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William Maley

2012 Mazda3i Grand Touring Hatchback

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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?

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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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I've always liked the look of the hatches....much better without the big smile up front...

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Amazing what a pig this thing is visually and how nice the current 3 looks. 

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    • By William Maley
      It feels weird to be writing a review of the previous-generation Mazda3 when the new model is currently sitting out front at dealers. But I find this situation to be unique because I had the chance to explore a 2019 Mazda3 to get some first impressions while working on a review of the 2018 model. This gives me a chance to compare the two in certain aspects, along with pondering the question of whether or not the previous model is still a good buy.
      Despite the new model taking the styling up another level, the outgoing model is still a looker. From the bold front end with a large grille and slightly angled headlights, to sculpting running along the sides, the 2018 3 still stands out in the compact crowd. The older design also allows for slightly better rear headroom and a larger area of glass for improved visibility.  But the new 3 holds a significant edge over the old model when it comes to the interior. The modern design and use of high-quality materials really help boost Mazda’s ambitions of becoming something more premium. But the 2018 model I found to have a slightly easier center stack layout and more interior room. One item I didn’t get the chance to play within the 2019 Mazda3 is the infotainment system. Aside from boasting a larger screen, Mazda has also dropped the touchscreen functionality. The latter has been a big issue on some of the recent Mazda vehicles I have driven, including the 2018 3. It is difficult to figure out which parts of the screen are touch-enabled and which aren’t. The system is also beginning to show its age somewhat as the system showed some slowdown in certain areas such as connecting to my phone via Bluetooth. Under the hood of the 2018 model is either a 2.0L or 2.5L SkyActiv-G four-cylinder. My tester had the latter which produces 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet. This engine can also be found under 2019 Mazda3, albeit slightly tweaked - 186 for both horsepower and torque. I find the Mazda3 to be the best application for the 2.5 engine. The lighter weight of the vehicle allows the 2.5 to provide a smooth and quick acceleration for most situations you find yourself in. However, the 2.5 feels like it is running out of breath when going above 70 mph, making passing and merging onto a highway slightly difficult. Where the 3 really shines is down a twisty road. Very few vehicles can match the sharp handling characteristics on offer. The suspension keeps the vehicle level when cornering and quickly respond to change in direction. Steering is quick and features a nice weight when turning. Ride quality is slightly rough with a fair number of bumps coming inside. Some of this can be attributed to the 18-inch wheels fitted on my tester.  Should you consider a 2018 Mazda3 when the bright and shiny 2019 3 is available now? I can only give a half-answer as I haven’t driven the 2019 model yet. But having sat in one, I can see why someone would consider it. The impressive design inside and out can make you believe you’re driving something from a luxury brand. The 2018 model still has some things going for it such as having slightly more interior space, similar fuel economy figures, and dealers beginning to lower prices on them to get them out. As I am writing this (May 5th), I have seen dealers in my local drop prices by $1,000 to $3,000 on 2018 models. Right now, I would be willing to pocket the extra cash and go with a 2018 Mazda3. Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the 3, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Mazda
      Model: 3
      Trim: Grand Touring
      Engine: 2.5L SKYACTIV-G DOHC Four-Cylinder
      Driveline:  Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 184 @ 5,700
      Torque @ RPM: 185 @ 3,250 
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 26/35/30
      Curb Weight: 3,098 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Salamanca, Mexico
      Base Price: $24,945
      As Tested Price: $28,035 (Includes $890.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Premium Equipment Package - $1,600.00
      Soul Red Metallic Paint - $300.00
      Scuff Plates/Door Sill Trim Plate - $125.00
      Rear Bumper Guard - $100.00
      Cargo Mat - $75.00

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