2012 Mazda 3i Touring SkyActiv: I Wish We Got the 6MT
January 30, 2012
Our long-term 2012 Mazda 3i Touring SkyActiv is equipped with a 6-speed electronically-controlled SkyActiv sport auto transmission and has a torque converter with electronic lockup, with overdrive in 5th and 6th gears for good fuel economy.
Several of my colleagues have reported many good things about this transmission. And they're right. Acceleration is very smooth in our Mazda 3 -- there's almost no shift shock. And shift timing once you're rolling is fine too.
But here's the thing...
(Photo by Kurt Niebuhr)
When moving from a standstill our Mazda 3 is a slug. With 154 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque from the SkyActiv engine I was expecting more. I understand that this powertrain was tuned for fuel economy over sportiness, but the Mazda TV ads are saying you can have both.
Not really. With this 6AT normal acceleration feels smooth and sedate, but boring and slow. If you try to accelerate quickly, you'll get a big downshift and a full-body lunge forward from the shift shock. It's not pleasant. And that 6AT is reluctant to downshift, in the name of fuel economy of course.
I was surprised to find out that a 6MT is available with SkyActiv. I wish we could have gotten that version instead, because the rest of the car is quite nice for a subcompact.
Come to think of it, off the top of my head, I cannot think of any small car that I like equipped with an automatic transmission. I believe that every itty bitty car I like (the Base Mini Cooper and Ford Fiesta, for example) has been equipped with a MT. You just have better control of those small engines, and can rev it or short-shift as you like. Larger engines with their greater power, and especially torque, can get by with an AT.
What do you think? Is there any small car you've driven with an AT that had good performance?
The video breaks down the SkyActiv 6AT and 6MT.
Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ 4,455 miles