The 2013 Mazda3 gains new electronic features, including a larger screen for the TomTom based navigation system, which now comes standard with a USB audio input (except on SV models). Standard and optional content also changes slightly. The Grand Touring now comes standard with blind spot monitoring and a HD radio.
In the vernacular of Mazdaspeak there’s Zoom-Zoom and SkyActiv. Whereas Zoom-Zoom is a marketing catchphrase to emphasis the enjoyment of driving (similar to Volkswagen’s Fahrvergnügen), SKYACTIV® TECHNOLOGY is a registered name by Mazda to describe its series of technologies which increase fuel efficiency and structural integrity. So SkyActiv not only refers to the powertrain and transmission but the body and chassis as well. The first application appeared last year as a partial SkyActiv system on the 2012 Mazda3 i , followed by a full system for the all-new 2013 CX-5 crossover and recently released 2014 redesigned Mazda6.
Although SKYACTIV® TECHNOLOGY appears to be Mazda’s future as well as salvation, the Mazda3 continues to be offered as a ‘s’ model, which includes a more athlete, though less fuel efficient 2.5-liter inline 4, rated at 167 horsepower and 168 lb-ft. of torque. However, here’s the rub: fuel economy for the 2.5 is measly 20/28/38 mpg (city/hwy/combo) compared to the SkyActiv’s class-leading 28/33/39 mpg (city/hwy/combo).
To understand the terminologies, SkyActiv-G refers to the family of direct injection gasoline engines. SkyActiv-Drive translates to Mazda’s 6-speed ‘shiftable’ automatic transmission (SkyActiv-MT relates to the 6-speed Manual). SkyActiv-Body refers to, well, the body as well as the chassis. In the case of the Mazda3, until its next redesign, it remains only a partial SkyActiv.
Introduced on the Mazda3 for the 2012 model year, Mazda's new direct-injected 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (Skyactiv-G) is rated at 155 horsepower @ 6000 rpm, Torque (lb-ft): 148 @ 4100 rpm, matted to either a six-speed manual (SkyActiv-MT) or six-speed automatic transmission (SkyActiv-Drive). The engine is the key component for achieving 40 plus mpg on the highway without resorting to antics like special aerodynamics or automatic transmission shift programming that settles into the highest gear before launching.
In order to accomplish all this engine compression ratio is increased to 14:1. To reduce the risk of engine knock at high compression, residual gas is reduced by using a 4-2-1 exhaust system, implementing a piston cavity, and optimizing fuel injection. In addition, combustion duration is shortened by intensifying air flow, increasing injection pressure, using multi-hole injectors, and having a piston cavity. SkyActiv-G engines which don’t require premium fuel have a lower compression ratio of 13:1, and the fuel economy and torque decreases by about 3 to 5 percent as a result.
The Mazda 3’s Skyactiv-Drive six-speed automatic uses a torque converter below five mph for smooth launches. However, at higher speeds the transmission uses a wet, multi-plate clutch just like a dual-clutch transmission does. This was not a simple accomplishment, requiring a complete redesign of the torque converter. But since it only works at less than five miles per hour, it is smaller than a traditional unit (Mazda says its new transmission is 7-percent better in fuel economy than its predecessor and more efficient than a dual-clutch or continuously-variable transmission).
All Mazda3 i models are easily recognizable sporting Skyactiv specific blue badging on the trunk lid and a blue engine cover. The distinction continues with special illumination, such as blue rings around the front headlights and available blue ambient interior lighting.
Cosmetically, the Mazda3 is a virtual carryover from last year’s makeover. The front fascia literally received a major facelift, nixing the previous Nagare ‘smiley-face’ of the 2009-2011 for something far more pleasing and subdued. However it wouldn’t come as a great surprise if the 2014 Mazda3 were to adapt the Kodo inspired grille motif established by the CX-5 and revised 2014 Mazda6.
I was unofficially introduced to Mazda’s SkyActiv technology through neighbors who purchased one of the first Mazda3 i hatchbacks to come off the truck. They chose it based on their son’s good fortune with his 2007 Mazda3 hatchback. Putting the two together for a comparison of how far the Mazda3 had progressed in just 5 short model years was so astonishing that the son got the initiative to trade up; but due to his more active lifestyle opted for the CX-5 instead.
So when I had the opportunity to finally get my hands on one for an extended evaluation, my neighbors were the first to check it out. My test vehicle arrived as an automatic equipped Mazda3 i Grand Touring (aka GT) sedan, dressed in a jazzy Velocity Red Mica, which is only available on i Touring and Grand Touring Models. Options included a Technology Package ($1,500), an interior lighting kit ($200) and mirror comp Homelink with rain sensor ($275) for a window sticker of $26,420.
The Mazda3 i Grand Touring sedan comes well appointed, equipped with segment exclusive self-leveling Bi-Xenon High-Intensity-Discharge (HID) headlights with auto on/off feature, adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS), halogen fog lights, side mirrors with integrated turn signal, blind spot, monitoring, rain-sensing windshield wipers, power glass moonroof, 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels on P205/50 R16 all-season radial tires. The Mazda3 Grand Touring also sports a pivoting Adaptive Front-lighting system, which enhances night time vision by turning, up to 15 degrees, helping to see around corners.
With the Technology Package the standard audio unit is replaced by a navigation system with a 5.8-inch color touch screen and voice command. It perfectly replicates the interface of the TomTom –based navigation system, using the same maps, menu system, and voice command system found on current TomTom standalone devices. The system features traffic data, multiple pathfinding options, and spoken turn-by-turn directions with text-to-speech street names.
However the wholesale importing of TomTom's interface into the Mazda infotainment system is not without issues. For starters, two separate voice command systems and two separate address books, one of each for the navigation and for the Bluetooth systems, when contacts from cell phones, the addresses associated with those contacts aren't imported, so they have to be manually imputed. Additionally, an odd glitch in the input lockout, which is designed to keep drivers from typing addresses with the touch screen while driving, kept kicking me out of the voice address input while driving in stop-and-go traffic. Outside of these quibbles, the Mazda/TomTom collaboration is remarkably simple and quite good for the price.
The Bose audio system gains HD Radio decoding with the addition of the Technology Package, as well as Pandora Internet radio connectivity. Simply connect your smartphone to the stereo via USB (for iOS) or Bluetooth (for Android) to gain full control of the Pandora app via the touch screen, including displaying artist and song data, using skip and thumbs-up/thumbs-down controls, and browsing your stored radio stations. A SiriusXM Satellite Radio receiver with a four-month trial subscription rounds out the additional audio sources.
The Mazda3 is better known for its entertaining road manners, responsive steering and performance-oriented suspension tuning, no matter what trim level. Though the chassis is a little aged it remains a solid contender, thanks in part to the MacPherson struts up front and multi-links in the rear. Steering feedback is enhanced by the fact it is electric-hydraulic speed-proportional, meaning an electric motor turns the hydraulic pump. Overall steering effort was good, communicative and nicely weighed.
Simply, the Mazda3 is still one of the more enjoyable drivers in its segment, especially when taking on back roads. The same holds true for the daily routine, although some might deem the Mazda3's ride as a little too firm and harsh. In fact that was one of the most noticeable criticisms my son (who owns a HHR) had to offer. On the other hand, my wife had no complaints in that department. Go figure.
Though there are far newer and more contemporary models to select from you can’t go wrong with the Mazda3, especially the fuel miser SkyActiv. As the Mazda tag line states “Practical doesn't have to be boring”. The Mazda3 has been a popular choice since its inception, and continues to command high resale value. If leather seats are not a priority, then the Touring model is equally enjoyable, and comes with an even more attractive price point. As much as I like the sedan, I much prefer the hatchback for its versatility and stylish appearance.
2013 Mazda 3i Grand Touring Sedan
On Sale: Now
Base MSRP: $23,650
Price as Tested: $26,420 (includes $795 delivery, processing and handling fee)
2.0-liter inline 4 155-bhp @ 6000 rpm, Torque (lb-ft): 148 @ 4100 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed shiftable automatic
WHEELS AND TIRES: 16-inch alloy wheels on P205/55R16 R10 all season tires
FUEL ECONOMY: 28/33/39 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
FUEL CAPACITY: 14.5-gallon
FUEL TYPE: Regular Unleaded
CURB WEIGHT: 4277 lb
Legroom (front/rear): 41.7/40.5 in
Headroom (front/rear): 38.0/37.3 in
Trunk: 13.3 cu. ft/
36mo/36,000miles bumper-to-bumper, limited
60mo/60,000miles powertrain, limited
36mo/36,000miles 24/7 roadside assistance
Key Competitors: Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruise, Dodge Dart, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Volkswagen Jetta