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2013-06-17

2013 Mazda 3 – Still the one we want to drive down a curvy road

When the Mazda 3 first came to Canada in 2004, Mazda was just beginning to turn the corner both financially and with its design philosophy. A flew of so-so models were giving way to a brand new midsize sedan, the Mazda 6 introduced one year before, while the Mazda Protégé had been almost universally hailed as a fun and worthy vehicle. Then the Mazda 3 came. Almost 10 years later, Mazda’s compact vehicle is still among the most popular cars on the road in Canada.

The Mazda 3’s success is based on the vehicle’s unique personality that makes it so fun to drive. No other vehicle in its class offers such nimble, precise handling and capable suspension. The major knock on the previous generation of the Mazda 3 was that the fuel consumption was a little high. However, with the introduction of a Skyactiv engine within the ranks of the 2013 Mazda 3, no one will be able to say again that the Mazda 3 is not a fuel-efficient vehicle.

The idea behind Mazda’s SkyActiv technology is to take the basic components of a vehicle that dictate performance, i.e. the engine, the transmission and the chassis, and make them better. Instead of reinventing the wheel, Mazda engineers simply made sure it was as round as it could be.

The heart of the SkyActiv system is the 2.0 liter SKYACTIV-G engine delivering 155 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. The engine features an incredibly high compression ratio of 13:1 which improves thermal efficiency and reduces energy loss. Such a high compression ratio however can generate knocking as pockets of the hot air-fuel mixture enter the next cylinder as it begins its subsequent intake stroke. To prevent this from happening, Mazda engineers designed an ingenious 4:2:1 exhaust system that makes it so the high-pressure gases have longer to travel before reaching the next cylinder.

The next step was to revamp both the automatic and manual transmissions. The 6-speed SkyActiv-MT features shorter shift strokes to improve driving feel along with a compact and lighter design. The 6-speed automatic on the other hand was designed to feature the best characteristics of both a CVT and a dual-clutch gearbox.

The end result is a strong gain in fuel-efficiency without any noticeable loss in power. The 2013 Mazda 3 SkyActiv is a joy to drive and allows for powerful accelerations and effortless passing. You cannot really feel that you are driving a special engine, and that is probably exactly how Mazda engineers wanted it to perform.

Available in both sedan and hatchback configurations, the 2013 Mazda 3 is also available with a 2.0 liter 4-cylinder delivering 148 horsepower while the GT version gets a more powerful 2.5 liter powerplant good for 167 horsepower and 168 pound-feet of torque.

Regardless of which version you choose, the 2013 Mazda 3 remains a blast to drive and offers a more dynamic driving experience than any other vehicle in its class.