2012 Mazda 3 Long-Term Road Test - Introduction

2012 Mazda 3 Long-Term Road Test

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2012 Mazda 3: Introduction

With its logical interior, standout looks and best-in-class driving dynamics, the Mazda Mazda3 has been a longtime favorite of the Edmunds staff. We've recommended it to family and friends and even put our own money down on a few.

In a review of the 2010 Mazda Mazda3 s Five-Door Grand Touring we let you in on a little slice of our personal lives. "Three chest-thumping, horsepower-hungry car guys who test-drive new cars for a living here at Edmunds all choose the economical Mazda Mazda3 Five-Door hatch to park in their own driveways."

Unfortunately, not all is perfect in the land of the 3. Both the 2.5- and 2.0-liter engines made good power, but they were crude and returned substandard real-world fuel economy. The car's five-speed automatic wasn't helping anything either.

Mazda's solution to this problem is a new family of engines and transmissions it's calling Skyactiv. In our first drive of the 2012 Mazda 3 Skyactiv-G Grand Touring we wrote, "The fuel mileage is for real with the new drivetrains, and unlike most other approaches to maximizing mpg, they don't put a damper on the fun. Instead, it's quite the opposite. The Mazda Mazda3 has never been better."

The fuel economy is real? The Mazda Mazda3 has never been better? We knew right then we had to add one to our long-term fleet, and now we have in the form of a 2012 Mazda Mazda3 i Five-Door Grand Touring.

What We Got
There are two engine options available for the 2012 Mazda Mazda3 and for perhaps the first time, we didn't get the big one. A 2.5-liter, 167-horsepower inline-4 is available in the S trim and it is, admittedly, the one we want. It is not, however, the volume seller, nor is it the one that is set to take on the 40-mpg club head-on.

No, that motor is the 2.0-liter 155-hp inline-4 that currently sits in our Mazda Mazda3 i. With the new six-speed automatic transmission (finally), this engine earned an EPA-estimated 39 highway and 28 city mpg. For comparison, that's 4 mpg better city fuel economy than the 2012 Mazda 2 with a manual transmission. This powertrain returns 40 mpg in the 2012 Mazda Mazda3 sedan, but sedans are boring and less functional. We'll gladly give up 1 mpg for more cargo space and better looks.

Our 2012 Mazda Mazda3 Grand Touring comes pretty loaded from the factory with a tilt-and-telescoping wheel, leather steering wheel, leather seats and door panel inserts, eight-way power driver seat, heated front seats, 16-inch wheels, 60/40-split folding seats, a 265-watt Bose stereo with 10 speakers, Bluetooth audio and phone and a full-color compact navigation system. Total price for all that plus the 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G engine and Skyactiv-Drive six-speed automatic came to $23,595.

Beyond that we opted for an interior lighting kit for $200, an auto-dim rearview mirror for $275 and the Technology package for $1,400. That last one lumps together blind-spot monitoring, Sirius Satellite Radio, adaptive automatic bi-xenon lights and rain-sensing front wipers. It's hardly a necessary option, but we figured we wanted to see how good a Mazda Mazda3 can get.

All together, this 2012 Mazda Mazda3 i Five-Door Grand Touring in Indigo Lights Metallic with Dune interior stickers for $25,520. Mazda provided us with the vehicle for this test.

Why We Got It
When recommending the Mazda Mazda3 to friends, the conversation frequently ended with just one question. "Seems nice, but does it get good gas mileage?" Our response was always, "Sort of." Now we have a chance to see if that weak point has been fixed without neutering the Mazda Mazda3's other more interesting features.

We expect it will get better mileage, but can the 2012 Mazda Mazda3 with Skyactiv technology deliver on the near 40-mpg promise? That will be a tough number to hit, although our most recent long-term test of the Mazda 2 confirmed that it delivered exactly what the EPA rating said it would.

We'll be tracking that story over the next 12 months and 20,000 miles to find out. Follow along on our Long-Term Road Test blog.

Current Odometer: 1,148
Best Fuel Economy: 41.7
Worst Fuel Economy: 23
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 33

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

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