Test Drive:  2012 Mazda3 Sport GS Sky car test drives reviews mazda green technology green scene green reviews greenreviews
2012 Mazda3 Sport GS-Sky. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2012 Mazda3

In the next few years, all Mazda’s vehicles will incorporate the company’s new fuel-saving “SkyActiv” technologies which encompass significant changes to Mazda’s engines, transmissions, suspensions and body structures. These engineering upgrades are designed to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions without sacrificing performance and fun-to-drive characteristics. At least, that’s the theory!

The first vehicle to include some, but not all, of these SkyActiv upgrades is the 2012 Mazda3 Sedan and Sport (hatchback); specifically, the mid-level Mazda3 GS-Sky trim. It offers an all-new 2.0-litre four-cylinder SkyActiv-G engine, and newly available SkyActiv-MT six-speed manual and SkyActiv-Drive six-speed automatic transmissions. Additional SkyActiv technology upgrades to the Mazda3’s suspension and body will come in next year’s model.

The mid-level GS-Sky trim is the only Mazda3 to receive the SkyActiv improvements this year. Base Mazda3 GX and regular GS models continue to use last year’s 2.0-litre engine and five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmissions, while the top-of-the-line GT model continues with the larger 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine with standard six-speed manual or optional five-speed automatic transmissions.

Test Drive:  2012 Mazda3 Sport GS Sky car test drives reviews mazda green technology green scene green reviews greenreviews
2012 Mazda3 Sport GS-Sky. Click image to enlarge

The new SkyActiv 2.0-litre engine employs a number of technology advancements to improve fuel consumption while also increasing horsepower and torque slightly. Direct fuel injection with multi-hole fuel injectors for each cylinder enhances the fuel spray pattern for more efficient combustion; new piston cavity shapes shorten combustion time and reduce engine knocking; dual sequential valve timing decreases pumping losses; and a high compression ratio of 12:0:1 delivers more horsepower and torque: now 155 at 6,000 rpm and 148 lb.-ft. at 4,100 rpm vs the current engine’s 148 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 135 lb.-ft. at 4,500 rpm. The new SkyActiv 2.0-litre engine is also about two kilograms lighter than the other 2.0-litre engine.

In addition, the new SkyActiv-Drive six-speed automatic transmission itself contributes to a four to seven per cent improvement in fuel economy due to a new torque converter with a lock-up clutch design, a more advanced electronic control module, and of course, the extra sixth gear. The SkyActiv-MT six-speed manual transmission also offers shorter throws, fewer components and a lighter weight.

As a result of these improvements, the fuel economy of the 2012 Mazda3 GS-Sky is at or near the top of its class. Equipped with the SkyActiv engine and automatic transmission, the 2012 Mazda3 GS-Sky sedan’s fuel economy is officially rated at a miserly 7.2 city/4.9 hwy (L/100 km). That’s a 17 per cent improvement over the 2012 GX/GS sedan with the older 2.0-litre engine and a five-speed automatic which offers 8.7 city/6.0 hwy. With the manual six-speed transmission, the 2012 GS-Sky sedan is rated at 7.6 city/5.0 hwy, a 15 per cent improvement compared to the 2012 GX/GS sedan with 8.7 city/6.0 hwy.

Test Drive:  2012 Mazda3 Sport GS Sky car test drives reviews mazda green technology green scene green reviews greenreviews
2012 Mazda3 Sport GS-Sky. Click image to enlarge

The Mazda3 Sport GS-Sky hatchback model uses slightly more fuel, but not much. The Sport GS-Sky automatic offers 7.2 city/5.1 hwy, a 10 per cent improved when compared with the Sport GX/GS automatic with 8.1 city/5.9 hwy; if you opt for the six-speed manual transmission, the Sport GS-Sky gets 7.6 city/5.1 hwy, a 14 per cent improvement over the Sport GX/GS manual with 8.7 city/6.0 hwy.

Compared to most of its competitors, the Mazda3 Sport GS-Sky offers better fuel economy. Traditional fuel misers in the hatchback category include the Toyota Matrix and Ford Focus. The Matrix with the base 1.8-litre engine and optional four-speed automatic transmission offers 8.1 city/6.3 hwy while the Ford Focus hatch with its new direct-injection 2.0-litre engine and optional six-speed automatic gets a respectable 7.3 city/5.2 hwy, just a little more than the Mazda3 GS-Sky. That leaves the Mazda3 Sport GS-Sky as the most fuel efficient compact hatchback in its class; and in its price range, the most powerful hatchback too – with the exception of the 160-hp Focus hatch.




About Greg Wilson

Greg Wilson is a Vancouver-based automotive journalist and contributor to Autos.ca. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).