2012 Mazda3 Skyactiv Review

2012 Mazda3 Skyactiv - 3/4 front profile MPG-o-Matic 2012 Mazda3 Review Summary: Mazda boldly touts the 2012 Mazda3 Skyactiv as “the first 40 MPG car worth driving.” While that might seem like a lot of hype, it’s not too far off the mark. The Skyactiv3 delivers a class-topping combination of MPGs and driving dynamics.

The new Skyactiv-G engine is offered in the Mazda3’s i Touring and i Grand Touring trim. The direct-injected DOHC VVT 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine produces 155 horsepower (HP) and 148 foot pounds of torque. It’s a solid motor, but the whole Skyactiv story is about more than just the power plant. Mazda’s more conventional 2.0 and 2.5-liter engines continue to be offered in the i SV/i Sport sedan and s Touring/s Grand Touring trim (both sedan and five-door), respectively.

The official fuel economy estimates for the Mazda3 Skyactiv sedan are 27 city / 39 highway with the six-speed overdrive manual and 28 / 40 with the six-speed Skyactiv-Drive automatic. The five-door Mazda3 Skyactiv is slightly less fuel-efficient, with 27 / 38 MPG for the manual and 28 / 39 MPG for the automatic. Blame it on the aerodynamics. The i Touring and i Grand Touring sedans are the most aerodynamic of the 2012 Mazda3’s with a Coefficient of drag of just 0.27. The five-door hatchback slips in at a 0.29 Cd in i trim and 0.30 in s trim.

        Fuel Economy
  HP Torque Compression Manual Automatic
MZR 2.0-liter 148 135 10.0:1 25/33 24/33
Skyactiv-G 2.0-liter 155 148 12.0:1 27/39 28/40
MZR 2.5-liter 167 167 9.7:1 20/28 22/29

The Skyactiv-G engine delivers more horsepower, torque, and fuel-efficiency than the conventional 2.0-liter, using a number of technologies including:

  • direct-injection
  • high-compression ratio
  • weight and friction reduction
  • 4-2-1 exhaust system

We took to the road and covered more than 800 miles in our Skyactiv automatic-equipped Sky Blue Grand Touring sedan review unit and had no problem surpassing the official mileage estimates, with an average of 45.1 MPG on the Interstate highway and 35.8 MPG combined with temperatures ranging from the thirties through the fifties.

Interstate Mileage Testing:

  • Cruise control set to 68 MPH, A/C off, windows up: 44.3 MPG
  • Cruise control off, target speed 60-72 MPH, A/C off, windows up: 45.9 MPG

Interstate highway testing temperatures were in the fifties. Our Grand Touring test vehicle was equipped with the standard 16-inch alloy wheels, clad with Bridgestone Turanza EL400 P205/55R16 all-season tires, and was delivered with approximately 1100 miles on the odometer.

Highway driving range is excellent. The Mazda3 Skyactiv is fitted with a 14.5 gallon fuel tank and is designed to run on regular unleaded.

The 2012 Mazda3 i Touring and Grand Touring is fitted with four-wheel-disc brakes (10.9-inch vented front/10.4-inch solid rear) with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Brake Assist. The manual transmission-equipped Skyactiv3 weighs in at 2,872 pounds (curb weight), while the automatic weighs in at 2,950 pounds.

The Mazda3 Grand Touring’s Color Multi-Information Display includes trip meters, range to empty, and average fuel consumption displays, along with real-time fuel economy. It’s good to see that Mazda did not overlook the crucial real-time MPG display, as have some of the competition.

This is the drivers car among the growing 40 MPG crowd.

2012 Mazda3 Skyactiv - steering wheel and dash The innovative six-speed SKYACTIV-Drive automatic transmission uses both a torque converter and an automated clutch to deliver smooth and fast gear changes as well as improved fuel economy and includes a Sport mode with manual-shift.

The cabin is all business. The Grand Touring edition includes leather-trimmed seating surfaces, an eight-way power driver’s seat, and five-level seat heating, and moon roof. The leather-wrapped steering wheel’s controls are comprehensive. Adjustable lumbar support is not available.

Hands-free Bluetooth is standard, along with a ten-speaker Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound audio system, and an audio input jack. The USB iPod Integration Module is a dealer installed option. There are two twelve-volt outlets: one inside the center console and one at the base of the dash.

Our tester was equipped with the Technology option package, which includes:

  • Blindspot mirrors
  • Sirus Satellite radio
  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Pivoting adaptive front lighting system with bi-xenon HID headlights
  • Perimeter alarm

While the Mazda3 i Grand Touring sedan benefits from a remarkably low 0.27 coefficient of drag (Cd), the rear seat is pleasant for two (although rated for three). There are 37.4 inches of headroom (with the moon roof) and 36.2 inches of legroom.

  Four-Door Sedan Five-Door Hatchback
  i s i s MazdaSpeed
  SV, Sport i Touring, GT Touring, GT All All All
Coefficient of Drag (Cd) 0.28 0.27 0.28 0.29 0.30 0.32

The sedan’s trunk allows for 11.8 cubic feet of storage with the seat up. Folding the 60/40 seats down from inside the cabin provides ample room for larger items. Any more than that and you might want to opt for the hatchback.

All-in-all, the 2012 Mazda3 Skyactiv delivers a class-leading combination of driving dynamics, aerodynamics and fuel-efficiency. Our only wishes are for adjustable lumbar support, a larger navigation screen and standard USB. While the competition is fierce in this segment, the Skyactiv stands out as the driver’s car among the 40 MPG crowd.

2012 Mazda3 Skyactiv - side profile

Parts Content Information
US/Canadian Parts Content: 0%
Major Sources of Foreign Parts Content: Japan – 95%
Final Assembly Point: Houfu, Japan
Country of Origin:
Engine – Japan
Transmission – Japan

– by

2012 Mazda3 Skyactiv Sedan

Daniel Gray

“The Mazda3 Skyactiv stands out as the driver’s car among the 40 MPG crowd.”

13 thoughts on “2012 Mazda3 Skyactiv Review”

  1. Great Review. Does the Skyactiv have LRR tires as standard? My guess is the Hatch may not have as good aerodynamics as the sedan, does the MPG suffer?


  2. @G – Thanks! From what I’ve seen so far, the Bridgestone Turanza EL400 might not be a low-rolling resistance tire. I’ll see if I can verify that today. The hatchback is indeed slightly less aerodynamic – and less fuel efficient – than the sedan. I’ve added a full chart listing all of the 2012 Mazda3 aerodynamics (including the Speed3) towards the bottom of the review.

  3. I recently purchased a 2012 Mazda3 iTouring Skyactiv with a 6 speed manual. It’s easy to exceed the EPA highway MPG number. I was also looking at buying a VW Golf TDI. Diesel being more expensive than 87 octane and VW’s less than stellar reliability and very expensive repair bills made me choose the Mazda.

  4. Skyactiv owner,
    I think that’s a good move buying the Mazda. As much as I like the Jetta wagons, I just could not pull the switch on one for the same reasons. I feel really positive about the 40 MPG club w/ Gasoline, I think this is just the beginning of a very good thing. What’s next, a Subcompact 50 MPG Gasoline vehicle? I hope so.

  5. even better news, the real skyactive motor couldn’t fit in the existing body, next yrs. new design will be superior in every way.

  6. mpg-o-editor,
    Thanks for the info, even w/ the higher C/D, the Hatch should still crowd the 40MPG mark w/ a bit of judicious throttle work.


  7. With some nice sun shine in the Midwest today, My wife and I were out cruising the car lots. Spotted a Skyactiv Hatch in charcoal gray nearest Mazda dealer. Pretty nice and the wife really like it. 39 MPG H/W is pretty decent. I was surprised though to see these are made in Japan, thought the 3’s were made in US.


  8. We took ownership of a 2012 Mazda3i Grand Touring hatchback just before Christmas. This is my wife’s daily driver and she absolutely loves it. 35 mpg on the first two tanks. We live in a rural area and her commute doesn’t involve any real highway/interstate driving or “light at the end of each block” city driving. USB ports would be nice, but there are aftermarket products available if needed. I agree that that GPS could be much better (not so much the size as it is the tedious input of data), but we have a stand alone GPS navigation as well as smart phones, so for us personally it’s not a big deal. I have a friend with a new 2012 Focus Titanium hatchback and I have to admit that I’m excited that the 3 gets better fuel economy and does 0-60 quicker than the Focus!

  9. Eli,
    Congratulations on the purchase, I’ve seen this model in the flesh and really like it. Mazda certainly appears to be producing some thought provoking vehicles. I just saw the CX-5 commercial, did some research on specifics and feel they’re really onto something, not really reinventing the wheel but a market focused, refinement of their products.


  10. G.,
    The upcoming CX-5 does look very nice. I’ve been following it closely as it could very well be my next car. I’m especially eager to see the Skyactiv Diesel variant. I will probably go for the CX-5 or Mazda5 for our next family hauler. I’m hoping mazda doesn’t take too long adding Skyactiv to the 5.

  11. Enjoyed the article on the Skyactiv Mazda 3. One thing though, the 2012 Mazda 3 Skyactiv does not come with the 4-2-1 exhaust as the article states. It wouldn’t fit in the current body style so they had to leave it out. It will be included on the new 2013 CX-5 though and in the next generation Mazda 3. At that time, the compression will be increased to 13:1.

  12. I own a 2012 SkyActiv Touring Sedan. I bought it in Sept 2012 and the car has been absolutely perfect. Need to use synthetic oil but have only changed the oil twice (7500 miles or 6 months). Average 38-42 mpg, dropped to 35 during extreme cold spell. FYI, all these Mazda3’s come with a manual lumbar support adjustment on lower left side of driver’s seat. Works great. Also was able to get it for about $2000 under MSRP. 2013 models should be equally cheaper attm.

    Edit: the manual lumbar was added halfway through the 2012 model year. Got lucky I guess.

Leave a Comment