2012 Mazda3
2012 Mazda3
2012 Mazda3
2010-2012 Mazda3. Click image to enlarge

Review by Justin Pritchard

Vehicle Type: Compact sedan or 5-door

History/Description: This second-generation Mazda 3 advanced the popular and athletic Japanese compact on all fronts and maintained both the sedan and hatchback offerings from the generation before it. This 3 had a face like a smiling guppy-fish, but it won over the hearts of thousands of Canadians with an upscale cabin, upscale body styling, upscale feature content and higher-than-average performance and reflexes.

Further, this generation Mazda 3 debuted the brand’s ‘Skyactiv’ umbrella of fuel-saving, emissions-reducing technologies and engineering efforts. Get the five-door, add a roof-rack or two, and you’ve got a sporty and neato-looking model that’s all adventurey and ready for skiing, kayaking and the like.

Buying a used 3? Decide whether you need a sedan or a hatchback, then start thinking options. Serious options. Options like rain-sensing wipers, automatic lights, leather-wrapped accents and heated leather seats. Navigation, Bluetooth and blind-spot monitoring were also available for high-tech, high-class flare. A sunroof, satellite radio and premium audio systems could be specified, and your buddies will love the pointy-steery adaptive xenon lights that direct their output into corners in sync with the steering. Xenon lights are fantastic for travelers who frequently spend time on the road after dark, by the way.

Key competitors included the Ford Focus, Kia Forte and Honda Civic.

Engines / Trim: Above-mentioned features are bundled into numerous trim levels, including the popular ‘GS’ and the top-line ‘GT’. The ‘GX’ grade was reserved for base models. A track-ready Mazdaspeed 3 variant was available with turbocharged power, which is naughty and awesome, but we’ll cover it in a separate review.

Engine choices included 2.0L and 2.5L gas four-cylidner units. Basic models will have a five-speed manual or automatic, and six-speed transmissions in manual or automatic were found elsewhere on higher-end GS or GT models. All units were front-wheel drive.

Note that from 2012 and on, Skyactiv technology fitted a high-efficiency 2.0L engine option as well. On a test-drive of said model, your writer achieved real-world mileage that rivaled the Volkswagen Jetta TDI, which is pretty sweet. Your figures will vary, though owners tend to love the wholesome, gas-saving ideology of the Skyactiv powerplant in this 3. Note that some owners say that expensive oil changes on Skyactiv powerplants tend to eat away at some of the fuel savings.

What Owners Like: Upscale styling, sporty handling dynamics, an upscale cabin and a pleasant, easy-to-drive character were highly rated by owners of this generation Mazda 3. Fuel mileage, especially on models with the ‘Skyactiv’ engine, was highly rated, as was versatility on hatchback models.

What Owners Dislike: The grinning front bumper fascia, a teensy navigation system screen and limited rear-seat space were among the common complaints for this generation of the 3. Others included tire noise, blind spots and some easily scratched interior panels, as well as somewhat limited at-hand storage.

Here’s what some owners are saying.

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