2012 Mazda3 More Efficient, Less Smiley

The 2012 Mazda3, which debuted at an auto show in Canada this week, will indeed receive the new global 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine the automaker is dubbing “SKYActive.” What does that mean? Basically it has direct injection and uses lightweight materials to boost both fuel efficiency and torque by 15%.

Mazda needs to get better mileage because it’s far behind its compact-class competition in that category. The current Mazda3 gets an EPA-estimated 24/33/27 mpg city/highway/combined. A 15% boost would take that combined figure to 31 mpg and the highway number to 38 mpg, putting the car closer to its rivals. However, Honda just announced the 2012 Civic will get 39 mpg highway, and the new Hyundai Elantra gets 40 mpg highway.

At least the 2012 Mazda3 won’t be as far behind in fuel economy.

Mazda has also toned down the smiley face look of the Mazda3 with a more angular grille. We can’t really see much difference to the rear of the car, and we can’t stand the new wheels, which look like they belong on a Pontiac Vibe, shown in these photos.

We’d expect to get more details and better specifications on the new Mazda3 when we get closer to its fall on-sale date. In an unusual turn of events, Mazda is using the U.S. as its launch market for these new engines.