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2012 Mazda3 With SKYACTIV Technology Review and Roadtest by Larry Nutson +VIDEO

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Mazda Specs, Prices and Comparisons - Mazda Buyers Guide

2012 Mazda3 With SKYACTIV Technology
By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

HOLLYWOOD, CA - February 15 2012: It was just a few months ago and 1100 miles further north on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Vancouver, Canada when I first learned the details about Mazda’s new SKYACTIV Technology.

What’s SKYACTIV you say?

“SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY embodies Mazda’s philosophy of engineering only vehicles that are fun to drive, satisfying to own and environmentally responsible.” “SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY is not just an engine; it is a new generation of advanced vehicle performance and efficiency,” said Jim O’Sullivan, president and CEO, Mazda North American Operations (MNAO).

Or, as I would put it, performance and economy are not mutually exclusive.

The term SKYACTIV has its genesis in the concept of “the sky’s the limit”. The Mazda Engineering Team was challenged to think outside of the box and revisit every conceivable approach to improve technology, performance and efficiency in Mazda vehicles. A close-up look into Mazda SKYACTIV technology is available HERE on The Auto Channel.

Hollywood is known for its stunts. I, together with a contingent of automotive journalists gathered for our first evening together under a very comfortably Southern California blue sky. Some of us were curious as to how the new 2012 Mazda3 carefully displayed beside the hotel pool at an enclosed inside courtyard had gotten there. We learned that it had been lifted over the surrounding two-story building by crane. Well, anything is possible and the sky’s the limit for Mazda.

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The Mazda3 model is Mazda’s best-selling vehicle worldwide and accounts for nearly two thirds of all Mazda car sales in the United States, making the vehicle a prime candidate for introducing SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY to consumers looking for dynamic performance coupled with high fuel efficiency. This mid-cycle refresh provides an even a more refined exterior and interior. The 2012 Mazda3 also is the first application in North America of Mazda’s innovative SKYACTIV fuel-saving and performance-oriented technologies, achieving an EPA-rated 40 mpg on the highway.

Watch the Mazda3 promo video

Redesigned for the 2010 model year, the refreshed 2012 Mazda3 receives an all-new SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter gasoline engine as well as the all-new SKYACTIV-MT six-speed manual transmission and all-new SKYACTIV-Drive six-speed automatic transmission.

The 2012 Mazda3 with SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY achieves a high compression ratio of 12.0:1 and delivers 155 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 148 lb-ft of torque at 4,100 rpm. (The PZEV version of this engine sold in California and other states produces 154 horsepower at 6,000 rpm.)

Compared to the current Mazda3 MZR 2.0-liter engine, the maximum power of the SKYACTIV-equipped 2012 Mazda3 is increased by approximately five percent (from 148 horsepower at 6,500 rpm) and peak torque is increased by approximately 10 percent (from 135 lb-ft at 4,500 rpm).

Fuel economy also gets a boost from the combination of a SKYACTIV engine and transmissions. When equipped with the SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter engine and optional SKYACTIV-Drive six-speed automatic transmission, the 2012 Mazda3 sedan will achieve an EPA rating of 40 mpg on the highway, an approximately 21-percent improvement over the current MZR 2.0-liter engine when equipped with the optional five-speed automatic transmission.

With a fuel tank capacity of 14.5 gallons, the 2012 Mazda3 sedan with SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY has the potential of a 540-mile range, with still a gallon of fuel remaining. City mpg for the sedan version also improves by 17 percent to 28 mpg. When equipped with the SKYACTIV-MT six-speed manual transmission, the sedan has an EPA-rated fuel economy of 27 city/39 highway. The Mazda3 sedan with the MZR 2.0-liter engine has an EPA fuel economy rating of 25 city/33 highway with the standard five-speed manual transmission, and 24 city/33 highway with the optional five-speed automatic transmission.

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Also, previously only available with the MZR 2.5-liter engine, the Mazda3 five-door hatchback model will now be offered in the U.S. with the SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter gasoline engine. This Mazda3 hatchback is EPA-rated to deliver 27 city/38 highway (SKYACTIV-MT) and 28 city/39 highway (SKYACTIV-Drive AT). The slightly lower highway estimates can be attributed to different aerodynamics and a higher weight ratio between the sedan and hatchback. However, the hatchback’s driving range remains impressive with more than 500 miles of driving on the same sized tank as the sedan, and at 39 mpg on the highway, the Mazda3 hatchback with SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY is the most fuel efficient five-door in the compact car segment.

The 2012 Mazda3’s exterior appearance features a new front fascia and updated five-point grille opening for both sedan and hatchback styles. New design characteristics include more delicately sculpted forms around the openings on the outside edge of the front bumper and a rounded fog lamp shape (changed from the horizontally-wide version of the current model). A new rear lower bumper is added for “i” models.

Mazda3 sedan and hatchback models equipped with SKYACTIV-G gasoline engines will be further distinguished with exclusive elements, such as an all-new engine cover featuring a deep blue metallic paint finish with black sections along either side, headlamp units outfitted with a transparent blue ring around the center lens to emphasize the vehicle’s distinctive character and a badge featuring a “SKYACTIV” logo against a clear-blue background. The refreshed exterior look is completed with all-new 16- and 17-inch aluminum alloy wheel designs.

The interior re-design was developed with the end goals of a more inviting cabin and higher quality feel. Beginning with the instrument panel, black is now used throughout the center stack and shift gate to provide an even bolder look. Also, silver-colored, satin-polished details were added to areas frequently operated by consumers, such as the outer rings of the three climate-control dial switches and the audio control panel, as well as the ventilation louvers on the center panel. This creates a feeling of higher refinement and also the silver-on-black color scheme further accentuates the location of these common controls and switches thus increasing legibility and ease of operation.

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The multi-information display (MID) and liquid crystal display (LCD) also received color adjustments, changing from the red text and graphics of the previous model to an easier-to-read white. On the 2012 MAZDASPEED3, silver touches also replace the previously red-accented graphics and the silver decoration atop the shift knob has been removed. The entire shift knob on the 2012 MAZDASPEED3 is now black leather-wrapped. The parking brake knob also is wrapped in genuine leather.

The sporty twin-meter design of the instrument cluster is now highlighted with new, continuous-lit white graphic meters. Backlight colors also differ depending on the model: dynamic gray for standard and high trim levels, and a red gradation for the MAZDASPEED3. SKYACTIV-equipped vehicles will feature a blue gradation backlight as well as white-graphic meter panels. The shift knob is now adorned by satin-polish plating on the lower section and a silver ring-surrounded plate on the upper part.

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Improved visual designs also have found their way into the comfortable and supportive seats with new three-dimensional fabric patterns. On the black seats of non-leather models, gray cross-threads have been added to enhance contrast and create a feeling of casual comfort. Dune-colored seats receive both bright and dark-colored cross-threads to create a calm, mature interior atmosphere. Higher trim levels (Touring and Grand Touring) receive a different three-dimensional seat fabric pattern to create a richer expression of quality on the black fabric.

An optional feature available for 2012 models is a new, segment-exclusive Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) system. When a vehicle is detected entering the blind spot area, indicator lamps housed within the door mirrors will light. If a turn signal is activated while the indicators are lit, the indicators flash and a buzzer provides an additional warning.

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Industry studies show that, by 2020, 90% of all cars…including hybrids…will still use internal combustion engines. Mazda’s SKYACTIV will do more to cut emissions and fuel consumption and correspondingly clean up the environment. More than selling smaller volume electric cars. (See: Electric Vehicles - Solution or Diversion?)

With SKYACTIV, you can have your cake and eat it too. It’s fun-to-drive at 40 mpg.

Larry Nutson