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The 2012 Mazda3 ushers in some exterior and interior revisions but is most notable for introducing new high-efficiency technologies marketed under the SkyActiv name, including an optional engine claimed to earn the car as much as 40 mpg on the highway. Like in the 2011 model year, the 2012 Mazda3 is available as a sedan and a four-door hatchback. It's a compact, meaning it competes with the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Golf and Jetta, to name a few.
The front bumper has been smoothed, and although the smiling grille's detailing has changed, its size remains the same. Most of the changes to the exterior and underbody were made to improve aerodynamics, which improve by 7 percent for both body styles.
When equipped with the optional SkyActiv engine, the Mazda3 will have a blue ring around each projector-beam headlight lens, extra badging and a blue engine cover under the hood.
There are new designs for the 16- and 17-inch alloy wheels, though the 16-inch steel and 18-inch alloy rims remain unchanged.
Interior changes for 2012 include silver trim on the finer touch points, such as knobs and vent pulls. The gauge markings are now backlit, day or night. The dashboard LCDs are white rather than red, though the Mazdaspeed3 version features red gauge backlighting. SkyActiv logos appear in locations such as on the shift knob. The fabric seat upholstery on both lower and higher trim levels has different patterns.
Under the Hood
With the addition of SkyActiv, the Mazda3 now offers three engines. The base is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder known as MZR, which produces 148 horsepower and teams with a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic for EPA-estimated mileage of 25/33 mpg city/highway and 24/33 mpg, respectively.
The standard engine in the hatchback and in sedans of the Sport trim level and higher is a 167-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder that works with a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic for EPA-estimated mileage of 20/28 mpg or 22/29 mpg, respectively.
Available with either body style, the SkyActiv 2.0-liter direct-injection four-cylinder produces 155 hp, about 5 percent more than the base 2.0-liter and 10 percent more torque. The sedan gets an estimated 27/39 mpg with a SkyActiv six-speed manual or 28/40 mpg with a six-speed SkyActiv automatic. Because of different aerodynamics, the hatchback gets an estimated 27/38 mpg or 28/38 mpg when equipped with the SkyActiv engine and associated manual or automatic transmissions, respectively.
As required on all 2012 models, the Mazda3 has antilock brakes and an electronic stability system. Airbags include the two in front, seat-mounted side-impact torso airbags for the front occupants and side curtains along the side windows. A blind spot monitoring system and active headlights are new options for 2012.
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