Mazda 3 Review

Find out more about the Mazda 3 in the latest Motors.co.uk Review

£11,819
Average price
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4
Out of 5

Pros

  • Stunning looks
  • High-quality interior
  • Great to drive

Cons

  • Compromised practicality
  • Poor rear visibility
  • Lack of turbocharged petrol engines
  • MPG

    0 - 0

  • CO2

    0 - 0 g/km

  • Video

  • Price Guide

  • Trims

  • Summary

Model Review

Mazda is a firm that’s well-known in the hatchback world for delivering affordable and fun-to-drive cars – even well before Mazda started to refer to its Vauxhall Astra -rivalling model as the ‘3’ in 2003. While we say ‘hatchback’, it’s also always been available as a saloon as well.

It’s always been a car that looks the part, with second- and third-generation versions (debuting in 2009 and 2014 respectively) being two of the most stylish cars in this sector.

Previous 3s have also had a performance streak to them, too, with the first two generations available with a sporty ‘MPS’ hot hatch derivative, though unfortunately these didn’t continue.

And now there is a new Mazda3 – a model that looks to take the firm further upmarket, as well as being more enjoyable than before, too…

Latest Model

Mazda is a firm that knows how to make a great-looking car, and its new 3 is no exception. With stunning concept car-like looks, it looks like nothing else in its class, and is a stunning piece of design both inside and outside.

Also new on this model are its powertrains, which features mild-hybrid technology to help power the car’s electricals – helping to increase the 3’s efficiency. It also gains a clever new petrol engine known as ‘Skyactiv-X’, which aims to combine aspects of petrol and diesel powertrains thanks to compression ignition, and is the first engine to utilise such tech.

You’re also able to get an all-wheel-drive Mazda3 for the first time, too, which is a rarity in the hatchback market – outside of models like the BMW 1 Series.

 

Value for money

With the Mazda3 taking a step further upmarket on this latest generation, it means prices now sit between more mainstream rivals like the Vauxhall Astra and more premium options like the Volkswagen Golf. New versions of the 3 hatchback start from £21,840 for a model with the entry-level option, which represents decent value for money when you consider the standard kit included – adaptive cruise control and a head-up display being two particular highlights.

That said, we feel it's worthwhile making the step up to the more powerful Skyactiv-X engine, which is priced from £23,340. It’s worth noting that if you’d prefer the saloon, it’s only offered with the more powerful engine, with prices matching that of the hatchback. SE-L, SE L Lux and Sport Lux offer the best value for money, as GT Sport versions are a bit too pricey – costing more than £30,000 if you want all-wheel-drive.

While the Mazda3 isn’t quite as popular as the Ford Focus, there are still plenty to choose from on the used market – first-generation examples start from under £1,000, and even last generation models are available for as little as £5,000. As for the most recent version, there are plenty of great value options available – one-year-old cars are available for £16,000, which is a good chunk off the list price. Skyactiv-X versions are the most desirable, though, with these starting from around £20,000.

 

Looks and image

If you value style, there are arguably few better-looking cars available for less than £25,000. With its smooth flowing lines, intricate front end with headlights running into the grille, it’s a stunning piece of design in our eyes, and truly unlike any other car in this class today.

Its low-set look and seating position also gives it a sporty feel behind the wheel – making it feel like you’re driving a sports car rather than a family hatchback. If you value driving pleasure, it's one of the cars in this class to go for – being on par with the Ford Focus and BMW 1 Series for driving pleasure, which is high praise indeed. With superb steering with plenty of feel and tidy handling, it’s a joy behind the wheel. Yet this sporty feel isn’t at the expense of refinement and comfort, as the Mazda3 remains comfortable and a great motorway cruiser.

The interior has also taken a step forward, and was the area which let down the previous Mazda3. The quality has been improved, with upmarket materials being used, while the curved 8.8-inch media screen is brilliant to use, as well as being positioned at the top of the dashboard so you don’t take your eyes off the road to see it.

Video review

Space and practicality

The downside of these stunning coupe-like looks? Well, unfortunately, its practicality, which is the Mazda3’s weak link. While there won’t be any grumbles from those in the front, there will be some from those in the rear. That sloping roofline means headroom is really compromised, with taller adults likely to struggle for room in the back, unlike plenty of rivals. The small rear windows can also make it feel a bit claustrophobic, too, while rear visibility is poor, though all models do get blind spot monitoring.

The boot is also one of the smallest in the mid-size hatchback class – offering 358 litres of room. It’s not much more than you find in plenty of superminis, and lags behind rivals. If you require more boot space, take a look at the saloon version, which offers 444 litres of room, though the narrow opening doesn’t aid practicality.

But in more positive news, the Mazda3 is one of the safest cars in this hatchback class and was awarded a five-star safety rating by Euro NCAP when it was tested in 2019. Its standard safety kit eclipses that of rivals, too – including adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, which are usually only found on top-spec hatchbacks.

 

Engines

At launch in 2019, Mazda offered the 3 with a pair of mild-hybrid petrol engines and a diesel, though the latter has since been discontinued.

Starting with the entry-level petrol option, there is the Skyactiv-G, which uses a 120bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine, which is available with both manual or automatic transmissions, and sends power to the front wheels. While very smooth and refined, the lack of turbocharger makes it feel a bit underpowered, and doesn’t feel as quick as its 10.2-second 0-60mph time suggests.

For that reason the clever 2.0-litre Skyactiv-X petrol is our pick, which utilises both gas and spark compression to deliver its performance. There is also no turbocharger, but thanks to a healthy 178bhp, it can reach 60mph in eight seconds – though again, it needs to be revved hard to get the best from it. This is available with both manual and automatic gearboxes, though all-wheel-drive can be had as an option.

If you want a diesel version, you’ll have to look to scour the used market to find a Skyactiv-D version featuring a 114bhp 1.8-litre diesel engine, which was available with both automatic and manual transmissions.

 

Running costs 

If you’re wanting the best running costs from the Mazda3, you’ll want to seek out a diesel version, which is the most efficient. With the manual gearbox, Mazda says it will achieve 56.5mpg, with CO2 emissions of 107g/km.

That said, both petrol engines should be affordable to run – the Skyactiv-G and Skyactiv-X models return 45.6mpg and 51.4mpg respectively, along with CO2 emissions of 136g/km and 125g/km for the two engines.

It means that the best efficiency is actually achieved from the far more powerful engine, though for the best efficiency it’s worth avoiding all-wheel-drive versions, which are noticeably less economical. Unless you really need that extra traction, you’re unlikely to ever reap the benefits of spending extra for the system.

Things to look out for 

While this latest Mazda3 is a bit too new to judge its reliability, the Japanese firm has an excellent reputation for its cars’ dependability – often being ranked highly in customer surveys. Perhaps the main thing to be aware of is alloy wheel corrosion, with the previous generation’s alloys being known to start bubbling, even within the warranty period. It’s something worth looking out for on used examples, or being aware of throughout your ownership.

 

Rivals

The mid-size hatchback class remains just as competitive as ever, with a great deal of models to choose from. While the Mazda3 is undoubtedly one of the most appealing, aside from its practicality misgivings, it’s worth having a look at the popular Ford Focus, as well as the Seat Leon and Volkswagen Golf  – all of which impress.

If you fancy something a bit more premium, the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class are all great choices, though they will cost you quite a lot more.

 

Depreciation warning

With Mazda models being seen as more upmarket than in previous years, this is really helping keep prices high. While discounts and savings are still available on nearly-new models, they’re not as significant as you’d find on cars such as the Vauxhall Astra and Ford Focus. High-spec models and those with the Skyactiv-X petrol engine will hold their value best.

Which 3 to pick

Cheapest to buy when new

2.0 e-Skyactiv G MHEV SE-L 5dr

Most MPG

2.0 e-Skyactiv G MHEV SE-L 5dr

Fastest model (0-60)

2.0 e-Skyactiv X MHEV [186] SE-L Lux 5dr

Trims explained

Five trim levels are available on the Mazda3, with equipment highlights and pricing as follows.

SE-L

The SE-L comes very well-equipped, with highlights including LED headlights, rear parking sensors and an 8.8-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also comes with a head-up display (a rarity in this segment), as well as 16-inch alloy wheels and electrically folding mirrors. It’s also laden with safety equipment – coming with blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, a driver attention alert and lane-keep assist.

From £21,840

SE-L Lux

Upgrade to the SE-L Lux to get front parking sensors, heated front sensors and a reversing camera, along with keyless entry and dual-zone climate control. This is the pick of the line-up given its generous standard kit levels.

From £22,940

Sport Lux

If you want your Mazda3 to look a bit sportier, take a look at the Sport Lux version. This gains 18-inch alloy wheels, along with front and rear signature LED lights and rear privacy glass. It also comes with additional chrome and gloss black trim, as well as a frameless auto-dimming rear-view mirror.

From £24,040

GT Sport

If you want a few more luxuries, take a look at the GT Sport, which adds black leather seats, an electric driver’s seat, a heated steering wheel and a 12-speaker Bose sound system.

From £25,840

GT Sport Tech

At the top of the line-up, the GT Sport Tech gains additional safety features – such as a 360-degree camera system, front cross traffic alert and autonomous emergency braking when reversing.

From £26,740

Summary

  1. Stunning design
  2. High-quality interior
  3. Great fun to drive…
  4. Yet still very refined and comfortable
  5. Petrol engines somewhat lacking in power
  6. Available as both as a hatchback and saloon
  7. All-wheel-drive version offers
  8. Compromised practicality
  9. Small boot next to rivals
  10. Very appealing, but not great if you prioritise spaciousness

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