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    2012 Mazda3i Grand Touring Hatchback


    William Maley

    William Maley

    Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com

    October 24, 2012

    Back in August, I had the chance to drive the new 2013 Mazda CX-5 for a week. The CX-5 featured the whole suite of Mazda’s SKYACTIV tech; engine, transmission, and lightweight construction. But what happens when you only take two out of the three parts of SKYACTIV? Well, you get the 2012 Mazda3i which comes equipped with the SKYACTIV engine and transmission. Does having two parts of SKYACTIV make the 3i a competent compact car or not?

    gallery_10485_482_1131155.png

    The 3’s exterior looks pretty much the same as it was introduced back in 2009, a design that doesn’t go for the cliché of the month. Up front, the big grin grille has been toned down a little and the front headlights now have blue accent rings, quietly signifying that you’re driving a SKYACTIV model. Along the side, Mazda designers have embellished the front fenders and placed a set of sixteen-inch alloy wheels into the wheel wells.

    Inside the 3, the same story applies. The interior is draped in black trim and seats. Thankfully, Mazda has added some other colors to give some variation. This included some silver trim along the dash and adding variety of colors for the illumination of the gauges and center stack (blue, red, and white). Materials range from hard plastics on the dash to soft touch materials on the door rests. All of the materials feel like they should belong in a $25,000 vehicle. As for build quality, the 3i Hatchback passed with flying colors with no apparent gaps or loose pieces.

    gallery_10485_482_1102605.png

    The front seats are well-bolstered and provide a good amount of adjustments for both driver and passenger. Back-seat passengers will find a decent amount of headroom and legroom. Be forewarned though; the seats are really firm, meaning this isn’t really a good choice for long trips. Cargo space for the Mazda3 hatchback measures out to be 17.8 cu.ft. with the rear seats up and 42.8 cu.ft. with the rear seats down. This puts the 3 hatchback on the smallish side when compared with the Ford Focus Hatchback and Hyundai Elantra GT.

    gallery_10485_482_3547.png

    The 3 I had in for review was the top of the line Grand Touring trim that comes equipped with heated leather seats, power driver’s seat, Bluetooth, sunroof, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, 265-watt Bose CenterPoint audio system, color Multi-Information Display, and navigation.

    gallery_10485_482_316343.png

    My biggest complaint with the 3’s interior deals with the screens on the dash and the navigation. For starters, the Mazda3i comes with two screens. The screen the left is where trip computer, information about what you’re listening to, and navigation. To the right is where another screen displays what input you’re listening to. I feel this layout is just somewhat redundant and confusing. Also, the left screen is on the smallish side. Taking a quick glance at the screen is somewhat of a joke. Then there is the navigation system, which resides in the left screen, meaning you have to deal with smallness. Plus, if you want to enter an address or destination, you have to you use controls on the steering wheel to do it. This is slow way to input a destination and made me wish for a touchscreen. Hopefully with the next-generation 3, Mazda condenses the two screens into one.

    Next: Power, Ride, and Verdict


    Powering the 3i is Mazda’s 2.0L SKYACTIV-G four-cylinder producing 155 HP (@ 6000 RPM) and 148 lb-ft (@ 4100 RPM). If you decide to get a 3i Grand Touring model, you can only equip it with a six-speed SKYACTIV-Drive automatic. Want a manual? You’ll have to drop to the 3i Touring model.

    Compared to the CX-5 with the same powertrain, the 3i's difference is night and day.The sluggishness and need to rev the engine in the CX-5 is non-existent in the 3. Instead, the SKYACTIV-G is very spritely and willing to get you up to speed quickly. The six-speed automatic delivered smooth and quick shifts. Also, I found the transmission to downshift much quicker than in the CX-5.

    gallery_10485_482_432858.png

    What’s the reason for different engine behavior in the two vehicles? Weight. The CX-5 FWD Touring I had back August tipped the scales at 3,272 lbs. The Mazda3i Grand Touring Hatchback tips the scales at 2,969 lbs. That’s a difference of 303 lbs.

    The EPA rates the Mazda3i Grand Touring Hatchback at 28 City/39 Highway/32 Combined. My average for the week was a surprising 34 MPG on mostly rural and suburban roads. On the freeway, I averaged 40 MPG.

    Mazda’s are known for their fun to drive aspect in their vehicles and the 3 is no exception to this. Mazda employs Macpherson struts up front; a multi-link setup in the back, stabilizer bars, and a power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system. All of these components make the 3 a joy to drive on your favorite road. The suspension keeps the vehicle in check and controllable when going into the turns. The steering is weighted just right and provides the right amount of road feel.

    gallery_10485_482_1030787.png

    With the 3 being lively on a fun road, it does fall short when on a day to day basis. The suspension doesn’t cope well with minimizing the impacts of bumps and imperfections on the road. There is also a good amount of road noise, meaning you’ll have to speak a little bit louder to your passengers.

    Going back to the question I asked in the first paragraph: Does having two out of three parts of SKYACTIV make the Mazda3i a competent compact car or not? The answer is a resounding yes. By adding the SKYACTIV powertrain package, Mazda has revitalized the 3 to better compete with the current crop of compact cars with improved gas mileage and some very impressive handling.

    There are some shortfalls with the Mazda3i which include a rough ride for day to day driving, a surprising amount of road noise, confusing screens, and some uncomfortable seats.

    But if you can overlook the problems, the Mazda3i Hatchback is possibly the best balance of fun and efficiency in the compact car class.

    gallery_10485_482_207436.png

    Cheers:

    Fuel Economy

    SKYACTIV-G Engine Much More Lively

    Quick and Smooth Automatic

    Unique Styling

    Sporty Ride

    Jeers:

    The Two Screens on the Dash

    Seats Becoming Uncomfortable After Awhile

    Interior Cargo Space On Small Side

    Sporty Ride Not Pleasant on Rough Roads

    Road Noise

    Disclaimer: Mazda provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline.

    Year - 2012

    Make – Mazda

    Model – 3

    Trim – i Grand Touring Hatchback

    Engine – 2.0L SKYACTIV-G Four-Cylinder

    Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, SKYACTIV-Drive Six-Speed Automatic

    Horsepower @ RPM – 155 HP (@ 6,000 RPM)

    Torque @ RPM – 148 lb-ft (@ 4,100 RPM)

    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/39/32

    Curb Weight – 2,969 lbs

    Location of Manufacture – Houfu, Japan

    Base Price - $23,150.00

    As Tested Price - $25,345.00 (Includes $795.00 Destination Charge)

    William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.

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      Nissan isn’t going to take home any awards for the design of the 2016 Sentra. Designers took the 2013 model and made some small changes such as adding a new front clip to help bring the Sentra in line with the current design language, and a more distinctive character line. One change that is worth mentioning about the Sentra’s design is the new SR trim. This trim adds some sporty touches such as a mesh grille insert, sill extensions for the lower body, seventeen-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with a dark finish, rear spoiler, and a chrome exhaust tip. These touches help the Sentra stand out in a crowded field.
       
      Like the Sentra’s exterior, the interior hasn’t seen any major changes. The design is very conservative with some flowing lines and contrasting trim pieces (silver and piano black). There is a mix of hard and soft touch materials used throughout the interior. Our Sentra tester featured a set optional leather seats that we found to provide decent support for short trips. We did wish the front seats did offer more thigh support on longer trips. The Sentra does have an ace up its sleeve when it comes to the back seat. In most compact cars, the back seat is something you would use sparingly due to the small amount of head and legroom. In the Sentra, the amount of head and legroom can give some midsize sedans a run for their money. I happen to be 5’8” and I had more than enough space to feel very comfortable. The trunk is also large for the class with 15.1 cubic feet of space.
       
      Most Sentra models will come equipped a five-inch touchscreen with NissanConnect. This system isn’t one of our favorites for a number of reasons. The interface looks dated when compared to other systems. Not helping matters are some odd omissions from it. For example, if you want to pause an iPod or whatever you have plugged into the USB input, you’ll need to turn down the volume all the way to zero. Why not a pause button?! We also had issues with the system crashing our iPod. The only upsides are the interface being easy to use and providing snappy performance.
       
      Power comes from a 1.8L four-cylinder with 130 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with either a six-speed manual (only available on the S and FE+ S) or Nissan’s Xtronic CVT (standard on SV and above, optional on S and FE+ S). Performance is lethargic as the Sentra’s engine takes its sweet time to get up to speed. You can put your foot to the floor and there isn’t any difference in how fast the vehicle climbs up in speed. On the positive side, the engine is fairly muted when accelerating around town. Nissan’s Xtronic CVT is one of the better offerings on sale as it doesn’t have the ‘rubber-band’ effect (engine rpm climbs up before dropping back down).
       
      The upside to the low power numbers is fuel economy. The Sentra SR is rated by the EPA at 29 City/38 Highway/32 Combined. Our average for the week was 32.4 mpg.
       
      If you’re looking for a compact that feels like a bigger vehicle in terms of ride, the Sentra is the ticket. No matter the type of road you find yourself driving on, the Sentra’s suspension provides a smooth and relaxed ride. We do wish Nissan had added some more sound deadening around the vehicle as you can hear road and tire noise on the highway. Around corners, the Sentra shows little roll and seems to change direction quickly. The steering feels very light which is ok around town, not so much when driving on a curvy road.
       
      The 2016 Nissan Sentra doesn’t really stand out in a highly competitive compact car marketplace. Compared with competitors in a number of key areas, the Sentra either finishes in the middle or bottom. The only real plus points are a large back seat and trunk, along with a price tag that won’t break the bank. The Sentra begins at $16,780 for the base S and climbs to $22,170 for the SL. Our SR came equipped with a couple of option packages that added adaptive cruise control, a forward collision mitigation system, leather seats, Bose sound system, and a few other features brings the as-tested price to $25,245. Considering a number of these features are only available on higher trim models of competitors, the Sentra becomes quite the value.
       
      Is there anything special to the 2016 Nissan Sentra SR? After spending a week in it, I have to say no. This is a model that is aimed at those who just need a vehicle that can get them from point a to b without any fuss. If you’re looking for something more, there are a lot of options in the compact segment that are worthy of a closer look.
       

       
      Disclaimer: Nissan Provided the Sentra, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
       
      Year: 2016
      Make: Nissan
      Model: Sentra
      Trim: SR
      Engine: 1.8L DOHC Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: CVT, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 130 @ 6,000
      Torque @ RPM: 128 @ 3,600
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 29/38/32
      Curb Weight: 2,920 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Aguascalientes, Mexico
      Base Price: $20,410
      As Tested Price: $25,245 (Includes $835.00 Destination Charge)
       
      Options:
      Premium Package - $2,590
      Technology Package - $1,230
      Carpeted Floor Mats and Trunk Mat - $180.00
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