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2012 Mazda MAZDA3

Overview
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2012 Mazda MAZDA3 Review

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KBB Expert Rating: 8.2

Mazda's Zoom-zoom tag line isn't just a hollow advertising gimmick. It really does describe the attitude behind every car they build. Perhaps the best example of Zoom-zoom can be found in the 2012 Mazda3, a fun and efficient vehicle that's available as either a 4-door sedan or a 5-door hatchback, as well as a high-performance turbocharged terror dubbed the Mazdaspeed3. The various versions of the Mazda3 all offer great driving credentials, a long list of high-end features and appealing good looks. Oh, did we forget to mention the very affordable price tag? Yeah, the 2012 Mazda3's got that, too. This year, Mazda has restyled its popular compact car, toning down the awkward wide-mouth, grinning grille and adding new wheels and interior features. The most appealing new Mazda3 addition is the all-new Skyactiv 4-cylinder engine, a high-compression engine capable of producing 155 horsepower and a 40 mpg highway rating. With the 2012 Mazda3, you no longer have to sacrifice good fuel economy for a fun ride, or great high-end features for a good price.

You'll Like This Car If...

Great gas mileage and an enthusiast-oriented chassis are fused with a premium interior and dynamite styling to form the 2012 Mazda3 sedan and hatchback. If you thought you couldn't have all this in a small affordable car, Mazda just proved you wrong.

You May Not Like This Car If...

If your next car must have all-wheel drive (AWD), the Subaru Impreza or Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart are better choices. Smartphones are killing in-dash (and on-windshield) navigation systems, and the Mazda3's tiny hard to use view screen won't convince you to ask for a reprieve.

What's New for 2012

The 2012 Mazda3 gets a freshened front face and a new instrument panel with a blue background and white lettering. Also new is the fuel-efficient 2.0-liter Skyactiv engine. Cars equipped with the Skyactiv engine are fitted with a choice of two new 6-speed transmissions, either manual or automatic. In addition, there are a number of equipment changes across the numerous trim levels.

Driving the MAZDA3

Driving Impressions The beauty of the 2012 Mazda3 is that no matter which model you choose, it will be equipped with a fun to drive spirit. The variation comes in the rate...

of acceleration and the tenacity of tire grip. The Mazda3's stiff body helps impart a feeling of solidity and safety. Mazda engineers focused their attention on making the Mazda3's body as stiff as possible and its suspension both agile and compliant. Models with the 148-horsepower engine offer spirited performance and good fuel economy, reaching 33 miles per gallon in the government's highway test. The new Skyactiv 2.0-liter pumps out 155 horsepower and achieves an astounding 40 mpg on the government's highway cycle. The standard six-speed manual is a delight, mirroring the marvelously fluid manual transmission found in the Miata MX-5. While the Skyactiv 2.0-liter engine delivers good performance, its not going to be winning any SCCA races. If you want the ultimate performance (not counting the turbocharged Mazdaspeed3), it's the s trim's 2.5-liter engine you'll be seeking. With 167-horsepower, this little 4-cylinder delivers strong acceleration and still gets reasonable good fuel economy. While carving up a twisting mountain road we found the driver-selectable stability and traction control granted us plenty of fun before stepping in to save us from ourselves. Our Grand Touring trim's front seats provided plenty of thigh and lateral support and the overall feel inside the cabin is one of sophistication and attention to detail. For the ultimate in performance driving, there is the 263-horsepower Mazdaspeed3, which features a performance suspension, sport seats and more torque steer than a front drive car has a right to.

Adaptive Front Headlamps
Mazda says this is the first application on a compact vehicle of the swiveling blue-white bi-xenon high- and low-beam headlights. (Bi-xenon means there are two headlights on each side – one for high beam and the other for low beam.) The inner beams can rotate up to 15 degrees in order to look deeper into dark corners. They are self-leveling to prevent dazzling on-coming divers.

Skyactiv 2.0-liter engine
Utilizing direct fuel injecting and with a 12.0:1 compression ratio, the Skyactiv engine is both powerful and incredibly fuel efficient. Better still, the Skyactiv engine runs on regular 87 octane fuel.

2012 Mazda MAZDA3 Details
Interior

The 2012 Mazda3 sedan and hatchback share the same, feature-rich interior, highlighted by stylish instruments and soft touch surfaces. A 3-zone philosophy places all the vital controls in way that helps the driver focus on the road while operating the audio and climate control. For the most part, we like what Mazda has done with the Mazda3's instruments and dash, but the poorly placed screen displaying the HVAC and audio readouts has too many functions crammed into its small window. The optional navigation screen is also too small and difficult to understand, but that probably won't matter as most Mazda3 buyers will likely use their smartphones for navigation. S trim models get a multi-talented steering wheel that houses controls for the audio, cruise, navigation and Bluetooth. The available Bose audio system sounds fantastic. The Mazdaspeed3 gets a more aggressive set of bolstered front bucket seats and an LED turbo boost gauge.

Exterior

The 2012 Mazda3 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback draw on the original 2004 Mazda3 for inspiration, but take its styling to a more dramatic place. A new front grille dissected by a wide black bumper strip and a new lower air intake help improve a weak spot on the previous year Mazda3's exterior. The Mazda3 features bold front fender flares straddling 16- and 17-inch wheels. Next to a conservatively styled Chevy Cruze or Toyota Corolla, the Mazda3 looks downright awesome, and Mazda's color palate blows its competitors out of the water. The s Grand Touring trim's available adaptive swiveling front headlamps are just one of the many Mazda3 features that are rare at this price point. You don't have to spend a lot to get a lot with the 2012 Mazda3 compact, because even the base model comes with 16-inch wheels, color keyed mirrors, and halogen fog lights. The Mazdaspeed3 expresses itself with an active front hood scoop, 18-inch wheels and ground effects.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

The 4-door 2012 Mazda3 is available in six trim packages, starting with the base i SV, and moving upward with the i Sport, i Touring, i Grand Touring, s Touring and s Grand Touring. The trim levels for the five-door hatchback (or, if you prefer, wagon) are i Touring, i Grand Touring, s Touring and s Grand Touring. Even the base 2012 Mazda3 i SV sedan has impressive standard equipment, which includes electronic stability control, a tilt-telescoping steering column, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio, power windows and mirrors and variable intermittent wipers. The i Touring adds cruise control, 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, power locks with keyless remote and Bluetooth connectivity. The i Touring and i Grand Touring trim gets the new Skyactiv 2.0-liter engine mated to 6-speed manual in the i Touring and a 6-speed automatic in the i Grand Touring. The s levels have the more potent 167-horsepower 2.5-liter engine, 265-watt Bose audio system, a power moonroof, Advance Keyless entry with push-button start, 17-inch alloy wheels, and dual-zone automatic temperature control. Grand Touring trims also feature navigation, leather seating surfaces, an 8-way power driver's seat, heated side mirrors and 5-position heated front sport seats. The Mazdaspeed3 comes only in the Touring trim.

Optional Equipment

The Tech Package available on Grand Touring trim includes auto-leveling Adaptive front HID headlamps, blind spot monitoring, rain-sensing wipers, and anti-theft alarm. The i Touring trim offers the Moonroof and Bose package containing a 265-watt 10-speaker Bose Surround Sound Centerpoint audio system and a power glass moonroof. The Mazdaspeed3 offers a Mazdaspeed Tech Package which is the same as Tech Package only with Advance Key and navigation added to the list.

Under the Hood

Three engines and three transmissions are part of the 2012 Mazda3 lineup. The 4-door i models (SV and Sport) are equipped with a 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that can be teamed with a 5-speed manual transmission or, except for the base i SV, a 5-speed automatic. The i Touring and Grand Touring are fitted with the Skyactiv 2.0-liter engine, which makes 155 horsepower and is mated to a new 6-speed manual. The i Grand Touring offers a 6-speed automatic. The more powerful s models have a 168-horsepower 2.5-liter powerplant paired with either a 6-speed manual or a 5-speed automatic. The Mazdaspeed3 uses a 2.3-liter gasoline direct injection turbocharged MZR engine good for 263 horsepower and 280 pounds-feet of torque. The Mazdaspeed3 is only available with a 6-speed manual transmission.


2.0-liter in-line 4
148/144 horsepower (Federal/PZEV) @ 6,500 rpm
135/132 lb-ft of torque (Federal/PZEV) @ 4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/33 (manual), 24/33 (automatic)

2.0-liter Skyactiv 4
155/154 horsepower (Federal/PZEV) @ 6,000 rpm
148 ft-lb of torque @ 4,100 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/39 (manual sedan), 28/40 (automatic, sedan), 27/38 (manual, 5-door), 28/39 (automatic, 5-door)

2.5-liter in-line 4
167/165 horsepower (Federal/PZEV) @ 6,000 rpm
168/167 lb-ft of torque (Federal/PZEV)) @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/28 (manual), 22/29 (automatic)

2.3-liter turbocharged in-line 4
263 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
280 lb-ft of torque @ 3,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/25

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2012 Mazda MAZDA3 Consumer Reviews

Overall Rating
8.9
Out of 10

Based on 369 Ratings for the 2010 - 2013 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    9.0/10
    Quality
    8.9/10
  • Reliability
    9.3/10
    Performance
    9.2/10
  • Comfort
    8.6/10
    Styling
    8.9/10

Most trouble-free car I've ever owned.

By on Tuesday, June 23, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 79,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "Price, reliability, handling, economy"

Cons: "Not as quiet as some of the competition"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"My 2010 Mazda3 has been the most trouble-free car I have ever owned. In five years and 79K miles I have done nothing to it other than scheduled maintenance and replace the tires once. I consistently average between 30-32 mpg in an even mix of heavy traffic and high-speed highway use, and mine is not the newer SkyActiv engine that is even more efficient. The car is a lot of fun to drive. The handling really is sporty, and not that long ago one would have had to spring for an Audi or BMW to get the 3's kind of driving dynamics. I had my previous Mazda (a Miata) for more than 10 years, and I expect I'll be keeping this one a long time, too."

Buyer Beware!

By on Thursday, June 11, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 50,900

10 5.0
overall rating 5 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
5/10
Value
5/10
Reliability
5/10
Quality
5/10
Performance
7/10
Styling
7/10
Comfort
6/10

Pros: "Quick. Fun. Nice style. Affordable."

Cons: "Problems all around. Expensive to maintain."

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2

"After the warranty is up, things start to happen. I have 50,000 miles on mine. I had to replace the lower engine block ($5k) because I missed one oil change. ( I don't remember missing it. I had lost the receipt and couldn't prove it. Warranty didn't cover for that reason.) At 50k my transmission suddenly stopped working in reverse. ( $3900). My mechanic told me that, although Mazdas are attractive, fun cars, they give out and are expensive. He said, " If all his clients had Mazdas, he'd live in Beverly Hills." He said I was best to own a Honda or Toyota due to their reliability and cheap fixes. I admit I am a fast driver and drive in LA, but still. This car was fun in the beginning but I will never buy a Mazda again."

3 people out of 6 found this review helpful

Amazing value compared to competitors.

By on Wednesday, June 10, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 62,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "MPG, fun to drive, handling, style, mods well"

Cons: "Screen in dash scratches very easily"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9

"I have the 2012 SkyActiv model and it has done nothing but amaze me. I got this car new with only 42 miles on it after considering the Chevrolet Cruze and Honda Civic. I couldn't be happier with my choice; my MPG is pushing 40 and the car is still a blast to drive."

Truly Quality and Fun Ride

By on Sunday, May 17, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 55,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
8/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "Quick, agile, reliable, lots of space, fun"

Cons: "Not great on MPG-23 avg"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"I've owned this Mazda 3 Sport now for 2 years. Bought it used (2010 model) from a dealer and probably paid a little more than I should have, but I have had nothing but fun driving this scooter. It handles better than any sports car I've ever owned, and though the ride is a little stiff due to it's sports car design and low profile tires, it is well worth it. If you want acceleration and if you love to drive, this is the car for you. The manual mode from the automatic transmission is awesome. Down shifting is really down shifting and yet it doesn't allow you to over shift. I've run on the same brake pads since I bought it due to down shift braking. It not only looks mean, it acts mean if you want it to. Put down the back seats and the space is incredible. I love it!!"

10 people out of 16 found this review helpful

Love the car - fun to drive, great economy

By on Wednesday, May 06, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 26,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "bought for a good price, looks great, economical"

Cons: "back seats are tight"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9

"I enjoy the car a lot. It is great for driving around the city, looks nice/sporty, and is economical. I use it for myself and wife, so it fits us just fine. Rear seats are tight, so its good the kids are grown. Use the rear sets down to make more space when hauling stuff."

1 person out of 3 found this review helpful

By far, the best car I have ever owned

By on Sunday, May 03, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 114,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
8/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "Reliability; Fast; Handling; Braking; Bose sound."

Cons: "Lack of needed water temp and oil temp gauge"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"After 115,000 miles, the car continues to zoom. I average 29 MPG, and the car has been just a blast to drive. Rock solid reliability, and it's never had any mechanical issues whatsoever. Drawbacks? Wish the car had more engine gauges such as coolant and oil temp. Some torque steer, but nothing that can't be controlled. Braking is excellent; handles like a Porsche. Thinking I'll continue to drive it to 150,000 miles and then sell it to a junior kid racer."

4 people out of 4 found this review helpful

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Trading in or Selling? Know where you stand with the most up-to-date Kelley Blue Book Value at your fingertips. See your car's value

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