2012 Mazda3: Practical, but poor on tech

The new Mazda3 is available with a direct-injection engine, giving it a huge fuel economy boost and only a slight reduction to horsepower versus the larger, port-injection engine that's also available.

2012 Mazda3
Wayne Cunningham/CNET

For some reason, hatchbacks don't sell as well as sedans in the United States.

It is a mystery that confounds automakers, as hatchbacks, which are popular in Europe, offer practical interior room and can also be quite sporty. But among those here who appreciate the hatchback, the Mazda Mazda3 is held in high regard. And this practical compact gets an important update for 2012.

Mazda fits it with a new 2-liter direct-injection engine, and although it's not as powerful as the 2.5-liter port-injection engine that's also available, fuel economy that averages around 30 mpg is a big point for practicality.

The model CNET reviewed came in Grand Touring trim, with all the cabin tech that Mazda can bring to bear, which is not much. And Grand Touring meant the car was stuck with an automatic transmission, which was not as fun as the manual available in the lower, Touring trim.

As Mazda's compact navigation system is more frustrating than usable, we would certainly look at the lower trim with a manual transmission, and aftermarket cabin tech.

Read our review of the 2012 Mazda3 i Grand Touring.

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