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 3 Skyactiv: 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 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: The Road Ahead?

October 15, 2012

Car Guy's Nightmare

A little over two years ago, I applied Mazda's Shinari concept design language to our Mazdaspeed 3. Reviews were mixed, but now that the Mazda 6 has been out in the open for a while, I thought I'd revive this thread.

I still like the application of the Shinari grille. But then again, anything is better than the silly smiley face. But what I'm really hoping for from the next Mazda 3 is a greatly improved cabin. To me, the current interior has a lot of room for improvement. There's plenty of hard plastics and the integration of the infotainment screen is one of the worst I've seen. It shouldn't take much to bring it up to date, I think.

With any luck, Mazda would use the Ford Focus' interior as a target, as it seems significantly nicer than anything in that segment. As for the exterior, well, I doubt they'd go as far as my concept, but I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the cues survive.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: Driven Back-To-Back

September 21, 2012

I've driven our Mazda 3 quite a bit in the past six months. Now I've driven our Subaru Impreza for the first time. Coming out of the Mazda and going into the Subaru does present the opportunity to notice some differences. Thoughts on driving the cars back-to-back follow.

One of the first things I noticed between these two cars is the steering. Through the wheel, the 3 feels nimble, light and eager to turn in compared to the Impreza, which feels heavier and more resistant. It sort of like the 3 says "Hey, let's go party!" while the Impreza says "I think I'm going to stay in and watch Homeland."

But there's some latent capability in the Subaru. I've only driven it around town, but it does seem to offer more grip around corners. As we've covered previously, the 3's tires are rock hard and not big on grip. Test track numbers are also in the Subaru's favor (66.2 mph in the slalom compared to the 3's 63.7 mph).

The situation is reversed when it comes to throttle response. The Impreza, through its CVT, revs up fairly quickly when accelerating from a stop, whereas the Mazda can feel sluggish. This gives the impression that the Impreza is the quicker of the two. But in terms of numbers, the 3 is actually quicker, with a 0-60 time of 8.9 seconds versus the Impreza's 9.7 seconds. And while I need to spend more time with the Subaru and its CVT, so far I prefer the Mazda's traditional six-speed as it seems calmer around town.

In terms of ride quality and road noise, the Subaru is the smoother and quieter of the two cars.

Both cars have great fuel range. The Mazda's doing a lot better in terms of fuel economy, though.

As for the interiors, the Mazda is certainly more stylish to my eyes thanks to its two-tone design. The Impreza comes off as being rather drab in comparison. But the Subaru has superior interior storage (more places to put your cell phone, wallet, etc) and, for me, a more comfortable driving position. I prefer the Mazda for outward visibility, though this runs counter to what Michael Jordan wrote earlier. The Subaru has more rear legroom. Both cars have easy-to-fold rear seats.

I'll withhold judgment on which car I like more since I've spent a lot more time with the Mazda than the Subaru. But overall I'm glad we have the two cars in the fleet at the same time.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: My Top 10 Favorite Things About Our 3

September 17, 2012

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I do like our Mazda 3 quite a bit. I'd certainly recommend it to somebody looking to buy a small sedan or hatchback. But then I was thinking about what exactly I like about it. (Got to back up the recommendation, you know.) So here are my top 10 favorite attributes.

1. Hatchback utility
2. High fuel economy
3. Nimble handling
4. Responsive automatic transmission
5. Proper manual shift orientation (pull for upshift, push for downshift)
6. Two-tone interior looks pretty classy
7. Easy-to-reach audio controls
8. Bluetooth streaming audio
9. Good outward visibility
10. Adaptive xenon headlights

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 15,271 miles

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: I'd Buy One

September 3, 2012

I'm not in the market for a car, but were I after a do-all daily driver a 2012 Mazda 3 like our longtermer would be high on the list. I'd go for the manual gearbox, of course, even though the auto is quite good.

The 3 has perennially been a strong player but it took the injection of serious fuel economy via its SkyActiv 2.0-liter powertrain to propel it into the 'no-brainer' category of my book. We've seen that it delivers outstanding fuel economy in the real world, too, and isn't just playing some window sticker game. 

That's not to say I wouldn't mind some extra grunt in the 3. With the 2.0-liter, it's adequate, but wouldn't it be great if...

...the recently-announced 2.5-liter SkyActiv  in the upcoming 2014 Mazda 6 found its way into the 3? 

After all, the SkyActiv bits are all interchangeable like Legos, and in US guise the 2.5 will generate something like 175 hp and 170 lb-ft by my estimation. Just the right dose of extra motivation I'd like to see in the 3. 

I'm guessing this pairing of 2.5 to 3 won't happen -- if it does indeed happen -- until the current-generation 3 is replaced with an all-new one in model year 2015. And a 2.5-equipped 3 is likely to drop a couple of mpg compared to the 2.0... hmm. Yeah, a SkyActiv-D (diesel)-equipped 3 would be awesome, but would also likely be expensive.  

What'd be your preferred future powertrain for the 3 -- 2.5-liter gasoline? Or diesel? Manual or auto?

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: Car Guy's Nightmare, Part 2

August 29, 2012

Car Guy's Nightmare

Remember last Tuesday when a hotel valet service lost the key to our long-term 2012 Mazda 3 stranding the car at an L.A. area hotel for 27 hours?

Well, on Saturday (four days ago), I got a call from the valet manager that another customer had found the key to our Mazda in their car and returned the key to the hotel. He asked if I'd like him to deliver the key to my house.

"No, I'd like you to Fedex the key to my office, please." (I tend not to invite valet managers over to my personal domicile. It's nothing against him personally, just a precaution I'd take in any large metropolitan area.)

He was polite and agreed to honor my request. And he already had my office address since I'd filled out a claim form with the hotel.

As of Tuesday, though, I still didn't have the key.

Then, I got a voicemail from the manager while working out in the field yesterday.

"Hello, I couldn't mail your key yesterday due to a family emergency. However, I will Fedex it today -- or I can come by your house and give it to you. I'm in Santa Monica. But you'd have to call me back in the next 15 minutes."

I did not call him back. But fortunately, this morning the key arrived, tucked securely in several layers of bubble wrap, via Fedex. So, eight days later, the case of the missing key is officially closed. And we're glad to have our original equipment key fob back.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor.

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: Time for a Change

August 27, 2012

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My friend Matt, a car geek, always asks me what car I'm driving when I stop by his ice cream shop. When I told him that it was our long-term 2012 Mazda 3, he was less than impressed. "They haven't changed that in forever, right?" he asked. "Well, they changed its engine..." I started to say but he already tuned out.

He has a point though. Personally I can't wait until Mazda redesigns the look of the Mazda 3. It's a popular car because it's a great all-rounder, so it feels like I see it EVERYwhere.

Unfortunately, a news report recently talked about a face-lifted 2012 Mazda 3 coming out mid-October but only in terms of getting the "new Skyactiv 2.0 direct-injection gasoline engine and six-speed automatic transmission." Foiled again.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: Car Guy's Nightmare

August 22, 2012

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It has been a bizarre 30 hours with our long-term 2012 Mazda i Touring Skyactiv hatchback. As Kelly Toepke wrote, I needed a Camry rescue yesterday. It's not often Kelly and I get to carpool, and I really enjoyed the conversation, which is made easier by the Camry's relatively quiet cabin and pleasant 405-freeway ride, but I wish this opportunity had come up due to better circumstances. Here's what happened.

Early Tuesday morning, I left the Mazda in the care of the valet staff at this hotel. I was attending a work-related event, and there was no self-park option so I just had to trust that our humble hatchback would be treated decently.

Five hours later, I handed a valet staffer my validated ticket and requested that he please retrieve the Mazda 3. Then, I stood in the warm sun, overloaded computer bag on my shoulder. A friend came up and we talked as he waited for his car. His car arrived and we said goodbye. I continued to wait.

Finally, the valet employee, who I'd interacted with that morning, and asked what kind of car did I have? Uh...

"You remember me, right?" I said. "I'm the tall, whiny lady with the dark blue Mazda 3 hatchback." (If you knew me, you'd understand the 'whiny' part. I like things the way I like them.)

"Oh... yeah." He got back on the radio. Minutes later, I heard the person on the other end of the radio say the fateful words "lost key."

Then, the employee holding the radio began lightly swearing.

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2012 Mazda 3 Skyactiv: Welcome to Monterey

August 20, 2012

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"We've been waiting for you," the really very young valet guy told me as the Mazda 3 and I pulled into a hotel parking garage near Monterey's Cannery Row.

"Really?"

"Yeah, there's a spot saved for you."

"Are you sure I won't get towed?" I asked as I backed into this very spot.

Ten minutes later, it turned out he was not. He'd mistaken me for a McLaren executive. And I don't know about the Mazda 3... perhaps it's the front-engine, front-drive hatchback McLaren would build if it was in the business of building of front-engine, front-drive hatchbacks?

In any case, the 3 was relocated to steerage and I was given a normal valet ticket.

I'd been on the road for hours at that point, but I was in a good mood. Driver-seat comfort in the Mazda isn't bad, and in spite of the car's reputation as the sporty car of the budget car class, the ride is sufficiently compliant.

 

The headlights are also very good if you end up with the Grand Touring model. They're adaptive xenons, and the adaptability of said lights when you add steering input is about as good as any high-end car with this feature. I had no problems seeing through the turns on Highway 68 and 17-Mile Drive in the dark -- and this came in handy as I made repeated runs down these roads during my weekend on the Monterey Peninsula.

I'll post fuel economy numbers from the trip later this week.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 14,414 miles

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: Wait, I Do Like Front Plates

August 13, 2012

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Over the weekend, I had occasion to street-park the Mazda 3 in a parking-starved area of Eagle Rock. I happened upon a space that had room for 1.75 Mazda 3 hatchbacks. I didn't want anyone to park behind me, so I backed up all the way to where the unpainted curb turned to red, leaving room in front of me for a Mini or Smart. Instead, we came back from dinner to find a Camry had made room.

And although California's front plate requirement has brought me considerable inconvenience over the years, it offered some peace of mind/more crumple zone in this situation. Mind you, I couldn't find a single love mark left by the Camry, so I guess the driver managed this feat without touching (or just without leaving a mark). Next time, I won't leave so much room.

A wider shot, taken by by my spouse with his BlackBerry.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 13,140 miles

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: How Blue

August 06, 2012

mazda3-shoe.jpg Mazda calls this paint, Indigo Lights. The Gap calls her shoes, Becca Blue.

I call them a perfect match.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 12,951 miles

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: Trouble in River City

August 03, 2012

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No, these 2012 Mazda 3 Skyactiv hatchbacks are not being given the suspension walkaround treatment by dealer staffers. Instead this tiny Mazda dealership in Brookings, Oregon has been hit by tire-slashing vandals, with about a dozen Mazda 3 sedans and hatchbacks taking it in the sidewalls.

These two are up on jackstands awaiting new tires; the white car and others behind it are sitting on their rims waiting for their turn on the jackstands. Oddly, a Mazdaspeed 3 and numerous CX-5 SUVs nearby escaped unharmed.

This kind of thing makes my blood boil.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing 

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: Parking Lot Door Dent

August 03, 2012

mazda3-dent1.jpg There was only one spot open when I pulled the Mazda 3 into the store's small parking lot, and I carefully nosed the hatchback into the average-sized space. It was made slightly narrower by the Porsche Panamera that was backed in on my left, a little right of center in his own space.

I had plenty of room to get out of the driver's door, which I did extra carefully when I realized there was a guy in the Panamera talking on a phone. I didn't want him to think I was just gonna go banging recklessly around his new wheels.

As we headed across the parking lot to the store, my daughter said, looking back, "Mom, that guy just opened his door into our car."

"What?!" I said, stopping cold, and already ticked because I knew he had plenty of room if he decided to get out.

"Nevermind," she said. "I'm wrong," when he didn't emerge from the car. "I thought he opened his door."

We continued into the store, and came back out in less than five minutes.

The Porsche was gone, and there was indeed about a 4 inch vertical dent in the Mazda's left rear door.

What do you think? Did he do it on purpose?

Kelly Toepke, News Editor

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: Foot Race

July 31, 2012

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I had a less-is-more moment as I got into our Mazda 3 last night. I'd just spent the weekend in the big, gas-hoggy and tech-heavy Infiniti JX35, which has quite a vocabulary of safety beeps and proximity alerts. With that in mind, it was refreshing to start up a car that's small, simple and abstemious. And not quite so talkative.

This isn't meant to be a comparison of those two cars -- that would be absurd. Each has its place and purpose. Sometimes you want a pair of Cole Haan peep-toe sling backs with five-inch heels (or I would, anyway, as long as I didn't have to walk far). But some days, what you need are Dansko Professional clogs: comfortable, unassuming and sure-footed.  Yesterday, the Mazda 3 was the shoo-in.

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @ 12,769 miles

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: Ode to Joyful Parking

July 11, 2012

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The Mazda 3 is not the car you drive to the Hollywood Bowl. In my humble opinion, no car is, unless you have super-deluxe valet parking privileges. Parking at the concert venue is an unrelenting nightmare. The Mazda 3 is, however, the perfect car to take to the Park & Ride bus that takes you to the Bowl.

The Mazda 3's hatch will easily hold a picnic basket, backpacks and stadium seat cushions. It's small enough to park easily in the shopping-mall lot that serves as the bus staging area. It's inconspicuous enough to avoid being a thief magnet while you're gone.

As to the image on the screen: It's the brainchild of Herman Kolgen of the J. Paul Getty Museum. He created a video to go with the last movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, and in it, joy expresses itself as a sinuous kudzu-like vine that overtakes streets, buildings and even parking meters, painting a gray world in shades of green. Works for me.

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @12,083 miles

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2012 Mazda3 SkyActiv: Road Trippin

July 02, 2012

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Okay, why don't all gas-station squeegees have 30-inch handles? Typically reserved for truck stops, the squeeeeeeege enabled single-sided bug removal. It's also nice the wipers pop all the way up -- also from one side. One thing we need to take care of is our Sirius subscription. As my local FM stations faded away, I went to the satellite radio and discovered the freebie period had run out.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 11,248 miles

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: Great Party Prep Car

June 25, 2012

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I had some friends over to CasaHashi this weekend and made sure to snag the Mazda 3 since I knew I was going to have to run a lot of errands and transport a lot of stuff. It wasn't a large gathering, but there was a LOT of food to haul.

After a trip to New Orleans this spring, and falling in love with the cuisine, I decided to cook up a Nawlins' feast. Gumbo, collard greens, fried chicken and boiled crawfish had me buzzing all around L.A. in the Mazda. I had to pick up some folding tables and a propane tank, too.

Unfortunately, the Mazda got towed from in front of my house, which put a big dent in my plans. Poor placement of "Temporary No Parking" signs were the culprit. An hour and $200 later (and an endless litany of expletives), I was back on track, but fuming mad.

Once I picked up 15 pounds of live crawfish from my favorite butcher, along with about 2 pounds of lard, I started feeling better. Then I smelled something of concern. The Styrofoam box was leaking crawfish water in the trunk. Within a mile, the Mazda stunk like a 30-year-old fish truck. Whoops.

As soon as I got back home, I pulled the trunk carpeting, hosed it down and sprayed it with Lysol. I also sprayed the trunk floor and left the sunroof cracked. I must have caught it in time, because the car smells normal now.

With all the driving to and fro, the Mazda made for a great party prep car. It had enough space for everything and was easy to park in crowded lots and on the street. I think picking this car over one of our SUVs was a smart move.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 11,028 miles

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: What Does Racing Prove, Part 2

June 04, 2012

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Just when you think that there can't possibly be another flavor of Mazda's MZR inline-4 engine, another one comes along. This weekend Mazda announced that it's going to build a racing version of its 2.2-liter MZR-CD diesel, an engine that is now sold in the Europe and is scheduled for introduction in the U.S. soon. 

The 2.2-liter, Skyactiv-D racing engine uses the stock motor's block, cylinder head, and common-rail injection components, but a dual-stage turbocharger, upgraded internals, and a 14:1 compression ratio enable it to produce 400 hp. Mazda claims the racing engine is 10 percent lighter than the stock engine and reduces internal friction by 20 percent.

This racing engine will be showcased in Grand-Am's new GX class of high-tech sports cars with production-style silhouettes.

Aside from my own fascination with all the different uses to which the Mazda MZR engine has been put -- both in street cars and in racing cars --  the Skyactiv-D shows me that even in a world where mpg is more important than mph, there's still room for trick engine technology.

Maybe the Mazda 3 will still be fun to drive in the future after all.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: 10K in the Rearview Mirror

May 31, 2012

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I was about 20 minutes into a 100-plus mile trip home from a driving event in La Jolla this morning when I realized that our Mazda 3 had clicked past the 10,000-mile mark. I was zipping along in the pre-dawn hours in an effort to beat burgeoning traffic, so it took a while for me to snap the odo.

I'm sorry that I missed catching it on the dot. It's such a fun moment. 

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @10,118 miles

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: Cross-Country Contender?

May 22, 2012

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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

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: What Does Racing Prove?

May 18, 2012

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So you're driving around in this little Mazda 3 wagonette and it's easy to wonder what it has to do with the whole racing persona that Mazda has created for itself. After all, what other car company has its name on a race track?

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Is this some sort of advertising scam? What does it have to do with a thrifty sort of runabout with a four-cylinder engine?  You know, not exactly Formula 1, eh?

And yet once you step into the arena at Laguna Seca for the American Le Mans Series, you start to get the idea. It seems like every racing car in the place has a Mazda MZR four-cylinder engine at the business end.

In street trim, the 200-hp MZR powers the Miatas in the Mazda MX-5 Playboy Cup . A 230-hp MZR powers the DP02 cars in Cooper Tires Prototypes Lites 1. A 500-hp turbocharged MZR-R powers Dyson Racing's Lola B12/66 in the LMP1 class of the American Le Mans Series.

Meanwhile, you can go to other race tracks on this same day and you'll find Mazdas of almost every persuasion in competition. As Mazda keeps telling us, it has a whole ladder going that can take you from go-karts to the 24 Hours of Le Mans .

It's easy to think of this as simply advertising, like money thrown into the street. After all, bright guys have been saying for decades that there's no business case for motorsports.

Of course, Henry Ford would disagree, because he used speed and performance to prove the performance of the 80-hp "999," which finally made his name in the car business after several false starts. Since then, any car company with a shortage of advertising dollars and a lot to prove has chosen motorsports to do it, notably Ferrari and Porsche.

Mazda has been doing the same since it first put its name above the title at Laguna Seca in 2001 and has just renewed its contract until 2016. And unlike most title sponsors, it has used its involvement to good effect, establishing its heritage, creating a program that sells $8M in parts to amateur racers every year, and even achieving a substantial presence in the Monterey community.

So when I think about the state of small four-cylinder engines today, which are largely featherweight, highly stressed power plants with cooling and oiling systems barely capable of keeping all the components alive, the Mazda MZR under the Mazda 3's hood seems like a miracle of engineering in comparison.

And when the Dyson Lola B12/66-Mazda goes by , I can practically feel the breeze. For me, racing proves something. When I see my brand on the track, I feel better about what I drive. It might be advertising, but it sure works on me.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: Why Does This Remind Me of Star Wars?

May 16, 2012

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Geek Alert.

For some reason the vents in the Mazda 3 remind me of Star Wars. Is it Darth Vader's TIE Fighter? Or perhaps the window where Luke fights Vader in front of the Emperor.

There's also a good chance that everything reminds me of Star Wars.

What do you think?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 9,531 miles

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: What To Do With $25,000

May 11, 2012

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Our 2012 Mazda 3 has an MSRP of $25,520. It's an excellent urban runabout with just about every Mazda 3 feature included, plus great utility and fuel economy. But it's not very exciting.

Alternate choice: for $24,795 MSRP, you could get a Mazdaspeed 3, just without the Technology package.

Of course, it's easy to say "I'd buy the MS3!" But would you really in the real world, with the added insurance, stiffer ride, lower fuel economy and manual-only transmission?

So what say you?

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: Size Is Relative

May 09, 2012

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I was amused a few days ago after parking our Mazda 3 for some shopping and looking at its lot mates. The 3 is quite practical thanks to its hatchback body style, and rarely do I find it limiting or "small." But clearly it is "small" when parked next to an M-Class and a CR-V, neither of which is exactly "big" in the automotive world.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 9,178 miles

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: Kumbaya

April 18, 2012

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The white car is my mother-in-law's pre-Skyactiv 2011 3. There's another Mazda in the garage. 

I guess we're a Mazda family.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor 

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2012 Mazda 3 Skyactiv: Color Critique

April 04, 2012

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My two favorite colors are red and blue. I know, way to get crazy, right? But I definitely don't like my blues to border on purple. And that's exactly what's happening with the color of our long-term Mazda 3.

It's officially called Indigo Lights Mica, but it has way too much of a purple hue for my tastes, especially in the right (or wrong) lighting conditions. My limited photography skills weren't able to quite capture its full purple-ish-ness here, but at least there's an interesting car in the background.

Edmunds photog specialist Kurt Niebuhr explained that what I'm seeing is a dash of magenta wafting throughout the Mazda's otherwise blue metallic paint. Okay, whatever...art major.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 7,328 miles.

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: Front Plate Installed

March 02, 2012

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We already had a bracket mounted on the front of our long-term 2012 Mazda 3, but we didn't have screws for the front license plates, so today I bought a couple and finished the job.

Front license plates are a bit of hassle (mainly when you're driving without one... I've been pulled over and issued a citation before), but my main complaint here is that our Mazda was issued a set of the new-style California plates that have the URL for the Department of Motor Vehicles' website on them.

I don't like having advertising on license plates (beyond the state name itself, that is), even if it's for a government agency website that California residents already know how to find anyway. It's not as bad as the MyFlorida(.com) plates, but still it's an eyesore, albeit a very minor eyesore. I've always thought personalized plates were a waste of money, but I'd pay more not to have a URL on my tags.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 5,598 miles

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: Acceptable Use of Plastic

February 29, 2012

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Never a big fan of plastic engine covers. They usually look so out of place, mostly because they're tacked on as an afterthought.

Now, I'm not saying that the Mazda 3's engine cover is a work of art, but at least it looks as though someone took more than a few minutes to design it. The fact that it's blue is part of the Skyactiv theme, so it has nothing to do with the exterior color. A lid to cover the crankcase cap and dipstick would have been a nice touch, but on a car in this price range that's probably too much to ask.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: Hmm, That's Gonna Leave a Mark

February 28, 2012

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OK, this news isn't specific to our 2012 Mazda 3 but it is something for fans of seat heaters (i.e. me and Donna) to be aware of, especially when using a seat heater as effective as that in our Mazda.

So apparently, a new study shows that avid users of this popular car feature may be in danger of suffering from something called Toasted Skin Syndrome. It's not so much a burn as it is a rash caused by prolonged exposure to a heat source. Like how when you sit next to a fireplace too long or a space heater. Fortunately, the initial discoloration isn't permanent and will fade with time. If you do it all the time, however, "doctors say people who get the rash most often can also end up with a permanent tint in their skin." (CBS Local) Eek.

But at least now I won't be so quick to grumble over the fact that the Audi A8L's seat heater only goes on for 10 minutes or that the Infiniti M56 doesn't get hot enough. Still, bummer since this is one of my most favorite features in a car.

By the way, check out the list of warnings about the seat warmers listed in the Mazda 3's owner's manual. Drunk and fatigued people beware!


Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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2012 Mazda 3 Skyactive: My Left Foot

February 23, 2012

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Who knew that left-foot braking is such a mystery? Apparently if you’re a left-foot braker like me it makes you into some kind of secret freak, as if you had been abducted by aliens and then let loose to subvert normal right-foot-braking humans.

I’ve taken it for granted that everyone knows that this is a racing technique, not just in rallying but in all forms of racing, from stock cars to Formula 1. Plus, everyone has driven the go-karts down there next to the miniature golf place, right?

Of course, the question is, does left-foot braking have a place on the street? 

The left-foot braking thing came to me long ago when Bob Sinclair at Saab brought Swedish rally driver Stig Blomqvist to the U.S. and made him road race the Saab 99, which looked as big as a bus compared to the other street stock cars it competed against. With left-foot braking, Blomqvist could do that whole Scandinavian-flick cornering thing on dirt or gravel, but he told us that on asphalt it was all about damage control on the outside front tire.

Soon after that, left-foot braking became a big thing in road racing, and Don Knowles (recently honored by the Road Racing Drivers Club) became its most famous exponent. Then the racing schools starting discussing the technique because it addresses the whole friction circle thing, where you attempt to balance the load of braking, cornering and accelerating on all four tires.

After that, the open-wheel racers starting talking about left-foot braking, especially since the good guys had been using it for years at the Speedway. And then the go-kart generation overwhelmed Formula 1, with Michael Schumacher being the primary exponent. Car designers weren’t leaving enough room in the footbox of open-wheel cars to move your feet around anyway, especially once electro-hydraulic shifting with paddles on the steering wheel were introduced.

The big controversy comes with using left-foot braking on the street.  Some believe it quickens reaction time, though it’s hard to say if this is true. Some say that it compromises your ability to use the dead pedal and brace yourself in the corners, so you end up hanging on the steering wheel instead of using your fingertips the way you should. There might be something to this. At the same time, it’s impractical to use when you’re in the downshift mode with a car with a synchromesh manual transmission and a conventional three-pedal setup. Take a look at the pedal work by NASCAR stock-car racers on road courses  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMZO8EBnmFQ) and rally drivers of the 1980s  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGIiarIrUCI) on YouTube if you want to learn more about where and when left-foot braking is useful.

As for me, I'm a big fan of balancing the car’s weight in the cornering process, doing my best to optimize the car’s cornering attitude according to the whole friction circle thing. Jackie Stewart has told me more than once that the way you get into the brakes and get out of them is crucial for good corner speed, and only hacks stand a car on its nose under braking and then leave the corner with the nose up in the air under acceleration. It’s kind of the same thing as braking earlier and lighter because you’re able to gauge you entry into a corner better, so your speed improves compared to the thing where you stomp on the brake pedal at the last nanosecond.

Of course, left-foot brakers do use up brake material quicker than right-foot brakers, but as several race engineers have reminded me, brake pads are way cheaper than tires or clutches or transmissions, so don’t over-think things. I’ll admit that it’s annoying to follow a left-foot braker because the brake lights are always flashing in a distracting way, as guys on road trips with me often report.

There is a strange divide between right-foot brakers and left-foot brakers, as if they were religious cults. If you’re looking to get educated on the subject, I’ve attached some links below. I have a lot of time for the special site created by the Road Racing Drivers Club. In the old days, we’d be reading books by Paul Frere or Piero Taruffi, utterly confused by the little mathematical diagrams.

You should be glad that there is so much information about fast driving, because there was a time when there was no information at all. I remember F1 and Indy 500 driver Dan Gurney telling me about his first-ever road race at Torrey Pines in San Diego with a Triumph TR-2. Whenever Gurney was braking his car into a corner, he couldn’t figure out why he could hear blipping throttles from all the cars around him. It was only afterward that he and his buddy Skip Hudson heard guys talking about heel-and-toe downshifts.

http://www.safeisfast.com

http://www.driftingstreet.com/braking-technique-left-foot.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMEqOGejlrw
http://www.trackpedia.com/wiki/Left_foot_braking
http://www.formula1blog.com/2010/12/14/the-drivers-seat-right-foot-vs-left-foot-braking-2/ 


Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com

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2012 Mazda 3 SkyActiv: Revolution

February 21, 2012

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Have you seen the new Mazda SkyActiv commercial yet? SkyActiv (as on our long-term 2012 Mazda 3 SkyActiv) is supposed to blend performance with efficiency. SkyActiv works pretty well (though I wish we got the 6MT instead).

The "Revolution" commercial is a cocktail mix of exciting and environmental images, backed by a Bo Diddley soundtrack. It's all topped off with a few clips of the Mazda 787B sports prototype race car that won Le Mans in 1991, with Johnny Herbert behind the wheel (yes, that actually did happen; Mazda was the first -- and only!! -- JPN manufacturer to win Le Mans.)

Hit the jump to see the full-length version of "Revolution" and the 787B in action.

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ ~ 5,300 miles

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: Fast 5,000 Miles

February 15, 2012

 Milestone Banner.jpg  mazda_3_odo_1600.jpg I'm not sure who has been hogging our new Mazda 3, but this is the first time I've driven it. And I took the wheel just in time to watch the odometer flip to 5,000 miles.

I drove it just enough to realize I could really like this car.

Must fight for more seat time.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 5,012 miles

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2012 Mazda 3 Skyactiv: Video Walkaround

February 06, 2012

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Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: When Will the Zoom Zoom End?

January 31, 2012

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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

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: My Kind of Clean Tech

January 27, 2012

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You may have read by now that good ol' California has once again decided that its citizens should drive cleaner cars, specifically those of the electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen variety. A new mandate dictates that 15.4% of all new cars sold in the state must be electric, fuel-cell or plug-in hybrid by 2025.

Most manufactures have supported the measure, largely because most of them have enough products in the pipeline to meet the requirement. That, and there always seems to be a way around it if you don't.

This may look good to the legislators on the California Air Resources Board (CARB), but I prefer the road that Mazda has taken toward improved fuel efficiency. It's far less extreme, but it's also far more palatable to the average consumer. Instead of far reaching technology that requires an all-new infrastructure, Mazda's Skyactiv philosophy merely builds on what's already there. More fuel efficient combustion engines, transmissions that make the best use of those engine and eventually chassis designs that reduce the weight the powertrains have to carry around.

Our Mazda 3 long-termer has a Skyactiv drivetrain already and you would hardly know that it's significantly cleaner and more efficient that a previous Mazda 3. Doesn't cost extra either. Forcing automakers to build cleaner cars is one thing, but you can't force consumers to buy them. Should be interesting to see how it all works out over the next decade or so.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: The Prius and My Left Foot

January 24, 2012

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I confess that I use my left foot to brake. I can’t help it, really.  It all came from a rally in the middle of the night in the Olympic rain forest when it snowed (while driving a Mitsubishi Cordia of all things) and I learned to balance a car while cornering by using the brake.

The Mazda 3 doesn’t entirely like this and will occasionally cut the throttle. Of course, it’s not the Mazda that's the problem, actually. It’s the Toyota Prius, and the panic about unintended acceleration, which of course has since been shown pretty comprehensively to be unintended driver error. 

But in any case, no carmaker wants to risk any confusion with pedal application these days. When you press the brake pedal, the car assumes that you want to slow down. The same thing happened with German carmakers after the Audi 5000 panic in the 1980s (another case comprehensively shown to be unintended driver error).

So the Mazda 3 doesn’t entirely like my left foot.

There are times when I'm left-foot braking into a corner and the throttle will cut completely. Nothing dangerous, but certainly annoying.  And even more annoying when the automatic transmission seems to lose its place for a moment, prolonging the whole episode.

It really only seems to happen at low speed, and apparently there’s nothing more involved than looping the brake lights into the circuitry for the fly-by-wire throttle, or so I’m told. The car just assumes that if both the throttle and the brake are pressed at the same time, the brake should have priority. Most manufacturers have reacted to the Prius episode with similar measures, some simple and some more elaborate.

Toyota actually describes its own technology this way:

“As an added measure of safety, Toyota created the braking system enhancement known as Smart Stop Technology. This advanced technology automatically reduces engine power when both pedals are pressed at the same time under certain conditions.

Smart Stop Technology intervenes when the accelerator is depressed first and the brakes are applied firmly for longer than one-half second at speeds greater than five miles per hour.

In normal driving conditions, you won’t notice Smart Stop Technology as it is imperceptible. The feature doesn’t engage if the brake pedal is depressed before the accelerator pedal. This allows for vehicles starting on a steep hill to safely accelerate without rolling backward (known as hill start).

Toyota has installed Smart Stop Technology in all its new models since the beginning of 2011, making it one of the first full-line manufacturers to offer this braking technology as standard equipment."

All this just means that there are fewer cars that let me use left-foot braking. First German cars and now Japanese cars. There is hope for the future, though. I’m told that Mazda is working on a throttle-cut system that depends on brake pressure, so it’ll tolerate a certain amount of pedal overlap and let you use the brakes to balance the car while cornering. The protocol starts with the forthcoming Mazda CX-5 and will be incorporated with new model launches thereafter.

As the Mazda guy told me, “We are the Zoom-Zoom company, after all.”

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 4,252 miles

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: A Look Underneath

December 23, 2011

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It's Christmas Eve Eve, the perfect time to put our brand spanking new 2012 Mazda 3 up on our brand spanking new 2-post Rotary Lift and photograph its underside. 

Happy Holidays.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3: Separated at Birth?

December 17, 2011

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Ehh, What's Up, Doc?

Ok, it's a stretch. But that looks like bunny teeth to me.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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

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