Reviews

2013 Mazda 3 Driving Impressions


The 2.0-liter SkyActiv powertrain performs ideally. We tested it hard, and it works. The engine makes 155 horsepower and 148 foot-pounds of torque, enough for plenty of acceleration. The 6-speed automatic transmission works beautifully with the available torque. At 70 mph, the engine spins at a leisurely 2200 rpm, smooth and silent. With the 6-speed manual, it runs 70 mph at 500 rpm more.

Mazda's SkyActiv powertrain uses a regular internal combustion gasoline engine. But engineers tuned it to reduce energy losses in the compression, expansion and exhaust cycles. The transmission increases fuel mileage by about 2 mpg, out of the total increase of about 5 mpg. The net result is an EPA-estimated 27/39 mpg with the standard 6-speed manual, and an impressive 28/40 mpg City/Highway with the optional 6-speed automatic.

In our test driving, we got 29.5 mpg with the automatic while driving it hard over the curvy mountainous highways east of Los Angeles. Later, we averaged 43.7 mpg returning to the city in mostly freeway driving, running 65-70 mph and accelerating and decelerating with the fast flow of traffic.

We ran the 6-speed automatic transmission through all the obedience tests where other automatics usually fail, and it did not fail. It will downshift aggressively, and upshift at low rpm. It will do what you ask it to, and no more, quicker and smoother than before. Some other manufacturers use continuously variable transmissions, because they say they're more fuel efficient. Nobody really likes CVTs; some drivers don't notice, and some live with them, but these continuously variable transmissions turn cars into clothes dryers. There's a CVT in the Mazda3 for Japan, where it's all stop-and-go, slow driving. But this version wasn't even considered for this North American Mazda3.

The suspension on all models delivers a European feel. We ran a lot of harsh patchy pavement on curvy roads, and it wasn't quite a sport sedan, but the feedback was direct, driven hard with the 6-speed automatic transmission in Manual mode. The ride was never uncomfortable, though drivers used to cushy suspensions like those found on the Toyota Corolla might consider the Mazda3's on the firm side.

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