2012 Mazda 3 Long-Term Road Test - Audio & Technology

2012 Mazda 3 Long-Term Road Test

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2012 Mazda 3: Boom Boom Bose

October 31, 2012

2012 Mazda 3_Bose.jpg
Bose is one of those companies you're aware of early on as you learn about audio gear. Either someone in your family has a pair of Bose speakers, or someone raves about the noise-cancelling headphones, or you buy a car with a branded audio system. Years ago, my father bought some Bose speakers for the house, the 301 Series II or III, I think. Oak-look cabinets with kinda drab black and khaki grille cloth.

At the time, Bose was touting its port technology, designed to produce stronger bass from smaller cabinets and the eight-inch woofers. Dad was ultimately disappointed and the speakers soon migrated to grandma's house.

You soon learn that Bose makes decent, if overpriced, audio gear. You also learn that they run shrewd marketing campaigns. The Bose system in our Mazda 3 is pretty good though, better than any compact car's system has a right to be. It came standard on our Grand Touring package, but it's available -- bundled with a sunroof -- for $1,400 on the lower iTouring trim with automatic transmission (but not the manual). Once again, you row-your-own types get the shaft.

Let's assume the sunroof is about half the cost of that package. So for $700, you get a pretty good 10-speaker Bose system that offers good clarity, good frequency response and good bass. Even if we're a little more conservative with the sunroof costs, the Bose system still seems like a decent value. You'd be hard-pressed to assemble an aftermarket package of equal quality.

Now, I know Bose does some pretty cool and innovative stuff. They undoubtedly have a good engineering corps, and I've read about some of the interesting frequency suppression work they've done on suspension systems with GM, I believe. If such a thing as a Bose fanboy exists, I'm sure I will hear from you. All I'm saying is that, for the dough, I'm looking at JBL or Harman all day.  

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

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2012 Mazda 3: Light Pollution

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

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2012 Mazda 3 Skyactiv: Welcome to Monterey

August 20, 2012


"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.


"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 3: This Is Going Too Far

July 04, 2012


I understand that concerns over safety and litigation have prompted most automakers to lock out the major features on their factory navigation systems while the car is in motion. Not saying I like it, but I get it. But Mazda has taken it one small step too far in my opinionated opinion.

A couple nights ago, I entered an address into the car's nav system and set off on my commute. When the nav lady repeatedly advised me to exit on surface streets that were 25 miles from my destination, I realized a previous driver must have set the route preferences to avoid freeways. So I clicked the steering-wheel controller a couple times to get to the options menu to change it...

... But Mazda doesn't allow you to change the route preferences from "Avoid" to "Prefer" while the car is moving. It's a holiday week here, so traffic is relatively light (not complaining about that) and I never came to a stop on the freeway.

As the continual voice prompts to exit grew annoying (had a Dodgers game going on the radio), I ended up cancelling guidance on the nav system and using other navigation tools, which could have included my phone, the iOS Mapquest app and a closed course.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 11,899 miles

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2012 Mazda 3: Case of the Mismatched Font

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

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2012 Mazda3 SkyActiv: Road Trippin

July 02, 2012


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 3 i Grand Touring: Adaptive HID Headlights

June 10, 2012


I dig the adaptive bi-xenon HID headlights fitted to our 2012 Mazda 3 i Grand Touring. In addition to spitting out clear bright light, they turn as you steer the front wheels to illuminate the inside of corners and they auto-level themselves as you add passengers and cargo.

Steerable auto-leveling HID adaptive lighting is a semi-common option farther upmarket, but they're pretty much unheard of at the budget end of the compact segment where the Mazda 3 plays.

That said, one must cough up enough dough for the Grand Touring model and then opt for the $1,400 Technology Package to get these babies. We're talking a minimum MSRP (including destination) of $25,345. But at least the required Tech package also includes rain sensing wipers, blind spot monitoring (with an off switch for heavy traffic areas where such systems tend to go off constantly), and other stuff.

I'm a big fan of compacts. They've consistently been my go-to choice even when I could afford something bigger. In the past I've always resented having to make the choice of either doing without or stepping up to a larger size than I wanted. Today, it seems, a wider range of compact options means they offer something for everyone.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

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2012 Mazda 3: The Upside To The Little Navigation Screen

May 03, 2012


We've covered the 3's navigation system before, most recently with Josh's Is It Worth It? post. There is one thing I really do like about it, though: it's up and out of the way, and that leaves plenty of room for the audio controls. These are great. They're easily within in arm's reach, and the buttons are big and identifiable. And I certainly use these a lot more than I do a navigation system.

With so many cars these days having complex controls and/or touchscreens, this is a refreshing contrast.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 8,979 miles

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2012 Mazda 3: Navigation. Is It Worth It?

April 20, 2012


I've gone back and forth on the value of the navigation system in the Mazda 3. In 2008, when the current car debuted as a 2010 model, the compact, integrated system was touted to be small so it could be comptetitvely priced with portable units. We were told then that it would draw only a $500 premium. It sounded like a reasonable idea, but I don't believe the pricing has ever been actualized.

Currently, you must step up to the Grand Touring trim level to get the system. Doing so provides a pile of other features, but the cost is nowhere near $500.

In fact, opting for a Grand Touring trim level adds $3,850 to the 3's cost. For that sum you get the navigation system, a 10-speaker Bose audio system, sunroof, heated mirrors, an eight-way power adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, leather upholstery, a sliding center armrest and a color trip computer.

Here's the thing: I used the 3's navigation system today and was suprised to find that its button-only interface is relatively easy and efficient to use. But for that kind money I'd likely buy the Touring trim level, skip the heated seats and other features and use my phone's navigation funtion.


Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2012 Mazda 3: Bells, Whistles, Etc.

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 

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2012 Mazda 3: Satellite Radio Recharge

March 23, 2012

 Mazda 3 Sat radio.jpg

Ok, so I didn't exactly catch this at the decisive moment, so some explanation is in order. Also, not my best camera work. I was jamming to capture this before it dissappeared. Had to pull the car over, open the camera app, etc, etc, etc. I'm full of excuses, but reading below should help you understand. 

I've been driving the Mazda 3 for about a week. On several occassions, the satellite radio has cut out. When it happens the small display which normally shows station information switches to the above screen showing that it's buffering. When the audio stops the screen usually shows "80%" then "90%" then, eventually, "100%" before the audio returns. And it can take more than a minute before that happens. It doesn't seem to correspond to driving under anything, either. It just goes away.


Josh Jacquot, Senior editor


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2012 Mazda 3: Voice Recognition Fail

March 19, 2012


Got myself into a voice recognition death spiral with the Mazda 3 last week when trying to pair my phone. As you'll hear, we Edmunds folk have all sorts of creative names for our phones. Mine is called "Josh's phone." But there's also a "Joe's phone." It doesn't go well.

The video picks up somewhere in the middle of the fiasco which went on for about five minutes without the system ever able to distinguish between the two. I eventually gave up and drove home unlinked. Later, over the weekend, it managed to get it right. I did nothing different.

Yes, I jump the gun on answering the system and screw it up worse. At this point I was a bit frustrated. After about eight of these misidentificaitons, you might be frustrated, too.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2012 Mazda 3: Blind Spot Monitor Annoyance

March 16, 2012


A few nights ago I was on my way home in the Mazda 3 when the Blind Spot Monitor began triggering unnecesarily. For me, these systems are of limited value. Part of the problem is that they're calibrated too conservatively for driving in the constant congestion of a city like Los Angeles.

Here's why... 

The turn signal, in L.A., is a sign of weakness. Using it as advance warning of your intentions is an invitation for drivers in other lanes to close the gap you're trying to fill. Protocol here, too often, is to change lanes, then signal, then look. I'm not saying that's how I do it, but that's how it feels.

These systems -- and this one in particular -- are simply not designed to work in an environment where traffic is tightly surrounding your vehicle on every side. So after a few false alarms I switched the BSM off. That's when the yellow warning light you see here appeared on the instrument panel. I find it as distracting as the constant BSM false alarms.

And I don't need another distraction.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2012 Mazda 3: Your Lack of Information Disturbs Me

February 27, 2012


I wasn't trying to use the navigation system. I just wanted to look at the map for an upcoming street. There are times when this screen goes completely white with its lack of information.

It's basically the same small screen that was in our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 long-termer. It's too small, too far away, and too hard to read.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 5,325 miles

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2012 Mazda 3: What Is That Thing?

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

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2012 Mazda 3 Skyactiv: Rain-Sensing Wipers

February 16, 2012

Mazda3 auto wiper.jpg

A weird thing happened here yesterday: It rained. No, I'm serious, it really did. And has been said, rain is a good thing.

Not just because the land desperately needs it here in southern California. But also because it's nice to have some actual "weather" for a change.

And one other reason: It gave me a chance to try out the rain-sensing wipers in our long-term Mazda 3. Not all rain-sensing systems are created equal. Some can be annoying, as they have a tendency to overreact and go into the highest speed setting if the rain coming down is anything above a drizzle.

So how did the Mazda do?

Not too bad. Admittedly I never drove in a downpour, but I was generally impressed with how smart the system was about spacing out the wipes according to the amount of water on the windshield. And you can adjust the sensitivity in the same manner that you would adjust an intermittent system to suit your personal taste. Plus, it never once freaked out and went into high-speed mode for no reason.

Just set it in Auto and forget it. Exactly how it's supposed to work.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 5,153 miles.

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2012 Mazda 3 Skyactiv: Interior Light Trick

February 03, 2012

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2012 Mazda 3: Upscale Headlights

February 02, 2012


This is a lot of headlight for a car that cost $25,520. But it's not as good as the superb headlights in our long-term Camry.

The 3, by virtue of being equipped with the Technology Package, includes Bi-Xenon headlights with an auto-leveling feature and an adaptive (self aiming) feature, which points the lights into a turn.

I'm yet to capture an acceptable image of these lights' capabilities, but I have driven them on the same road and at the same time of night that I drove the Camry and Quest. I'll get an image the next time I drive the car, but here's my subjective report (as if a photo isn't subjective). 

Adequate reach and coverage. No hot spots. No distracting hard cut lines. But the adaptive feature doesn't really do much for me. And, more importantly, it doesn't make these lights any better than the Camry's more conventional set up.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2012 Mazda 3: U Have to Be Kidding

December 16, 2011


I was lucky enough to have our new Mazda 3 for the last couple days, and can tell you that its virtues are legion. But -- at the risk of getting off on the wrong foot with the car -- it's missing what I've come to think of as an essential: a USB port.

My husband and I discovered this when were carpooling yesterday and running late. His iPhone wasn't fully charged. We assumed that there would be a connection in the Mazda 3. We looked for it in the usual places: on the dash, in the glove box, and finally, in the storage console. That's where we found an auxiliary jack and an accessory socket. But no USB port.  And so no charging for us.

I went through the manual this morning to be sure I hadn't missed something And at Mike Magrath's behest, our Mazda subject-matter expert did a big of digging too. USB absence confirmed. The Mazda 3 does have Bluetooth audio. But as the perspicacious Mr. Magrath points out, that's no help for people who want to play their iPods in the car. Or for anyone who wants to charge a device, which is pretty much everybody these days.

I know there's no dearth of aftermarket solutions for smartphone or iPod charging. But come on, Mazda. It's nearly 2012. Why not ditch the CD player (this century's eight-track) and give us the built-in USB connection we really need?

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @ 2,850 miles.


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