Bottom line: If you are in the market for a small, fuel-efficient car, the Mazda3 is an easy “yes.” It offers excellent build quality, connectivity with multiple infotainment devices, reasonable safety and good road manners. The problem with this one will be finding it in stock.
Ride, acceleration and handling: The ride is a tad hard for older bottoms, especially on less-than-perfect roads. Handling is excellent. Acceleration is fast enough to attract the law. You’d best be mindful of speed limits in this one.
Head-turning quotient: A humble aesthetic offering devoid of anything that could be called “sexy” or overwhelmingly attractive.
Body style/layout: The 2012 Mazda3 is a small, front-engine, front-wheel-drive car offered as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback in four basic trim levels — i Touring, s Touring, i Grand Touring and s Grand Touring. The Mazda3 is not to be confused with the high-performance MazdaSpeed3, which is marketed separately.
Engines/transmissions: Mazda is offering a new, more fuel-efficient 2-liter, inline four-cylinder, 16-valve engine for 2012. It’s the Skyactiv-G 2-liter (155 horsepower, 148 foot-pounds of torque) used in this week’s test car. The Skyactiv engine is mated to a standard six-speed manual transmission. A five-speed automatic is optional. Also available are a 148-horsepower, 2-liter four-cylinder engine and a 168-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder model carried over from last year.
Capacities: There is comfortable seating for four people. Cargo capacity is 17 cubic feet with all seats in place and 42.8 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. The fuel tank holds 14.5 gallons of regular gasoline.
Mileage: Real-world mileage was 25 miles per gallon in the city and 39 on the highway.
Safety: Standard equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes (vented front/solid rear); four-wheel antilock brake protection; emergency braking assistance; electronic stability and traction control; side and head air bags; and tire pressure monitoring.
Pricing: The base price of the 2012 Mazda3 i Touring five-door hatchback with Skyactiv technology is $19,300. Dealer’s invoice price on that model is $18,076. Price as tested is $20,095 including a $795 destination charge. Dealer’s price as tested is $18,871. The tested model lacked navigation and backup camera, which add an estimated $1,500 as options. The Mazda3 is a high-demand car. Expect dealer premiums.