The 2013 Mazda3 Sport SKYACTIV starts at $20,69

Mazda3 Sport SKYACTIV: great car, still with “Zoom”

By Jim Bray  January 4, 2013 | Comments| Print friendly | Subscribe

Mazda’s “SKYACTIV” technology is designed to up gas mileage and lower emissions while preserving the company’s well-earned “fun to drive” quotient. And while those two goals may seem contradictory – or as unobtainable as perpetual motion – Mazda has done a pretty decent job with its top selling 3.

First introduced with the 2012 model year, SKYACTIV technology is described by Mazda as “the next generation of advanced vehicle performance and efficiency” that “embodies Mazda’s philosophy of engineering only vehicles that are fun to drive, satisfying to own and environmentally responsible.” I’ve dumped on SKYACTIV before, especially when it came to the CX-5 crossover/SUV, which I found lacking in “Zoom-Zoom” when I drove it several months ago.

And even though my first experience with the 3 SKYACTIV sedan about a year ago left me missing some of the “Zoom” lost inevitably when one panders to the greens (or, to be a little more charitable, tries to meet ever more stringent government regulations), an experience since then put Mazda’s move more into perspective.

That experience was the Canadian Car of the Year TestFest last October, which gave me a chance to drive all the brand new or drastically upgraded cars in the 3’s class, back to back to back. And the 3 was still the most fun of the bunch, reducing my SKYACTIV angst a tad, at least as far as the 3 is concerned. I still think the larger and heavier CX-5 could use more zip, but at least I’ve made peace with this bread and butter car’s performance.

The front engine, front wheel drive 3 was the first SKYACTIV application to appear in North America, and it – both in sedan and in the 3 Sport (read “wagon”) configuration that’s the subject of this piece –  includes a two liter SKYACTIV-G four cylinder gasoline engine coupled to either a SKYACTIV-Drive six-speed automatic or the SKYACTIV-MT six speed manual transmission. 

My test Mazda3 Sport, supplied by Mazda Canada, had the automatic, which was a tad disappointing since I’d driven the auto before and was dying to try the stick. Such is life, however; at least I got the post-software tweak version whose transmission felt a lot more interesting than the kind of “CVT-feeling”  early example of my previous test. The tweak supposedly returned any of the “Zoom”  that may have been lost in the translation – and it appears to have worked,  because I enjoyed this version a lot more.

Mazda claims the SKYACTIV automatic transmission balances the advantages of a conventional automatic transmission, the often execrable Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) and a Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) such as Volkswagen’s DSG. It also has a torque converter with a lock-up clutch to maximize fuel economy and “direct drive feel.”

As for the SKYACTIV direct injection engine, it’s rated at 155 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm and 148 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,100 rpm, which is pretty competitive in this market niche. The SKYACTIV technology apparently uses multi-hole fuel injectors to “enhance spray characteristics,” as well as specially-developed piston cavity shapes “designed to ensure shorter combustion time while lowering the impact on power and torque from engine knocking.” In short, it’s like magic.

Mazda claims the fuel economy from my sample 2013 Mazda3 Sport GS-SKY Touring Edition (now there’s a mouthful!) is five liters per 100 kilometers (highway), which is pretty darn good for a car that’s still fun to drive. Naturally, I didn’t get anywhere close to that,  my lead footed driving style being the culprit. If I’d driven more gently I may have approached those numbers, but I’d rather buy a bit more gas and enjoy the drive more.

Oh, yeah, it still burns regular gasoline, too, which is always a bonus.

I have a soft spot for wagons – in fact, my lovely wife and I bought a “new” wagon last fall, as we finally replaced our 1991 Infiniti Q45 uber-sedan – and that makes the Sport my favorite 3. It’s even nicer looking to these eyes than the already attractive sedan, both of which suffered at the introduction of this generation from a silly “Tow Mater”  grille, which (thankfully) doesn’t seem as pronounced now, a couple of years into the model’s life.

The 3 Sport features independent suspension all around –  well, at each corner, anyway – with a strut-type system up front and a multi-link bum. Both ends get coil springs and a stabilizer bar, too. The suspension is stiff enough to be interesting and “Zoom-Zoomy” without being jarring. In short, it makes for a nice ride.

Steering is rack and pinion, with “Electro Hydraulic Power Assist,” and it’s a good match for the suspension in performance and feel. Brakes are power-assisted discs all around, with ABS and electronic brake force distribution. They work just fine.

Traction and dynamic stability control are both standard.

The interior is handsome and efficient, functional and laid out very well. The rear seat will be a tad tight for that third person in the middle, but that’s a common factor in this class of car and in this regard the 3 isn’t any worse that most of the competition. The front seats are comfortable and supportive and you can drive all day without getting “butt bother.”

Instrumentation is straightforward and easy to read and all the controls, whether on the dashboard, center stack or steering wheel, are mounted within easy reach.

Standard equipment also includes Bluetooth connectivity, USB and auxiliary audio inputs, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, automatic headlights and rain sensing wipers. My GS-SKY sample also had a moon roof, fog lights, leather upholstery, and eight way power adjustable driver’s seat – as well as the Touring package (push button ignition, intelligent key access, LED taillights,  dual-zone automatic climate control, auto dimming rear view mirror, a premium Bose audio system, etc.).

One thing that bugged me about the interior – and it’s pretty minor – is that the door handles up front are mounted so that they block your reach for the power window controls. But if that’s the extent of my auto angst for this car, Mazda must have done a pretty good job. 

Perhaps the nicest thing about the 2013 Mazda3 Sport SKYACTIV is that it’s still a very nice car to drive. It still feels like a 3, and that means it’s still one of the most entertaining rides in this very competitive market segment.

The 2013 Mazda3 Sport SKYACTIV starts at $20,695. My sample Mazda3 Sport SKYACTIV, with all its options, lists for $25,590. Not a bad price for what you get.

And it still “Zoom-Zooms!”

Copyright 2013 Jim Bray

Disqus Comments

Jim publishes TechnoFile Magazine. Jim is an affiliate with the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada and his careers have included journalist, technology retailer, video store pioneer, and syndicated columnist; he does a biweekly column on CBC Radio One’s The Business Network.

Jim can be reached at: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Older articles by Jim Bray

comments powered by Disqus

Most Shared CFP stories

What's New On CFP:

  1. Latest American News
    By News on the Net -- --News Headlines
  2. HANDS UP!
    By Guest Column -- --Letter
  3. We are being sold out by a Muslim
    By Guest Column -- --Letter
  4. Obama Head Strong But Mindless!
    By John Lillpop -- --American Politics
  5. Liberty Counsel Defends Marriage in Puerto Rico
    By Liberty Counsel -- --World News
  6. Latest World News
    By News on the Net -- --News Headlines
  7. ‘Fido’ unleashed: Google, Wells Fargo, IRS embrace universal Biometric ID System
    By Gretchen Olson -- --Cover Story
  8. Mike Pence Signs Religious Freedom Bill
    By Heritage Foundation -- --American Politics
  9. UKRAINE: Religious Freedom Under Threat
    By News on the Net -- --Christianity - Religion
  10. Kerry offered Iran a deal that they can maintain centrifuges in fortified underground bunkers
    By Dag Barkley -- --Cartoons
  11. Distant memories
    By Guest Column -- --Letter
  12. Students must fully understand the principles that make America great!
    By Guest Column -- --American Life, History, Education
  13. Latest News On ISIS and Radical Islam
    By News on the Net -- --News Headlines
  14. YOU decide…
    By Sarge -- --American Politics
  15. Making Hernan’s story go viral
    By Judi McLeod -- --Cover Story
  16. Investigators: Co-pilot seized control of Germanwings flight and crashed it on purpose
    By Dan Calabrese -- --Crime-Terror-Security
  17. Operation Choke Point: Obama’s harassment of legal businesses comes under scrutiny
    By Herman Cain -- --American Politics
  18. Gallup: Less Than A Third Of Americans Still Worry About Global Warming
    By Guest Column -- --Global Warming-Energy-Environment
  19. Terrifying the Republican Establishment
    By Alan Caruba -- --Cover Story
  20. A Doctor’s Take: ‘Doc Fix’ Bill Pushes New Regulation on Doctors, Will Lead to Pri
    By Heritage Foundation -- --American Healthcare
    By Dick Field -- --Canada
  22. Should We Fear Islam?
    By News on the Net --
  23. President John Quincy Adams: Koran is Filled With Hate
    By Warner Todd Huston -- --American Politics
  24. Video: Ben Shapiro: Obama’s Faith in Iran
    By News on the Net --
  25. Benghazi Remains a Major Scandal Even Without New Revelations
    By Roger Aronoff -- --American Politics
  26. Jen Psaki: Sure it was worth it to trade 5 terrorists for Bowe Bergdahl . . .
    By Dan Calabrese -- --Crime-Terror-Security
  27. Give Pizza Drivers A Safety Gift!
    By Nadra Enzi -- --Crime-Terror-Security
  28. Islam: Dirty Work At The Crossroads
    By Dave Merrick -- --Cover Story
  29. Mass Transit Gets 16% of Gas Tax Revenue, But No Major Increase in Ridership
    By Institute for Energy Research -- --Global Warming-Energy-Environment
  30. Celebrate the Warmth
    By Viv Forbes -- --Letter

Caruba: Professional Writing Services

Pursuant to Title 17 U.S.C. 107, other copyrighted work is provided for educational purposes, research, critical comment, or debate without profit or payment. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for your own purposes beyond the 'fair use' exception, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Views are those of authors and not necessarily those of Canada Free Press. Content is Copyright 1997-2014 the individual authors.

Site Copyright 1997-2014 Canada Free Press.Com Privacy Statement

Powered by ExpressionEngine