Forty is the new thirty, at least when it comes to highway fuel economy. Many automakers now have 40 MPG models in their lineup, since staying competitive in the market requires it. Mazda has missed the 40 MPG club, since even their Mazda2 subcompact returned just 35 highway MPG. That changes with the SkyActiv equipped 2012 Mazda3, which is now rated at 40 MPG highway when equipped with Mazda’s six speed automatic transmission. By Mazda’s own numbers, that’s a 21% improvement over the current 2.0-liter MZR engine and five speed automatic transmission.
Best of all is that power goes up with fuel economy. The previous 2.0-liter MZR engine was rated at 148 horsepower and 135 ft lb of torque; the SkyActiv-G engine is rated at 155 horsepower and 148 ft lb of torque. The engine is 4.4 pounds lighter as well, and boasts a higher compression ratio, multi-hole fuel injectors and dual sequential valve timing for maximum efficiency.
There will be a dizzying array of Mazda3 models to choose from in 2012. The current 2.0-liter MZR continues on in the base model, mated to either a five speed manual or five speed automatic. Next up is the SkyActiv-G 2.0-liter engine, which comes with either a six speed manual or a six speed automatic transmission. Mazda’s 2.5-liter MZR engine also remains available in 2012, bolted to a six speed manual or a five speed automatic. Then there’s the Mazdaspeed3, which (as far as I can tell) soldiers on with the current engine and six speed manual transmission.
Mazda’s made some exterior and interior styling changes as well, but the Mazda3 represents their bread and butter, so the automaker won’t make significant changes until the next generation is released with Kodo styling. If you’re in the market for a compact sedan or hatch, chances are that there’s a Mazda3 to fit your needs, taste and budget. If you’re planning on driving all of the 2012 variants, just make sure you put aside a full day to do so.