The rear exterior of a red Mazda 3

Mazda 3 review

The Mazda 3 is a comfortable yet stylish small car that's great fun to drive. It comes with a lot of technology and has enough room for families.

Pros

  • Great design stands out from the crowd
  • Premium feel to the interior without a premium price
  • Fun to drive

Cons

  • Boot space isn’t as practical as competitors
  • Engines are a little slow
  • Maintenance can be slightly more expensive

Summary

“Great styling and a luxury feel to the interior design and equipment.”

The Mazda 3 provides a high-quality feel without an expensive price tag. It’s enjoyable to drive with slightly sporty styling, great quality materials and good levels of equipment. 

With the Mazda 3, you don’t need to compromise on quality in order to fit your budget. This also means you get great value for money when buying used. 

The third generation of the Mazda 3 was launched in 2013. It was replaced in 2019 with a more minimalist interior design, sharper exterior looks and improved equipment. This includes a wider infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a standard head-up display (which projects information onto the windscreen so there’s no need to look down whilst driving). There were also improvements to the engines. Whichever version you go for, there should be a lot of options so you can find one to suit your lifestyle.

Fascia shot of the Mazda 3

What's the interior like?

“A superb interior with high-quality materials.”

It’s unlikely you’ll find any rival with such a good driving position. Everything from the steering wheel to the gear stick feels as though it has been properly placed to provide the best driving experience. 

The same is true of the infotainment system which is operated using a dial in the centre console. It’s easy to use and has good functionality. Go for the Nav models if you want sat nav.

The dashboard features a range of high-quality materials while the instrument cluster (the information you see through the steering wheel) is simple and easy to read. The rev counter sits in the middle to give the impression that the car is more focused on speed. The buttons on the steering wheel provide access to a range of functions including the driving information.

The seats are comfortable with a range of adjustment options and back seat space is similar to most rivals. Boot space is 364 litres which is less than a Volkswagen Golf, but its design means it’s not quite as practical.

Mazda reduced the boot space to 351 litres in the latest 2019 generation but the interior saw a massive makeover with a superb dashboard design, even more equipment and lots of Bluetooth connectivity.

The interior of a Mazda 3 with steering wheel and dashboard in shot

What's it like to drive?

“The Mazda 3 is a great car that handles well and has good fuel efficiency.”

If you’re looking for something that performs well overall and delivers both good handling and fuel efficiency, then the Mazda 3 is a great choice.

The Mazda 3 promises an excellent driving position, accurate steering and an easy to use gearbox. Its Skyactiv engines deliver good performance in most situations.

Engine choices in the previous generation include three petrols and two diesels. The diesels are more popular for those who regularly travel longer distances. In the latest model, there’s only one petrol and one diesel.

The suspension provides a good level of comfort on most road surfaces. Tackle a few corners and you’ll appreciate how much fun it is to drive.

The front exterior of a red Mazda 3

Is it cost-efficient to buy and run?

“Great value for money when you consider the equipment you get.”

The hatchback version will cost you a little more than the less popular saloon and you should expect to pay a bit extra for automatic versions.

The diesel will also set you back more but it’s well worth it if you do a higher mileage, e.g. 12,000 miles a year. 

Running costs are also good with excellent fuel consumption across the range, while insurance and road tax costs are similar to rivals.

Rear seat shot of the Mazda 3

How reliable and safe is it?

“The Mazda 3 is very safety-focused and has a great reputation for it.”

Mazda has an average reputation for reliability but the 3 model scores slightly better. There have been a few diesel engine issues reported in the previous generation, mainly down to particulate filters not being cleaned properly by longer trips. This is typical of most diesel engines, but if you’re not planning on regular motorway driving, then stick to petrol.

Mazda is very focused on safety and you can expect an extensive list of kit in the Mazda 3. It has a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating and various electronic systems, including autonomous emergency braking on some models. Look out for ones with the safety pack added for the best level of protection.

Engine shot of the Mazda 3

Which one is best for you?

Best for economy - 1.5 Diesel SE

Best for family - 1.5 Petrol SE

Best for fun - 2.2 Diesel Sport Nav

The entry-level petrol is a good option if you spend most of your time in town where it’ll deliver a smooth ride and good fuel consumption. However, if you go on a variety of journeys, the 2.0-litre petrol and 2.2-litre diesel (1.8 in the latest 2019 model) are your best bet. 

When it comes to spec, all models are well equipped but if you want sat nav, then go for the SE Nav version. If you opt for the SE-L Nav, it features parking sensors which are very useful.

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