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2013 Mazda MAZDA3 Overview
Mazda continues to expand and innovate its vast Mazda3 offering for 2013. This year the company added air conditioning standard across the board; made a USB port and driver information system standard for the i Sport, i Touring and i Grand Touring; and expanded the availability of its new 2-liter SkyActiv engine to the i Sport in addition to the i Touring and i Grand Touring trims that offered the new engine in 2012. Offered in 4-door sedan and hatchback flavors, the Mazda3 became wildly popular, being touted as a typical Zoom-Zoom Mazda with oomph and character, plus the promise of up to 40 highway mpg. But drivers, many many drivers, are telling a different story in an unusually massive outpouring of reviews.
Those reviews span a full spectrum from absolutely in love to concerned and uncomfortable, with a touch of disappointment in the SkyActiv's performance in some instances. Sometimes fuel economy isn't accurately reported by the indicator or worse than other drivers manage, and sometimes a stutter is disturbingly pronounced alongside laggard acceleration, but those aren't common, and the most common long-term complaint is a rattle in the body and other such noises. Next to that, comfort is a significant issue for long drives or tall rear passengers, but here again other drivers of the same trim say the seats are comfortable and the cabin suits their needs completely. Most Mazda3 drivers are first-time reviewers, because these nuances make it so polarizing—do thoroughly test-drive any car you're considering buying to confirm your preferences.
Speaking of options, the Mazda3 is offered in 4 hatchback and 6 sedan trims, with 3 different 4-cylinder engines scattered amongst them with varying availability. The i SV and i Sport are available only as a sedan, and both default to the old 2-liter good for 148 hp and 135 lb-ft of torque, but the i Sport gets a more efficient option for 2013. Problematic as it may be for some drivers, the newest SkyActiv engine now also available for the i Sport does achieve its 28 mpg city/40 highway with the 6-speed automatic or 27/39 with the 6-speed manual. All that careful tweaking made the SkyActiv engine not just more fuel efficient, but it's also 1.4 seconds quicker to the 60-mph mark, having an 8.5-second time as compared with the older 2.0's 9.9 seconds to 60. This could be due to the 5-speed manual or optional 5-speed automatic for that older engine, but whatever the case, the proof is in the pudding.
The i Touring and i Grand Touring also share the SkyActiv engine and sedan economy, but their hatch body knocks 1 mpg off each highway figure. This 155-hp and 148-lb-ft/torque 2-liter may not have the most power in the lineup, and it's not the quickest either, but the best any other Mazda3 will do is 25/33 with the older 2-liter on a stick. The 2.5-liter upgrade can do 8.1 seconds to 60 mph for a significant fuel-efficiency cut in the hatch-or-sedan s Touring and s Grand Touring. That 167-hp and 168-lb-ft/torque 2.5-liter gets only 20/28 with the 6-speed manual or 22/29 with the optional 5-speed automatic for 0.4 seconds off the SkyActiv's time, so don't let the small price gap between the two let you think it's only marginally more expensive to own marginally improved performance.
At its base, the Mazda3 i SV offers 16-inch steel wheels, power mirrors, power windows, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 60/40-split-folding rear seat, air conditioning and 4-speaker stereo with CD player, auxiliary input and steering-wheel-mounted controls. If your expectations include power locks, ante up to the i Sport, and you'll also get keyless entry and an outside temperature display for a still remarkably attractive price. Features like cruise control, alloy wheels, leather touches and a 6-speaker stereo system are available in the i and s Touring, while all the Touring's options plus features like leather upholstery, a sunroof, navigation system, heated front seats, 8-way power driver's seat, heated seats and a 10-speaker Surround Sound Bose system are reserved for the top-shelf i and s Grand Touring. Options available universally include a blind-spot warning system, automatic wipers, satellite radio, iPod/USB connectivity and a 6-CD changer.
by Patricia Mayo
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