2012 Mazda 3: A Bright Transmission
December 19, 2011
In due time, we'll have amassed enough fills to quantify our longterm 2012 Mazda 3's real-world fuel economy. Clearly, that is the driving force behind this thing's all-new new "Skyactiv" engine and transmission.
There's no waiting on driving impressions, though, and so far I'm impressed with the new 6-speed autobox. I'll always prefer a stick, but as autos go this one does a lot of things right.
There's very little torque converter syrupyness.
Upshifts and downshifts are quick and smooth.
Downshifts are rev-matched (!)
The shift calibration is cooperative -- downshifts are served up willingly when you dip the throttle.
Yes, this transmission is a big improvement over the old 5-speed automatic in many more ways than just the extra cog. Furthermore its console selector is simply a model for "how to do it right":
The manual gate is canted toward the driver
Push forward for downshifts, pull back for upshifts
Precise, distinct action and effort. Short throws and fluid movement. Feels substantial, too. Unlike that of so many other cars, Mazda's selector was apparently designed by someone who actually uses the manual mode. Thumbs up.
--Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor