Mazda 3 Review
The Mazda 3 is a very capable and engaging model from the Japanese brand in the hatchback market.
- Packed with safety technology
- Sporty drive
- Top spec trim has a lot of equipment
- Visibility out the rear window is poor
- Wind noise in cabin
Mazda have quite the line up, from the small city car the Mazda 2 to the practical SUV the CX-5. With traditional Japanese values visible in their design the brand has unveiled their future direction with their stunning Vision Coupe and RX Vision models. So with these concepts potentially paving their way forward hopefully it’ll mean their current models will benefit from this vision and with the Kai concept unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show, is this how the future Mazda 3 will look? We hope so.
Back to the present and the Mazda 3 has been around since 2003 and is now in its third generation, so we took it for a spin to find out how capable it is as a hatchback.
On the Road
We tested the Skyactiv-G 2.0 litre petrol engine which seemed really noisy on start up, it delivers 120PS with Nm of torque and noise aside it is a really nippy engine with a sporty, short shift, 6-speed, manual transmission. There is also a version with 165PS. It emits 119g/km of CO2 emissions and should hit the early fifties mark with combined fuel economy figures.
We also tried out the 2.2 litre 150PS diesel engine which has 380Nm of torque powering it from 0 to 62 mph in 8.1 seconds and a top speed of 130mph. Like the 1.5 litre diesel with 105PS, Mazda have managed to minimise turbo lag on both engines, so once you put your foot down power is there immediately. Mazda are on a mission to improve their CO2 emissions and the diesel emits just 107g/km.
Mazda really want their cars to be a fun drive and they’ve nailed it with the 3, it has a good, comfortable ride which is what you want in a sporty hatchback. It tackled some rough country lanes with some ease with none of the judders you can often feel in the cabin and it’s a solid drive, despite the fact it’s one of the lightest cars in the segment.
Mazda’s Skyactiv technology offers up better handling and combined with the light, responsive steering it is an agile model, feeling very composed at higher speeds. It also makes an excellent motorway cruiser, but also feels just at home zipping around city streets.
The top spec Sport Nav trim has a really nice interior, the Light Stone leather makes it look very premium along with the stitching on the door, but funnily enough in the second model we tested which came with a brown leather interior, it clashed with the black that was also in the cabin.
The sporty, electronically adjustable, heated seats are really supportive and the steering wheel is also heated, which is a great addition when temperatures are dropping. With premium manufacturers adding a lot of these items as options and then ramping up the final cost of the car, it’s good to see how high specced the Mazda 3 is.
Mazda seem to do paint colours well, their palette is so varied and their metallic colours, Soul Red and Machine Grey are stunning on any of their model line up, the Deep Crystal Blue Mica doesn’t look too bad either.
In the car
Mazda have updated the design of the instrument panel and there’s only one round dial which features the rev counter and has an integrated digital panel with the speed, which handily can be changed to km/h depending on the country you’re in. This is flanked by two curved rectangular digital panels with the petrol gauge, temperature and mileage.
It comes with Mazda’s M2D Connect which features DAB radio, a CD player and a 7-inch colour touchscreen which is placed so that it looks like it should retract down into the centre stack, but it doesn’t and sits quite awkwardly.
A scroll dial works the features on the screen and with phone connectivity through Bluetooth, there are two USB points, an Aux connection and an SD card slot.
Additions to the Sport Nav trim include dual zone climate control, a heads up colour display and a Bose surround sound system with nine speakers.
Hatchbacks can either feel really roomy or really cramped and the Mazda 3 sits right in the middle of this. There is good head and legroom up front with a deep centre armrest, cup holders with a sliding cover and there is an electronic handbrake instead to free up space.
Visibility isn’t that great out of the rear, narrow window and the rear seat headrests can also get in the way.
The boot comes with 364 litres of space which is class-leading, 60:40 split rear seats increases it to a maximum of 1,263 litres and if you’re looking for more room then there is a Mazda 3 Fastback saloon which has 419 litres of boot space.
The Mazda 3 starts from £17,795 which is competitively priced against the likes of the Volkswagen Golf or Seat Leon and although it might get overlooked when thinking of popular hatchbacks, it should rank higher as it’s a versatile, spacious car, that in the right spec is right up there amongst its rivals that the segment has to offer.
The car we tested was the Sport Nav trim and with options including metallic paint at £550, black leather interior costing £1,000 and £800 for a Safety Pack it took it up to £25,845 for the diesel.
The Mazda 3 comes with a three year or 60,000 mile warranty and three years European Roadside Assistance.
Mazda produce solid cars and the 3 model shows how much of a good quality hatchback it is with a lovely, soft touch steering wheel, there is chrome around the gearstick, on the steering wheel and around the vents which adds a premium feel, the leather seats are really comfortable and the plastics feel durable too.
The Mazda 3 seems to do well in the reliability stakes, the Japanese brand is placed very highly against the manfacturers, and although owners have also commented on the rear window visibility it does score highly on Reevoo with a commendable 9/10.
When the Mazda 3 comes with their i-Activsense system it’s packed with driver assistance aids including blind spot monitoring, lane keeping, traffic sign recognition and driver attention alert.
The Mazda 3 scored the full five stars in the Euro NCAP tests in 2013 with 93% for adult occupant protection and 86% for a child, safety features include rear parking sensors, adaptive LED headlights and a tyre pressure monitoring system.