelt fasteners stick out of the seat for quick buckling of the squirming beast. I could also tuck her blanket deep enough into the seat crevice so she couldn't kick it off as she's wont to do when she "holds on" through the turns. This is very important as our leather seats are beige and therefore more vulnerable to smudging.
There aren't any vents in the backseat but we could just aim the dash vents toward her and she was fine despite the A/C's sluggishness to cool down the cabin. No storage for all her paraphernalia but we just threw her dog backpack in the back and her leash and collar in the rear footwell for easy access.
But yeah, great car for dogs.
Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor
August 24, 2012
Our 2012 Mazda 3 is an i Grand Touring model. It has leather-lined seats. Its driver seat also has power fore/aft adjustment and power recline. But it doesn't have lumbar adjustment, either power or manual.
In the past, I dismissed adjustable lumbar as a nonessential feature, something for old people, not for me. Now, I'm old(er) and coming to realize that lumbar adjustment is for me.
Mind you, the seat comfort in this car is still passable on a 6-hour drive, but there were moments during my Monterey trip when I wanted more lower back support and couldn't get it.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 14,340 miles
August 09, 2012
You meet them all the time.
People come up to you and then with a puzzled frown they tell you some long and tangled story about trying to find a car to buy that will fit a dog/bicycle/television/jetski, but has to get 40 mpg and be no bigger than a lawn chair besides.
As always, people expect that the laws of physics can be suspended. It's kind of flattering, really. The car companies seem to make magic with stuff every day, so why not the laws of physics?
Can't be a crossover utility because they're too big. Can't be a station wagon because they're too old. Can't be a hatchback because they're too crappy.
Fortunately, I am usually somewhere within sight of a Mazda 3 5-door hatchback (aren't we all?), so all I have to do is point and say, "There's the answer to your problem."
They tend to get the idea in an instant. A nice people package, only with a long roof and square back so there's room enough to carry stuff. Plus a little bit of towing capacity for recreational purposes.
I credit the Mazda 3 5-door for helping people embrace the wagonette-style car because it has always looked good, which is a big deal. But even more important, it has never tried to disguise its utility, so you could always understand its possibilities at a single glance. What the Mazda 3 5-door has is a look that vehicles as different as the Acura ZDX, Audi A7 and BMW X6 have tried to capture only to seem clumsy in comparison.
It's easy to get lost in the details of the Mazda 3's style, but the thing that makes it work as a piece of design is its silhouette. It combines art and utility in a way that makes you believe that the laws of physics can be suspended.
Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 13,075 miles
July 02, 2012
Okay, so I love most things about the Mazda 3. The handling, the ride quality, the engine. And I think the cabin looks great for what it is. The overall look is simple and straightforward. There's no mistaking it's an economy car, but at the same time, it manages to avoid feeling cheap.
One thing bugs, though: the mismatched fonts shown above. Well, "bugs" might be overstating it. But most other things in the cabin are so well-thought-out that this misstep seems out of place.
Love the font used in the display on the left. So clean, so crisp.
Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor
July 02, 2012
Eating in the car? Okay. Spilling a cup of melted, frozen yogurt? Not so much. Imagine my surprise when, after about two hours of "Eye Spy with My Little Eye... something that is brown" turned into this. It turns out going dead straight with said cup of brown liquid balancing on the armrest is fine. It's that first exit ramp when things go sploosh! So, let's hear it for pleather. A bowl of soapy water and a handful of paper towels and all was forgiven.
Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 11,453 miles
June 06, 2012
Look Ma, no glare. Well, not much, anyway. The interior of our 2012 Mazda 3 is not decorated with the obnoxious sort of chrome trim found elsewhere, the kind that tends to shoot laser-like reflections right back at you when the sun shines in through the windows just so.
This afternoon I arrived home with the sun at just such an angle, and I was struck by the fact that I was not being struck by anything that required a defensive squint posture, a quick donning of sunglasses or the sort of shield move one executes with an open palm.
At the same time, the silver paint does a good job of mimicing aluminum. It adds a bit of character to the various knobs without being tacky or overly brilliant from a reflective standpoint.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 10,415 miles
June 04, 2012
I won't revive the great three-dial debate here. But I will say that I like knowing the interior temperature of the car. I have info on the outside temperature. Why not an interior degree report?
May 22, 2012
Maybe it's because we're assembling the perfect road trip play list over on our Facebook page. Or maybe it's because of a story I read on the release of the "Route 66" box set. Whatever is driving it, I would love, love, love to make a road trip this summer.
As I ran about town in our Mazda 3 last night, I had to ask myself: Is this car up to such a challenge? I think it could do the job. Although I do think that the massive plain of black desolation that is the dash across the passenger side would drive me nuts somewhere around Nebraska.
But what say you? If you were to head out like our heroes here, would you drive the Mazda 3 on US Route 20 from Newport, Oregon to Boston Massachusetts (3,365 miles)? Would you ply Route 66? Assuming we can't get that Corvette, what car in our fleet would you take? And on what iconic road?
Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @9,728 miles
April 25, 2012
Parents or potential parents should consider this when shopping the Mazda 3. Rear-facing child seats are massive. Their depth consumes considerable longitudinal space. So much so that with this child seat behind the driver's side I can't access my preffered seating position. I'm only 5'9" but I've got a 32-inch inseam. Anyone exceeding those dimensions will have bigger problems.
Of course, had I actually engaged my brain, I'd have put the rear-facing seat on the passenger side where my 5'4" wife sits. That is, after all, what we did when we owned one of these cars.
Anyway, it can still be done. I sacrificed a few inches of legroom, but I managed. Even so, that kid looks none too thrilled.
Josh Jacquot, Senior editor
April 19, 2012
This was one of my favorite features on the first-generation Mazda 3 and it continues in the second-generation car. Meaningful space for more than just the owner's manual in the glovebox is truly practical.
Hit the jump for the full tour.
Daily use items -- like our fuel log -- can be kept in the tray portion of the box which is the backside of the door. Less-frequently used necessities -- the owner's manual, baby wipes, Depends -- can be stashed further back in the bin portion of the box.
Josh Jacquot, Senior editor
April 09, 2012
I've decided that for my purposes, the current-generation Mazda 3 hatchback is a lot more practical and desirable as an urban/suburban everyday run-around car than a lot of other cars, both smaller and larger. I would, for example, choose the 3 over our Fiat 500 or our Chevy Sonic -- solely for its great rear visibility.
The Mazda has a large rear glass area, and it extends farther down on the tailgate compared to most other hatches (500 and Sonic, included).
The advantage here is obvious. It's a lot easier to see out the back of the Mazda, so it's easier to park it. And I notice this every time I drive the Mazda.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 7,738 miles
March 28, 2012
There are times when I feel like steering wheel controls are needlessly redundant, and then there are controls like the ones in the Mazda 3. These work better than most for a couple of reasons.
One, you can figure out which one is which without even looking at them. It doesn't take long to learn that the volume is the first rocker switch and the seek the other. Same goes for the hang up button with its braille dot.
Second, the tight arrangement of them makes it easy to hit them all with your thumb. Can't tell you how many cars I've driven that had buttons that required moving your hand around to push one of the buttons. In other words, this setup rewards proper hand placement while driving, not surprising from Mazda though.
Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line
March 27, 2012
I'm a big fan of loaded small cars, and as such I dismiss those who used to say "Why would you pay so much for a Chevy Cruze when you could get a Hyundai Sonata for the same price? It's a bigger car! Bigger is better!"
I don't want a bigger car. I like smaller cars, but I'd still like all the bells and whistles you can get on bigger ones. That's a main reason why I got a Jetta VR6 years ago and it's the reason my wife (then-girlfriend) opted for a '07 Mazda 3s Grand Touring. Our long-termer is also a Grand Touring, albeit in 3i guise that includes the SkyActiv engine.
Mrs. Riswick's 3 s came with then-rare-for-the-class niceties like xenon headlights, automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers leather upholstery, heated seats, an iPod jack and a Bose sound system. Our 2012 Grand Touring with the Tech pack includes all that and adds/supplants it with currently-rare-for-the-class adaptive xenon headlights, eight-way power seats, a compact navigation system, a Bose surround-sound audio system and five-level heated seats. We don't have auto climate controls, but the 3s Grand Touring does and adds dual-zone capability.
If you value a car's size above getting lots of stuff, that's nice. But I'll go the other way on the trade-off scale.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor
March 26, 2012
This has happened to you. I know it has. Happens to me every time I flop down the rear seat in a compact hatchback or sedan. And, until now, I've had only one solution: Walk around to the front passenger door, open it and move the front seat forward so the rear seatback will lie flat.
Fortunately, there's a simple -- and obvious -- solution.
That's right, the small fabric pull tab releases the headrest which allows the seatback to fold flat without the hassle of walking around the car. Also, this position improves rear visibility when seats are in the upright position. I know it's not entirely new, but it sure took a long time to arrive.
Josh Jacquot, Senior editor
February 22, 2012
There's an intriguing little plastic door to the left of the navigation screen in our Mazda 3. It's right in front of the driver's face so it must be important, right?
Here is what's underneath:
It's a funny looking setup. We assumed it must be something to do with how you update the navigation maps. But there is no visible card slot.
The navigation manual confirms it is indeed how you update the map information. Underneath the plastic cover, there is another cover that you slide out of the way. You can't see a card slot until you get past the second door. There you will find the SD card of the nav map data. You simply swap SD cards and close everything back up. You can get the latest card from a Mazda dealer.
Sounds easy enough, but does it have to be in front of the driver instead of hidden somewhere less conspicuous?
Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 5,625 miles
February 17, 2012
I don't know how many times I've been behind the wheel of a Mazda 3 -- a lot, I presume; I owned one -- but each and every time I drive one, I'm tricked by the bright red information in the instrument cluster.
On this one it's the D for drive, on the last one it was the trip and odo. When parked it looks nice. Red's a cool color. But every. single. time. I pass a spoke of the wheel over the IP and see a quick flash of red, I panic and think that there's a dummy warning light.
I've been trained that things flashing red are bad and this one, a big red light smack in the middle of everything, sets off my warning alarms every time. This phenomenon is doubly true at night. Triply so if you're hustling down a dark canyon miles from anything.
I can't think of another car that gets me to think it's broken every time I pass the wheel over the gauges. Even our Juke, which has a bunch of red information up there, doesn't illicit the same response. Maybe it's the size or the fact that it's just a big, simple letter. Either way, if I'm not used to it now, I probably never will be.
Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Inside Line @ 5,178 miles
FWIW, here are the actual warning lights.
January 31, 2012
I noticed that our latest Mazda still gives you the ol' "Zoom Zoom" sign when you start it up. Mazdas have been doing this for years, so it's almost expected at this point. But it did get me thinking about the now tired slogan.
At what point will somebody at Mazda say, "You know, we haven't really used the whole 'zoom zoom' in a long time. maybe it's time to move on."
Sure, "zoom zoom" was an advertising tag line and a company motto of sorts, but even if Mazda still adheres to the idea of it, plastering it across the dashboard every time one of its cars is turned on is going to get old at some point, if it hasn't already.
Wonder what the dashboard will say then?
Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line
January 26, 2012
I agree wholeheartedly with Josh on this one. Seeing the three dial climate control setup on our Mazda 3 was a welcome relief. It was a bit unexpected as our Mazda 3 is otherwise loaded up with all sorts of high-tech features.
I haven't done a full checklist yet, but so far I've noticed that it has rain-sensing wipers, active headlights, a navigation system and Bluetooth connectivity. Those are typically the kind of features you get when you load a car up with every last package, and those packages almost always include some kind of automatic climate control. Glad to see this wasn't the case here and I still much prefer the ease of use that comes with a three-dial setup.
Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line
January 17, 2012
I remember Michael Jordan commenting on the subtle downgrading of interior materials in 2012 Mazda 3 i Grand Touring. And I remember at the time, I thought, oh, it can't be really be appreciably worse than the stuff in our Mazdaspeed 3, can it?
But it really kind of is. The new black plastic on the audio head unit collects oily fingerprint smudges like my Dell Latitude E6410's keyboard does during periods of furious typing in auto show press rooms. It's kind of gross. And, no, we never had this problem in our 2012 Mazdaspeed 3, which had this head unit. (Regrettably, these aren't the best photos; I'll take some more the next time I'm around the car during daylight hours.)
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 4,052 miles
January 13, 2012
Mazda is offering too many engines on the 2012 Mazda 3, and if you haven't read up on the Skyactiv technologies, you're liable to make the wrong choice.
Our long-termer's brand-new, 155-hp, direct-injected, 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G four-cylinder engine is stuffed in-between the old 148-hp, 2.0-liter MZR engine and the 167-hp, 2.5-liter engine (which is a bored/stroked version of the 2.0 MZR motor).
Neither of these older engines is as efficient as the new Skyactiv-G engine, but several of you have written here that you'd still go for the 2.5-liter for its extra torque (166 lb-ft vs. a 148-lb-ft rating on the new engine). And to that I say, well, you really need to experience the new transmissions that come with the 2.0 Skyactiv-G engine before you make up your mind. Low-end grunt is nice and all, but I'll trade that for the new six-speed automatic's super-smooth upshifts and very quick, rev-matched downshifts any day of the week.
Regrettably, I can't be at every Mazda dealership to tell you what to do. And the automaker is taking a far more subtle approach of letting customers know that there's something special about i Touring and i Grand Touring models with the Skyactiv drivetrains. To start, these models all have blue halos on their gauges; other Mazda 3s have gray rings.
There's another blue ring in each headlight assembly. Since our i Grand Touring model has the Technology package, said headlights are bi-xenons.
Finally, the Skyactiv models have this badge on the lower right side of the their hatch or trunk lid. This area is blank, of course, on sedans with the base MZR engine, while s Touring and s Grand Touring models have the usual 2.5 badge. Now, of course, one of my new commuting games is to tally up all the Skyactiv-badged 3s I see. So far, I've seen very few.
These details are too subtle, I think, and I'm not sure most buyers will notice them.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 3,854 miles
January 09, 2012
This weekend our 2012 Mazda 3 was my conveyance about the city. And I have to say that I loved it. Honestly I can see myself owning this car as it suits my needs as a city girl with a dog (no dog report here though but stay tune). Easy to maneuver in congested traffic, consequently easy to park. And it's actually fun to drive and bonus that it gets decent mpg. How often do you see both those qualities in a car?
Even though I'm an "enthusiastic" driver, I still managed to get about 31.5 mpg, just below the 32 EPA. Also it checks some of the other boxes for my simple likes in a daily driver:
-- Effective seat heaters. These go to 5 and the hottest point of this highest setting is intense. I actually found myself flicking the level down a notch! I know, riight?
-- Responsive and easy automanual shifter.
-- Straightforward controls. "Oh, there's the button for the trip, there's the one for the fuel door." Plus three knobs for climate controls. No guesswork, no reading manuals. All you have to do is look.
Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 3,795 miles
December 26, 2011
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
December 22, 2011
This is what's going on in both footwells of our Mazda 3. It annoys me as I'm constantly catching it in my peripheral vision at night. And it can't be turned off.
Its brightness can be adjusted via this knob to the left of the steering wheel, but it can't be turned off.
Josh Jacquot, Senior editor
December 21, 2011
As it should be.
Josh Jacquot, Senior editor
December 21, 2011
When I look around at the interior of the Mazda 3, I dont see design. Instead I see the state of the currency exchange rate between the Japanese yen and the American dollar, currently 77Y to $1.
For years Japanese car-makers have dreaded the declining value of the dollar because it cuts into the profit margin of the manufacturing process in Japan. It was an exchange rate of 80Y/$1 which everyone feared, a level that then was considered catastrophic. Toyota began to prepare for this more than a decade ago (as did Volkswagen), and now every Japanese and European manufacturer is doing the same. Even so, Toyota has recently admitted that it cant make a profit on Japanese-built subcompacts like the Yaris at the current exchange rate.
You can see the evidence of the same issue in the Mazda 3s interior.
Once youre behind the steering wheel and take a look around the Mazda 3s cabin, you find places where things dont look quite right. Sometimes its the materials, sometimes its the architecture, and sometimes its simply the color. These are places where money is being saved. And whenever you make similar observations in other cars, youre seeing evidence of the same issues.
Its kind of a miracle that the Mazda 3 has been improved in so many respects considering the circumstances. You cant just make cars for free, you know.
Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com
December 20, 2011
There are a number of trade-offs that buyers face when looking for a new car. For example, our 2012 Mazda3 has a fuel efficient Skyactiv engine and a nice list of features, but it isnt the top trim. For an additional $600 (add an extra $800 for the automatic), you can get the S Grand Touring with a 2.5 liter engine and a number of other features. This makes for a tough choice for Mazda3 shoppers.
On the one hand, the Skyactiv engine is 28 percent more fuel efficient (7 mpg combined) than the 2.5 liter engine. It costs less and has most, but not all, of the features from the S Grand Touring.
The 2.5 liter engine makes about 13 more horsepower and 20 more pound feet of torque. This engine is a nice compromise between the eco-minded Skyactiv and the hyperactive Mazdaspeed3. The 2.5 also gives you the option to get a manual transmission.
The S Grand Touring also includes a number of items exclusive to this trim level: 17-inch wheels, fog lights (optional on i Grand Touring), keyless entry with push button start, LED tail lights, navigation and power side mirrors with turn indicators.
If it was my money, I'd wait for the diesel Skyactiv. But if I had to choose between these two, I would probably go with the Skyactiv. I'm fine with paying more for frivolous items like LED tail lights and turn indicators on the mirrors, but I could never get over paying 28 percent more for gas.
What would you choose?
Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate @ 2,908 miles
December 17, 2011
Ehh, What's Up, Doc?
Ok, it's a stretch. But that looks like bunny teeth to me.
Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor