Review: 2012 Mazda3 Sedan SKYACTIV-G

Posted on 28. Dec, 2011 by in Auto News

Image courtesy media.mazda.ca

One of the constant dangers for your humble TTAC correspondent drifting away from gimlet-eyed and ruthless objectivity towards developing countries have a penchant for a particular manufacturer. Lord forbid you should ever start to a "lawyer".

Should you have such tendencies, one is our larger and hairier senior editors show up on the front porch with a large boat oar emblazoned with "Integrity" and hitting start on the ears in the way of the Berserker schoolmaster of Flann O 'Brien, the A Beal Bocht. Apart from semi-obscure references to mid-century Irish literary satire for the moment, as a company, in which I would happily risk the aforementioned major head trauma: Mazda.

How could you not? The homologation-special 323 GTX, the curvaceous FD RX-7, the feisty MX-6 GT, the sharp-yet-practical Protege5, the top-predator Mazdaspeed3, the Brit-that-not-break Miata, over the years, Mazda has a veritable pantheon of great cars, all relatively affordable, practical all moderately produced.

Image courtesy media.mazda.ca

Well, the MX-6 GT a bit crap, if I'm honest. I had one, and it was really fast and always ran, but also as a helicopter with the tail-rotor shot off controlled torque.

And so you think that I have become quite Mazda – ahem – protégé, it is worth noting that Mazdas to be plagued affect other Japanese competitors with rust issues that do not seem to appear (we are rare with this problem in the affected Pacific Northwest, but it is a common complaint among Easterners). Even the early speed3 eaten motor mounts like milk duds and the RX-7 Twin Turbo engine would not have less stable if it was made of nitroglycerin, anti-matter and the bits of the Middle East.

So, there are occasional flaws. And with the current Mazda3, two warts lifted immediately in sight, and beg dropped by.

Image courtesy media.mazda.ca

First, the styling, which they have done something with this new car. A tweaked front end makes it a little less idiotic grin, they have added blue mascara 'round the lights, and there is a "SKYACTIV" badge on the back. That was it.

In fact, the reason why it is looking at the press shots here rather than my own ham-handed photography that so little changed, I plumb forgot to take pictures of the car. But everyone knows what the Mazda3 looks already: many curvy design, big goofy smile.

Who. Cares. While – on the conservative-but-interesting look of the CX-5 is based – I am happy to see me, a new KODO-based Mazda3, the current '3 now runs right next to the modern traffic bulbous Hyundai Velo Planters, basking shark-Ford foci and bug-eyed Nissan Jukes. If the grin really bother, just buy a black one.

Image courtesy media.mazda.ca

We can "mark as read" no internal criticism. Exactly the same, but the lighting is now light blue, the official color of other efficiency.

That brings us to the other nipple, the two perhaps the bigger and hairier. While '3 has a certain momentum with the 2.5L engine, it's not particularly competitive in the economics department. The decision for the base 2.0L improves fuel consumption slightly, but the power deficit is palpable. What Mazda needs to stay competitive more Zoom-Zoom from less fuel.

There is not the space here to explain to me completely, the science of SKYACTIV (click here to read my somewhat clumsy attempt to do so), but allow me the layout of the Coles Notes. First, it is not a hybrid. I do not know how many people have come to me and asked what I think of "new hybrid Mazda" thought lost.

SKYACTIV is not a specialty trim level, it is the slogan for the mindset of the engineer who is currently designing your – they hope – next Mazda: improve a complete suite of technologies to business and driver involvement. In the case of the Mazda3, you will receive partial SKYACTIV Tech in the mid-range models free-free-for-nothing.

Image courtesy media.mazda.ca

Secondly, if we would have to simplify things down to a level that Dave Coleman gnawing at his graphing calculator, SKYACTIV-G engine tech is on the controlled combustion. The high-octane premium gasoline usually in high-pressure engines (including turbo'd and supercharged applications) required is less prone to spontaneous combustion than normal. Mazda bypasses this requirement for high quality gas with precise multi-point injector technology and specially domed pistons, establish a regular flame front propagation from the spark.

Advantage? A clean, even burn that runs leaner and gives you a bump in power. Good in theory, but what about the real world application?

Image courtesy media.mazda.ca

Here it is, finally, the meat n 'potatoes of this review. Assuming you've read this far, you do not have styling comment care, you do not care that they've replaced all the red interior lights to blue, you do not have to worry about overblown hyperbole, or even how SKYACTIV tech actually works. They want to know: Is the '3 any good?

Well, first the bad news. The first '3 SKYACTIV is a bit of a hybrid. It's the same old Mazda3 chassis with engine and transmission swap, and part of the SKYACTIV-G petrol engine tech was diluted. There is not enough space under the hood to fit the 4-2-1 header, the CX-5, that sky-high compression ratio can reach 13.01 with a tuned exhaust pulses. The mill in the '3 is therefore restricted to 12:1.

However, the six-speed automatic transmission (conventional, but brightened with improved shift control and a wider lock-up range) in this tester full SKYACTIV, and while the chassis is about the same as last year – a slight improvement stiffness – there was nothing wrong with the old one. In fact, it was all right with the old one.

And here comes the good news. This heart-transplant '3 is better than ever.

Image courtesy media.mazda.ca

I was invited to the launch of the SKYACTIV-equipped Mazda3 in sunny Los Angeles, but elected to wait for a locally available tester instead. I am glad that I, and not imaginary for some independent-can-be-have-hipster-journo street-cred: to I knew that would be the '3 great to go on a Mazda planned Canyon route, I am pleased report that also go great in rain-soaked, volume, growled suicidal pedestrian, militant cyclists, indicator absent daily horrendous traffic. It is so a hoot.

The new automatic transmission delivers crisp, quick shifts, and is actually fun to engage in manu-matic mode. No paddle shifters (yet), but it's a captivating transmission that makes a mockery of the weaksauce dual clutch transmission systems as found in the Focus.

The engine, while not the final grunt of the 2.5L, offers much more than the somewhat dowdy bag 2.0L, splitting the difference between the two engines at 155hp and 148lb/ft torque. Mazda claims the power of a 2.5L from a 2.0L, but that's pushing it a bit: There is still plenty of room for more down low power.

Image courtesy media.mazda.ca

Expect the full-fat, 91-octane burning 14:01 Euro versions have a little more flair, but if I'm jealous of the cheese eating surrender monkeys press, for it will be their upcoming SKYACTIV-D diesel with its 300lb/ft redline of 5300rpm and torque.

But I digress, back to what we are actually getting. In my normal driving style that careen around like a brown 450SEL with a rocket launcher-wielding Robert DeNiro hanging from his roof pursued, returned the Mazda3 SKYACTIV-G a very respectable 33mpg.

Granted, this adds about 15% to the promised 40mpg highway, but seriously, we are talking about depleted uranium Dr. Scholl here. I hit that thing like a pinata concrete and not only did it feel how it loved every minute of it, but there were minor penalty at the pump.

Image courtesy media.mazda.ca

Currently, this type of fuel economy, the '3 to it, among other things – allegedly – fuel sippers. If the little Mazda fall mid-pack for the operating costs in the future as other catch, should its fun-to-drive quotient of the rest of the sales price.

Of course, there is a concern. Each time, words such as "high-compression" start always passed around, the image is immediately pops to mind flambe of some colorful Italian exotic on the shoulder and s. And while most Mazdas have a reasonably good track record for reliability, there is still the long shadow cast by this FD RX-7, and his, uh, explosive power.

But I'm bullish on new tech Mazda and can not wait to see it range-wide and try it. Full effect in the CX-5 It is all well and good, interesting niche enthusiast cars like the GT-86 and the EVO X, but we need a car company that driving pleasure continues as a core value for all of its models.

It's nice to be a company like Mazda have around, and I'm happy to report that its SKYACTIV technologies, to indicate that they'll be able to compete on both fronts appear: not only as an enthusiastic choice, but as a manufacturer of economically efficient daily driver. This new Mazda3 is a car I will certainly recommend next time someone asks.

* Ding-dong *

Oh hang, is someone at the door.

Mazda provided the vehicle tested and insurance.