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The ever-popular Mazda 3 is available as both a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback to fit differing tastes. Completely redesigned last year and built on an all-new platform, the sedan and hatchback have distinctly different rear side profiles and rear styling.

The Hatchback is available in Standard, Preferred, and Premium packages, with the sedan adding a Select package at the lower end. Both variants feature a prominent grille accented by slim LED headlights and daytime running lights. Adaptive headlights are offered on the top Premium package. All models are available with either two-wheel- or four-wheel-drive.

Power is delivered by an efficient 2.5-liter, 186 horsepower SKYACTIV-G2 engine featuring dual overhead valves, variable valve timing, and cylinder deactivation. This four-cylinder engine connects to a SKYACTIV-Drive 6-speed automatic transmission with sport mode. A 6-speed manual is available only on the hatchback with the Premium package. All-wheel-drive models use Mazda's i-ACTIV AWD all-wheel drive system. The model also offers the automaker’s latest-generation G-Vectoring Control Plus system that slightly reduces engine torque to sharpen steering feel.

Mazda's long-awaited SKYACTIV-X spark-controlled compression ignition (SPCCI) engine is now available in Mazda3 models Europe and expected to be offered here later in the model year. This innovative engine combines the best features of spark-ignition (gasoline) and combustion-ignition (diesel) engines without either of their disadvantages, while offering greater horsepower, torque, and fuel efficiency.

All 2020 Mazda trim levels now come standard with i-ACTIVSENSE driver-assist features that were previously standard only on higher trim levels. These include Lane Departure Warning, Lane-Keep Assist, Mazda Radar Cruise Control with Stop & Go, Driver Attention Alert, Blind-spot Monitoring, and Automatic Emergency Braking.

The Mazda3’s driver-focused cockpit includes a 7.0-inch instrument cluster screen and an 8.8-inch infotainment screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. A head-up display is optional. The Mazda3 offers an entry price of $21,500 for the sedan and $23,700 for the hatchback variant.

2016-mazda-cx-3-sideMazda's CX-3, this automaker’s entry in the hot compact crossover SUV segment, aims to provide the style and functionality of a crossover SUV at a price approachable to a great many buyers, beginning at just $19,960. Sporting the unique front grill and fascia that speak the brand’s latest design language, the CX-3 shares its platform and much of its cabin with the 2016 Mazda 2 subcompact hatchback. While both ride on a 101.2 inch wheelbase, the CX-3 is slightly larger in all dimensions than the 2 in keeping with its small SUV mission of optimizing versatility and carrying five people plus cargo.

The CX-3 is comfortable, capable, and responsive, getting its power from a 146 horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Its SKYACTIV-G engine uses direct injection, variable valve timing, and a high 13:1 compression ratio to eke the most power out of its engine displacement, along the way producing satisfying low-to-mid-range torque and lower emissions while consuming less fuel. The engine connects to a six-speed automatic transmission.

2016-mazda-cx-3-cabinSport, Touring, and Grand Touring trim levels are available, each with standard front-wheel-drive or optional i-ACTIV all-wheel-drive. Mazda's predictive all-wheel drive system optimizes performance and stability by taking many real-time factors into account like road conditions, steering-angle, temperature, and weather as it intelligently routes power to specific wheels in response to these conditions.

The Mazda CX-3 is available with an array of electronics features including a rearview camera, Smart Brake Support with Collision Warning, adaptive headlights, and headlight control. Mazda Connect comes standard, offering a seven-inch color touchscreen infotainment suite with Bluetooth audio streaming, phone controls, and internet radio like Pandora and Aha by Harmon, all integrated with a commander control knob. Pushbutton start is also standard.

2016-mazda-cx-3-consoleAvailable as options or with the Touring and Grand Touring trim levels are navigation, Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, head-up display, Bose premium audio with SiriusXM satellite and HD radio, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, and LED headlights. When equipped with the Grand Touring i-ACTIVSENSE package, CX-3 packs features unavailable in rival vehicles like Mazda Radar Cruise Control, Smart City Brake Support, High Beam Control System, Lane Departure Warning System, rain-sensing wipers, and auto on/off headlights.

As one would expect with Mazda’s efficient and sprightly SKYACTIV-equipped new models, the CX-3 achieves a welcome 29 city mpg and 35 mpg in the front-wheel drive version, with the AWD model sacrificing just a bit of efficiency with 27/32 mpg numbers. Importantly, unlike most engines with high compression that require high octane fuel, the 2.0-liter SKYACTIV powerplant is designed to run on less expensive regular gas, offering fuel savings that adds up over time.

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mazda-cx-5-frontConsidering the sheer number of SUVs and crossover vehicles seen in any given parking lot these days, there’s no doubt this is a crowded field with many relevant players. The key is finding the one amid the crowd that best promises to meet your needs and speak to your sensibilities. If ‘green’ takes a top spot in your playbook along with sportiness, functionality, and value, then you’re a candidate for Mazda’s CX-5.

Our initial experience with the all-new 2013 Mazda CX-5 last year was enlightening, and really, eye-opening. We’ve driven crossover SUVs for many years and can attest that for the most part, high fuel efficiency is not their game. Rather, it’s all about style, functionality, safety, and comfort. The ability to haul people and gear is important. That usually comes at the cost of fuel economy because these vehicles are typically larger and heavier than passenger vehicles by nature, which means greater power is required to move them.

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But that changes with crossovers like the Mazda CX-5 SKYACTIV. A bit more compact in stature, the CX-5 is right-sized for most buyers wishing all the attributes of a crossover SUV but don’t want to wince at the pump. This model’s eye-catching style is a good opener for drawing potential buyers, as is its surprisingly accommodating interior, comfortable five-place seating, and approachable price.

Cinching the deal is this vehicle’s fun-to-drive nature and admirable fuel efficiency. Two fuel-efficient engines are available. The base Sport model comes standard with Mazda’s 2.0-liter, 155 horsepower SKYACTIV-G four-cylinder powerplant. Uplevel Touring and Grand Touring models are motivated by a new-for-2014 2.5-liter, 184 horsepower SKYACTIV-G engine.

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While perfectly fine with 2.0-liter CX-5 variants driven before, we do enjoy the extra 29 horsepower provided by this model’s 184 hp 2.5-liter SKYACTIV-G engine. Acceleration and gear transitions are crisp, as expected of the Mazda marque.

Cars of Change editors have been living with a 2014 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring long-term test car for some months now to get an in-depth sense of the model. During our time with the car to date, editors have come to appreciate the CX-5’s stylish design and its notable functionality. Over the first 8,000 miles of our year-long test, we have experienced the CX-5 under conditions familiar to most of our readers – daily commuting, running errands around town, and road trips that allow long-distance evaluation – with the latter often finding us folding the rear seats down and stuffing the cargo area with an amazing array of gear for our travels.

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We’ve found the CX-5 to be nimble and fun as a daily driver under all these conditions, blending efficient motoring with the sophistication we like in an SUV. The cabin is comfortable and the controls intuitive. We’re sold on the optional blind spot monitoring system and especially the rear-view camera, an indispensable feature in our parallel parking-focused town. While lightweight high-tensile steel is used prolifically to help lessen curb weight and contribute toward the CX-5 Grand Touring’s EPA estimated 32 highway mpg (35 mpg in the Sport variant with the smaller 2.0-liter engine), this model doesn’t feel like a lightweight with its satisfying and quiet ride.

Mazda’s CX-5 delivers big time for its very reasonable $21,195 to $28,870 price tag, offering an array of desirable features with the benefit of class-leading fuel economy. The real bottom line for most is how all this comes together in the daily driving experience, and in that regard we’ve found the CX-5 delivering as promised, consistently.

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Mazda’s innovative and award-winning SKYACTIV suite of technologies continues to expand, this time in the 2014 Mazda6. Powered by a 2.5 liter SkyACTIVE-G gasoline engine, this fun and sophisticated mid-size sedan now features an available i-ELOOP regenerative braking system that adds to the car’s impressive fuel efficiency, boosting its official EPA ratings to an estimated 40 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg in the city, for a combined 32 mpg.

Those are pretty good numbers for non-hybrid small cars, but exceptional for a conventionally-powered mid-size model. This efficiency enables up to 650 miles on a single tank of gas. If you drive the average 15,000 miles each year, that means your visits to a gas station could be limited to every two weeks or so, depending on your driving habits.

Mazda’s i-ELOOP – for Intelligent Energy Loop –is not a hybrid system since recovered braking energy is not used for acceleration assist or electric-only operation. It’s also different because, unlike other regen systems that store recouped electrical energy in batteries, i-ELOOP uses a supercapacitor. The system’s double-layer capacitor can be discharged and recharged many more times than batteries with far less deterioration and will likely last the life of the car.

When a driver lifts off the accelerator pedal, i-ELOOP recovers kinetic energy as the vehicle decelerates. A variable voltage alternator generates electricity up to 25 volts for maximum efficiency before sending it to the supercapacitor. A DC/DC converter steps down the supercapacitor's output from 25 volts to 12 volts for use in the car’s exterior lighting, climate control, audio system, and other electrical components. This reduces the need for a normal engine-driven alternator to generate the electricity required to run these systems, a real benefit since a conventional belt-driven alternator’s parasitic load on an engine decreases fuel efficiency.

In urban driving with frequent acceleration and deceleration, i-ELOOP can provide nearly all of the electricity these systems require. Headlamps and other exterior lighting, heating/air conditioning, wipers, and the audio system account for about a 40 amp draw, within the capabilities of the DC/DC converter’s maximum throughput of 50 amps. On a cold day, particularly right after starting, it’s possible the defogger and optional seat heaters may exceed the DC/DC converter's capacity, in which case the electrical system reverts to conventional alternator-powered operation and bypasses the capacitor system completely.

At times when available e-ILOOP-generated electricity exceeds the electrical load, electrical energy charges the car’s 12 volt battery. When no regenerative braking energy is available, the alternator charges the battery but now through the DC/DC converter. Battery capacity is unchanged since it must still start a cold engine when the supercapacitor is not charged.

Supercapacitors accept and release charge very rapidly and only store electricity temporarily, so they must be topped off before each stop. However, it takes just a few seconds to fully charge the capacitor. The Mazda unit can accept a full charge in just 8 to 10 seconds. Although it can discharge in as quickly as 40 seconds, discharge may take up to 113 seconds at minimum load.

Mounted beneath the hood, the cylindrical supercapacitor is 13.8 inches tall, 4.72 inches in diameter, and weighs just 13.2 pounds, with its required heavier wiring harness weighing in at 3.3 pounds. Mazda says that the e-ILOOP system brings an approximate 5 percent fuel efficiency improvement under real-world driving conditions, which contributes to the Mazda6 achieving its best-in-class EPA fuel economy rating.

The i-ELOOP system in the Mazda6 is part of an available GT Technology Package that also includes Mazda radar cruise control with forward obstruction warning, lane departure warning, high beam control, and active grille shutters. All this extra goodness comes at a cost of $2,080, bringing additional SKYACTIV technology to the road that helps deliver impressive fuel efficiency while attending to the performance and fun-to-drive nature expected of the brand. Want to know more? Watch the video here.

There’s more to come. Soon, the 2014 Mazda6 will also offer a 2.2 liter SkyACTIVE-D clean diesel engine, Mazda's first diesel in the North American market. Plus, the Mazda i-Stop stop/start system that’s available in markets outside the U.S. is in the pipeline for the States. Mazda reportedly will introduce this system here in the Mazda6  in 2016.

By mid-2013, Mazda will be offering a diesel engine sedan in the U.S. market, the first diesel car from an Asian manufacturer here in recent times. The Mazda 2.2-liter SkyACTIVE-D diesel engine will be available in the all-new 2014 Mazda6 along with a 2.5-liter SKYACTIV-G gasoline engine, the latter coming first. Both engines can be mated with either the SkyACTIV-Drive six-speed automatic or SkyACTIV-MT six-speed manual transmission.

Compared to the 2.2-liter MZR diesel engine already powering Mazda models in other markets, U.S. bound Madza6 variants get the more advanced – and 10 percent lighter – 2.2-liter SkyACTIV-D diesel that develops greater torque.

Other improvements include a 20 percent reduction in internal friction and improved fuel economy. The SkyACTIV-D features a new two-stage turbocharger and a 14:1 compression ratio, much lower compression than typical diesels.

Mazda says this low compression ratio results in cleaner burning with lower nitrogen oxides, producing virtually no soot. This means no additional NOx aftertreatment is needed, as is the case with many other modern diesel engines.

The 2014 Mazda6 is first production vehicle to feature Mazda’s unique i-ELOOP (‘Intelligent Energy Loop’) braking regeneration system. Unlike virtually every other regenerative braking system that uses batteries to store electrical energy created during braking or coast-down, i-ELOOP uses a capacitor for energy storage. The recouped electrical energy is used to power all Mazda6 electrical systems.

Among its advantages is that i-ELOOP avoids the need for a dedicated electric motor and battery, making the system more efficient, compact, and lighter than traditional regenerative braking systems. Also, capacitors can charge and discharge rapidly and are resistant to deterioration even in prolonged use.

For the eighth consecutive year, Green Car Journal is honoring environmental leadership in the automotive field with its annual Green Car of the Year award. The winner will be announced at the L.A. Auto Show.

This year’s finalists include the Dodge Dart Aero, Ford C-MAX, Ford Fusion, Mazda CX-5 SkyACTIV, and the Toyota Prius c. This ‘greenest’ field-of-five – representing not only the five finalists for the 2013 Green Car of the Year award but also Green Car Journal’s distinguished ‘Top 5 Green Cars for 2013’ – underscores the evolving auto industry’s increasing focus on efficiencies and tailpipe/CO2 emissions. It's also proof-positive that auto manufacturers are listening to the needs and desires of today's new car buyers. 

Green Car Journal has documented the 'greening' of the auto industry for over two decades, from a time of mere concepts and demonstration programs to today, when the number of environmentally positive production vehicles available to consumers is just short of amazing. And today it's not all about hybrids, which have become the de-facto answer to environmental progress in recent years. The answers being presented by major automakers encompass everything from a growing field of efficient gasoline-electric hybrids to high-efficiency gasoline and clean diesel vehicles, vehicles running on alternative fuels, and cars using plug-in electric drive.

This shift toward diverse 'green' vehicles is significant on many levels, providing excellent new car choices for buyers who want to drive cleaner and more efficiently while still experiencing the joy of driving. It’s also important to the imperatives of today, from reducing tailpipe and CO2 emissions to decreasing dependence on oil and thus enhancing our energy security.

The 'Top 5 Green Cars for 2013' illustrate the growing choices consumers have for going 'green.' The high mpg Dodge Dart Aero and Mazda CX-5 SkyACTIV show that conventionally-powered, internal combustion vehicles can indeed compete with the efficiencies of hybrids. Toyota's Prius c continues this automaker's tradition of offering all-new, high mpg hybrid models under the Prius name. The Ford C-MAX and Fusion illustrate how mainstream models can present drivers multiple high-efficiency choices – with the C-MAX offering both hybrid and plug-in hybrid iterations, and the Fusion offering these power options, plus fuel-efficient EcoBoost variants.

Importantly, all are affordable mass-market products that provide drivers full functionality and mainstream appeal, paving the way for making a difference in fuel use and overall emissions in daily driving. This availability is an important component of the Green Car of the Year program, since vehicles with great environmental credentials can only make a difference in decreasing CO2 and tailpipe emissions, reducing petroleum use, and improving overall environmental impact if they're available for new car buyers to purchase and drive.

The 2013 Green Car of the Year will be selected by a jury comprised of the nation's top environmental leaders, including Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune, Ocean Futures Society president Jean-Michel Cousteau, Natural Resources Defense Council president Frances Beinecke, and Global Green USA president Matt Petersen, plus Tonight Show host and auto enthusiast Jay Leno and Green Car Journal staff.

Which of these ‘Top 5 Green Cars for 2013’ will be selected as Green Car Journal’s 2013 Green Car of the Year? Stay tuned for news from the L.A. Auto Show on November 29,

 

Forty-five years after its introduction of the innovative Wankel rotary engine in the Cosmo 110S sports car, Mazda continues breaking tradition and doing things its own way. A prime example is Mazda’s integration of its SKYACTIV suite of fuel saving and performance technologies in its all-new models. Essentially, the SKYACTIV philosophy embraces the notion that you needn’t sacrifice performance to achieve great fuel economy. It’s a systemic design philosophy that encompasses nearly every part of a vehicle from engines and transmissions to body and chassis design, and aerodynamics to lightweight technologies.

Mazda is prepared to go big time with its SkyACTIV technology because of growing consumer demand. In fact, its momentum is assured with the automaker's recent decision to double the production capacity of its Hiroshima engine plant that produces SkyACTIV-G gasoline and SkyACTIV-D diesel engines, with volume increasing from 400,000 to 800,000 units annually starting this October. 

The first appearance of SKYACTIV technology was in the updated Mazda3 SKYACTIV that debuted in the 2012 model year. Since the full suite of these high-efficiency technologies is intended to be part of new Mazda models from the very beginning of the design process – and the 2012 model was a mid-generation freshening and not a complete redesign – most, but not all, SKYACTIV technologies have been incorporated in this latest Mazda3. We spent time behind the wheel of this sprightly package and came away impressed.

The Mazda3 SKYACTIV is powered by a high-compression 2.0-liter dual overhead cam four-cylinder engine. With a 12:1 compression ratio and gasoline direct injection, the engine produces 155 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 148 lb-ft of torque at 4,100 rpm. Pumping losses are minimized by dual sequential valve timing for greater efficiency. Both six-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions are available.

We generally prefer a manual in a sporty car like the Mazda3, but have to admit the automatic proved surprisingly positive and fun to drive. Fitted with the SKYACTIV-G (Gasoline) engine and six-speed automatic transmission, the 2012 Mazda3 offers EPA estimates of 28 mpg city and 40 mpg on the highway. During our week with the car, we observed a combined average in the mid-30 mpg range. On the highway with just a few frugal driving techniques, we found it possible to keep with the flow of traffic and push mileage well into the mid-40 mpg range. That’s hybrid territory. In sixth gear with a light touch on the accelerator, the 2.0-liter simply isn’t working very hard. The Mazda3 has a generous 14.5 gallon fuel tank so cross-country missions won’t require many fuel stops.

True, 40 mpg choices are growing each year, but few can deliver the Mazda3’s smiles-per-gallon when the road throws more than a few curves your way. The twisty two-lane rural roads on our usual Southeastern Ohio test routes proved to be a blast in the Mazda3. It only takes a few apexes to forget you’re behind the wheel of an ‘economy’ car. The 3’s steering response is precise and confidence inspiring, and there is considerable road feel through the well-tuned chassis and suspension.

The ride is a bit on the firm side, but any highway harshness is soon forgotten when the road ahead gets interesting. Acceleration is satisfying, too. We recorded a 0-60 mph time of 7.7 seconds with the automatic transmission. Importantly, the SKYACTIV-G delivers solid low and mid-range torque, so you don’t need to rev it much during normal acceleration to maximize fuel economy.

Affordability is part of the equation. The Mazda3 iTouring with the SKYACTIV-G engine and manual transmission is available at $18,450, or $19,300 if you prefer the six-speed automatic. The 2012 Mazda3 SKYACTIV embodies efficiency and fun, a true 40+ mpg car that delivers a heavy dose of ‘Zoom-Zoom.’

 

Clean diesel keeps marching forward, even as American consumers continue to warm slowly to the idea of moving beyond familiar gasoline-powered vehicles. The slow pace is unfortunate considering advanced diesel variants are inherently more fuel efficient than their gasoline counterparts and, might we add, often more fun to drive because of diesel’s copious low-end torque.

How do you convince people to step up to diesel? One time-honored way to create believers in new technologies – and in some cases fuels – is proving them out on the race track. We’re seeing that today at various race venues where electric, hybrid, ethanol, and other alternative fuels or technologies are in competition.

In recent years, clean diesel has been pushed with vigor in racing, most notably with great success by German auto manufacturers. Diesel is not the exclusive domain of the Europeans, though. The latest evidence of this is Mazda’s recently-announced program to champion diesel in GRAND-AM racing’s new GX Class for advanced/clean technologies. Mazda is the only Asian automaker presently committed to bringing advanced diesel technology to the U.S.

Mazda’s 2.2-liter, stock-block SKYACTIV-D four-cylinder diesel engines feature a 14:1 compression ratio, new two-stage turbocharger, and a 5,200 rpm redline. The production engine’s improvements over Mazda's current 2.2-liter MZR-CD diesel engine are considerable, including a 10% weight reduction, 20% reduction in internal engine friction, and up 20% better fuel economy. The racing variant is being jointly developed by Mazda Motor Corporation, Mazda North American Operations, and SpeedSource Engineering.

The actual Mazda model to be powered by the SKYACTIV-D racing engine will be identified after the conclusion of the 2012 GRAND-AM racing season. Dyno testing is ongoing with track testing scheduled for later this year.