- Stylish looks
- Fun to drive
- Efficient diesel engines
- Petrol engines are slow
- Not the most spacious
- Interior quality can’t match the Golf
Striking family hatchback with excellent handling
The Mazda 3 is one of the more impressive offerings in the family hatchback class. First introduced in 2003, and now in its third generation, the Mazda 3 is a key rival for the best-selling Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, and the Vauxhall Astra. It offers a fun driving experience, generous equipment, and some impressively efficient engines. It’s not the most practical car in its class, but there’s no doubting its stylish aesthetics.
The latest update in 2013 featured a complete redesign, with a new exterior, chassis, interior, and the introduction of more efficient engines.
Excellent design, but not the most practical car in its class
Most buyers will have few complaints when they step into the Mazda 3. It’s stylish, well-built, and has an excellent driving position. Material quality isn’t class-leading however, and it’s not the most spacious family hatchback.
The dashboard design of the Mazda 3 reflects its sporty exterior. It certainly looks contemporary, and controls are well laid out, nicely damped, and easy to use. The majority of the cabin is built with high quality materials as well, though you can find some cheaper plastics if you look hard enough. It’s not quite as classy as a Volkswagen Golf, but it still stacks up well against the rest of its rivals.
One area which lets the 3 down somewhat is the space that it offers. There’s plenty of space inside for passengers, but storage space isn’t as impressive as in other rivals. The 364 litre boot capacity is amongst the smallest in the class, though there’s still enough room for most family needs. The high load lip is a disadvantage as well, as heavy items aren’t the easiest to get in and out.
Equipment levels in the 3 are pretty impressive, no matter which spec you choose to go for. The entry-level S trim has everything most families will want, with alloy wheels, air-con, cruise control, Bluetooth, DAB, and USB connectivity all featuring. All models get the excellent 7” colour touchscreen infotainment system as well, which is clear, bright, and easy to use.
All in all the inside of the Mazda 3 is a pretty impressive package. It’s stylish, well-built, and generously equipped, though those seeking a big load capacity are better off looking at something like a Skoda Octavia.
Fun to drive, and reasonably refined
Like most of the Mazda range, the 3 is one of the class-leaders when it comes to driving experience. The 3 isn’t quite as rewarding to drive as a Focus, but it’s still fun when you get it out on twisty B-roads. The steering is sharp and precise, whilst there’s also plenty of grip through the corners. Body roll is also kept well in check, so there’ll be no need for sick bags, no matter how hard you push it.
Suspension and Chassis
The old Mazda 3 was widely criticised for its poor ride comfort. The latest 3 is however much improved. It’s not quite as refined as a Volkswagen Golf, but the 3 is still pretty comfortable around town, and out on the open road. The improved chassis and suspension cope well with most poor roads, though particularly bad surfaces can become uncomfortable. There’s also a fair bit of road and wind noise, so the 3 isn’t the best motorway cruiser in the class.
Gearbox options in the 3 come in two guises. The standard throughout the range is a six-speed manual transmission that’s actually really impressive. It features a short, sharp gearshift, which contributes to the the rewarding driving experience. A six-speed automatic is also available on some models, though it’s slow to react when you need a quick burst of acceleration.
Diesel engines are the pick of the bunch
When it comes to deciding how you want to power your 3, you’ve got the usual two options: petrol, or diesel. Petrol engines are reasonably impressive, though they need to be worked hard out of town. The diesel engines are the ones to go for, as they offer the best balance of performance, efficiency, and green credentials.
If it’s power that you want from your Mazda 3, the best option in the range is the 2.2 litre diesel engine. It produces 150bhp, and will accelerate you from 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds. That’s obviously not up there with the hot hatches in the class, but it’s plenty quick enough for most drivers needs, and offers enough grunt to easily overtake on the motorway.
Eco-friendly buyers will want to consider the 1.5 litre SKYACTIV diesel engine, as it is the greenest engine in the range. It produces just 99g/km of CO2 emissions, which is not only good for the eco-system, it’s also road tax exempt. This model is also the best option for money-savers, as it can achieve up to 74mpg. Even the high-powered 2.2 litre diesel can achieve 68.9mpg though.
Without doubt, the best engines in the Mazda 3 range are the two diesels. The petrol engines aren’t bad as such, but they just aren’t as impressive as the diesels. They offer a great balance of eco-credentials, power, and efficiency, so you should look out for these models.
Full marks in NCAP safety tests, impressive standard safety kit
Like nearly every car in its class, the Mazda 3 easily achieved the highest possible 5-star NCAP safety rating. With scores of 93% in adult safety, 86% in child safety, and 65% in pedestrian safety, the 3 is one of the safest cars in its class. It also comes with plenty of standard safety equipment. Even entry-level models come with six airbags, electronic stability control, and a tyre-pressure monitor.
Great value for money, if you avoid the cost of new-car depreciation
The Mazda 3 represents excellent value for money for family buyers. This varies from model to model, but generally speaking fuel efficiency is impressive throughout the range (with no model falling below 50mpg), and CO2 levels are decent for the class. Diesel models offer the best value for money, as they are some of the most impressive engines in the family hatchback class.
Insurance groups in the 3 again depend on which model you choose to go for. The range starts in group 13 for the entry-level 1.5 SE, and climbs up towards group 24 if you’re tempted by the top of the range 2.2d Sport Nav model. Roughly speaking, the 3 is slightly more expensive to insure than an equivalent Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra.
Depreciation is a factor with the 3, but only if you choose to buy from new. With first year depreciation as high as 40%, you’re better off opting for an inspected used equivalent.
The Mazda 3 is a great option for family buyers who want something a little bit different from the generic Ford Focus and VW Golf. It’s stylish, comfortable, great to drive, and features some impressive diesel engines. It’s not the most practical car in its class, but with plenty of equipment and an excellent safety record, you can stand out from the crowd, whilst also getting great value for money.
Buying a used Mazda 3 online with Carspring
If you’re after a used Mazda 3 for sale, it can all feel like a bit of an ordeal. What, with long days spent around gigantic car supermarkets, or time spent trawling through classified websites, looking for that ideal used 3. Carspring makes it simple. Buy your next used Mazda 3 online with the touch of a button. Simply decide on the model you want and choose how you want to pay.
Looking to finance your used Mazda? Not a problem, we work with our carefully selected finance partners to ensure that, if you’re paying monthly for your used Mazda 3, you know you’re getting the best rates. What’s more, with any Carspring used 3, you also get our 14-day money-back guarantee and 6 months’ free Carspring Warranty. Plus, you don’t have to leave your home. We’ll deliver your used Mazda to you at a time and place of your choice.
*This is an approximate figure based on the range of the car’s list price and the AA’s average 1st-year depreciation cost of 40%.