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2012 Mazda MAZDA3

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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 389 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

Great drive, poor ride.

By on Tuesday, June 14, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 35,000

10 8.0
overall rating 8 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
8/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
6/10

Pros: "Fun in looks and drive, reliable"

Cons: "Stiff ride, audio connectivity is poor"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6

"Loved my Mazda3 from the start. I never minded the front end smile - liked it actually and was sad to see it go in the refresh. It drives great - plenty of power, maneuverability, and plain fun. What isn't fun is the ride. That will make a back, neck, or head ache worse in minutes. Also, the placement and function of the audio connectivity is disappointing. The auxiliary audio jack is in the bowels of the center console, and there is no USB connection. While the Bluetooth connection exists, it doesn't interact with the audio display. On the other hand, I haven't had any problems or done anything to it other than routine maintenance and one headlight."

It's going to be tough without this car.

By on Monday, June 6, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 101,340

10 8.0
overall rating 8 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
8/10
Value
Not Rated
Reliability
Not Rated
Quality
Not Rated
Performance
Not Rated
Styling
Not Rated
Comfort
Not Rated

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

"I love driving this car. The speed3 is incredibly fun to be in control of, with a six speed manual transmission and engine that responds wonderfully. The only reason I'm selling is because I've just gotten tired of dealing with the roads in the area I live in not being maintained. The potholes have gotten out of control and if taxes aren't going to maintain them, I'd rather just not drive at all. I'm lucky enough to live in an area where I can ride a bike to work and other times simply use Lyft. In regards to the car, the right side did get scraped by branches reaching into the road after a tree fell down during a snowstorm. On the left side, by the back door and in the area before the back wheel, there's scrapes from when I accidentally rubbed against a column in a parking garage. That said, those are external, cosmetic issues that don't affect the vehicle's performance."

Absolutely love my Mazda 3! Zoom Zoom

By on Thursday, March 24, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 42,700

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
9/10
Quality
7/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
8/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "Fun to drive, handling, tight steering, afforable"

Cons: "More cabin features, suspension, no SAT radio"

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

My 2011 Mazda 3 S Sport

"I have owned this car for 3 years and I absolutely love it. It handles so well through zippy turns, up and down hills, and takes my "spirited" driving style like a champ. Truly a great bang for your buck. There are some features I wish it had, particularly in the cabin: moon roof, navigation system, satellite radio, and/or touch screen controls. I have purchased a few of these items aftermarket, but anyone will tell you that having an aftermarket moon roof installed can be risky. I would've preferred one stock with the vehicle. I purchased the car outright from a dealership in Freeport, PA in 2013. Upon test driving, I was impressed particularly with the handling. The suspension could use a little work, but that's because it's a sport suspension rather than that of a luxury vehicle. Road noise is a bit high but will vary with choice of tires. The Mazda 3 S Sport's compact size makes it incredibly easy to park in metropolitan areas. Overall I think the look of the exterior is stylish. The bucket seats are extremely comfortable, they provide good back support and make driving long distances much easier. Passengers have remarked on the comfort of the seats as well. The backseat isn't very spacious, so consider that if you intend to use this as a family vehicle or have passengers frequently. The trunk is more spacious than one might expect -- it is definitely a nice feature. The Bluetooth wireless option came stock with the vehicle and was a huge selling point for me (I listen to music on my mobile phone constantly so it's nice to sync up to the sound system). Overall, I am extremely happy with this car, short of a few aftermarket tweaks and customizations I would add. If you're looking for a sporty, affordable, courageous little car that you can throw through sharp curves and turns without thinking twice, that also offers practical safety and enough pragmatism to be used as an everyday car, I highly recommend the Mazda 3. Very happy with my choice and I've driven the car a pleasurable 31,000 miles in my 3 years of ownership."

11 people out of 21 found this review helpful

My 2011 Mazda 3 S Sport

Total worst the money, great value, good service..

By on Sunday, December 27, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 47,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
9/10
Quality
8/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
7/10
Comfort
7/10

Pros: "zoom zoom, accurate, stable, reliable"

Cons: "SkyActive first gen, cosmetic failure"

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

"I own a Mazda 3 SkyActiv 2.0 since March 2012. This engine is truly amazing even if it is the first generation. The good is the solid 36 MPG average 30MPH average (a lot of traffic in Austin,TX). The cons are a sensitive electronic / engine to bad quality fuel, rarely a random light caused by rapid temperature change. It was a really modern looking car in 2012. In 2015, I have a hard time to find better style. The driving is excellent, it is a really good car for 20k$. And, Mazda service is truly excellent on overall. The only hiccup is a dashboard that melt under Texas heat. But it might happen to any car while the sun heat over 100F."

13 people out of 16 found this review helpful

Great driving, reliable car.

By on Sunday, December 20, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 96,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "fun to drive"

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

"Love this car. Great driving and very reliable during first 100,000 miles. Good gas mileage. Next vehicle for me will be another, really like it."

2 people out of 4 found this review helpful

Great Car... for 10K miles

By on Saturday, November 7, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 40,000

10 5.0
overall rating 5 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
5/10
Value
7/10
Reliability
5/10
Quality
1/10
Performance
8/10
Styling
1/10
Comfort
5/10

Pros: "Hard to find one."

Cons: "Cheap, cheap, cheap, low quality."

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

"Bought this car brand new with 350 miles on it. Ran great had excellent gas mileage and was the perfect car for traveling on the road with. At 30K miles the headlights started flashing when I would hit the breaks. Took it in and they reset the computer at no cost. This fix lasted until 37K miles when the dealership told me the warranty was expired since the warranty only convers electronics up to 36K miles. The seats are cheap... really cheap. The interior is beige and I keep my car spotless, but the seat is discolored from bluejeans. The car now gets about 33MPG on the highway compared to the 38-40 it got before, and I've had all maintenance done on the car, even an extra tune up. This car doesn't struggle up hills, but the RPM's will fly to 4,500+ if you don't use the manual mode. Mazda's are not cheap to maintenance, at the dealer at least. The 25K mile maintenqance cost me about $400, the 30K maintenance cost another $250. So now I have a car with 40K miles on it that has flashing headlights (interior lights/dash lights now too), sub-par gas mileage, dirty interior that doesn't shampoo clean, and can;t wait to get rid of it and get back to american made.... Oh but it's value in 2013 when i bought it was $24K and 2 years later with $40K miles the value is down to $10.5K. I did a lot of research before buying and was sold on the "low maintenance cost", suposid "high Quality", and most importantly for me the "great gas mileage"."

25 people out of 44 found this review helpful

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