The 2013 Mazda Mazda3 remains a demonstration of the company's 'Zoom-Zoom' philosophy, although the slogan is now largely gone from its ads.
The latest model of its practical, affordable Mazda3 compact sedan or hatchback manages to pack more eagerness, and a little sports-car verve, into its entry in an often mundane segment. And thanks to the SkyActiv powertrains introduced last year, the Mazda3 doesn't disappoint at the gas pump, either--with numbers that range up to 40 mpg.
Those new Sky-G engine and transmissions improve existing gasoline technology rather than throwing electric motors or diesel at the problem, and the result is pretty respectable mileage figures.
It develops 155 hp and is refined and responsive when paired to either an a six-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual. The 2.0-liter gasoline engine can hit 40 mpg on the highway, while returning 33 mpg combined. City mileage stacks up at 28 mpg. That's with the six-speed automatic transmission--the slick-shifting manual loses out by 1 mpg in city and highway driving, and drops 2 mpg overall.
When we drove the Mazda3 last year with the new SkyActiv engine, we that it overachieved on its EPA rating: We got 38 mpg, against the combined 33-mpg rating, in a test car fitted with a six-speed automatic transmission.
A few other models in the Mazda3 lineup are being carried over. Base Mazda3 i SV models offer the older-design 2.0-liter engine, while 3s versions get the 167-horsepower, 2.5-liter engine that has more low-end torque--but you'll have to decide if it's worth the the extra money or the huge tradeoff in mileage.
At the top end, the Mazdaspeed 3 uses a 263-horsepower, turbocharged 2.3-liter. It gets down the road like few others in the class, but don't expect great gas mileage...
Whichever engine you choose, the Mazda3 feels athletic while not sacrificing too much comfort. Strong four-wheel disc brakes (noteworthy among rivals offering inferior drum brakes), and top-notch electrohydraulic steering mean that the tactile experience you get behind the wheel is unparalleled among affordable small cars. It's not quite a front-wheel drive Miata for the family man--but it's not too far off.
It isn't all good news--the back seat is rather cramped, and there's a little more road noise than is typical for the class (the price you pay for sportiness?). Inside, you'll find generous, supportive front seats and a logical dashboard layout. Deeply hooded dials and a three-spoke steering wheel help add to the sporty feeling.
For 2013, the Mazda3 gets some significant improvements that add to the value of these affordable small cars. On base SV models of the 2013 Mazda3, you get a lot for your money (air conditioning is now included), and the Mazda3i Sport is even more appealing, with the SkyActiv powertrains now standard.
The i Sport has also been revamped to include a USB port and the multi-information display--both of which used to require stepping up to the top-level Touring model. Mazda 3i Touring models remain the ones most buyers will probably want, as they include automatic climate control, push-button start, and Advanced Keyless Entry. Above that, the Grand Touring cars are the "leather and navi" choices, for those who want more of a premium, loaded feel--with rain-sensing wipers and HID headlamps at the 's' level.
For more details, see the full review of the 2013 Mazda Mazda2 on our sister site, TheCarConnection.
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