Price: £16,695 - £23,345
- Cheap to run
- Stylish design
- Brilliant to drive
- Entry-level engine is slow
- Quite expensive
- Boot is smaller than some rivals’
"The new Mazda 3 is a stylish family hatchback that's also very economical and great fun to drive."
The Mazda 3 is a family hatchback that competes with cars like the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Volkswagen Golf and Hyundai i30. Previous versions of the car have struggled to make an impact in this fiercely competitive market, but the new Mazda 3 is more stylish, better to drive and better equipped than ever before – and is now a serious rival for the Golf and Focus. The fresh new look is inspired by the other cars in the Mazda line-up and makes it one of the more attractively styled cars in the family hatchback class.
The engine range is excellent, too, with a frugal diesel engine that is guaranteed to keep running costs down.
There are five specification levels to choose from: SE, SE Nav, SE-L, SE-L Nav and Sport Nav – but all versions come with a decent level of kit.
MPG, running costs & CO2
All engines offer decent economy and efficiency
The Mazda 3 doesn’t come with an engine that does less than 100g/km of CO2, unlike many of its rivals. But despite this all engines in the range offer impressively good economy and low emissions. The engine range consists of a 98bhp 1.5-litre petrol, a 118bhp 2.0-litre petrol, a 163bhp 2.0-litre petrol and a 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel. The diesel offers the lowest running costs even though it's the most powerful, returning figures of 68.9mpg and 107g/km CO2 emissions – making it exempt from road tax in the first year and £20 per year thereafter.
The 1.5-litre petrol will do 55.4mpg and 119g/km CO2, while the larger 2.0-litre petrol is capable of 55.4mpg and 119g/km CO2. Both of those figures are impressive for petrol engines.
Interior & comfort
A capable motorway cruiser even if it’s not the most comfortable car in class
The 3 may be a sporty looking car, but Mazda didn’t sacrifice comfort for performance when creating it. The suspension is still soft enough to glide over most bumps and potholes you’ll come across. The car is bigger than most rivals, too. It's about 100mm longer than the Ford Focus, for example, and that means the interior feels quite a bit more spacious and you have a little more room to stretch out. The car is very aerodynamic and the cabin is well insulated, so you hear very little wind or road noise from inside, which helps to take the strain out of longer journeys. The interior is also superb. The design is every inch as stylish as the exterior, material quality is brilliant and the controls are all easy to use and intelligently laid out.
Practicality & boot space
Boot space is reasonable and legroom is very generous
Interior space is excellent in the Mazda 3 thanks to the fact it's bigger than the old model, giving designers room to allow for an excellent amount of leg space, so tall adults will have no trouble getting comfortable in the back.
The boot has 350 litres of capacity – which is decent but hardly class-leading. It's quite a bit bigger than the 316 litres of space found in the Focus, for example, but no match for the 380 litres of capacity in the Volkswagen Golf. Fold the seats down and the space increases to 1,360 litres.
If you really need extra capacity, Mazda also do a saloon version of the 3 called the Fastback, which has a 420-litre boot.
Reliability & safety
Mazda has a flawless reputation for reliability and safety
Few car companies can come close to matching Mazda's reputation for reliability and quality. So, while this version of the 3 is still too new for it to have a track record of reliability for us to judge, we expect it to be close to bullet-proof. Plenty of the components are used in the Mazda CX-5 SUV and Mazda 6 saloon, so they’re tried and tested.
Mazda was ranked fourth out of 32 in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey manufacturer rankings. It was beaten only by Jaguar, Skoda and Lexus, which speaks volumes about the quality of its products.
The new Mazda 3 picked up a five-star safety rating when it was crash-tested by Euro NCAP, too, and comes with a huge array of safety equipment, including airbags, ABS, traction control, electronic stability control, smart braking, automatic high beams and a blind spot monitor.
Engines, drive & performance
More fun to drive than a Volkswagen Golf, but the basic petrol engine is quite slow
The new Mazda 3 is one of the best cars to drive in its class. The steering is sharp and accurate, there is loads of grip and it slices through corners with ease. The 2.2-litre diesel is the most economical but also pretty powerful, offering 148bhp – it's our pick of the range, despite being the most expensive choice, thanks to its strong performance, low running costs and the fact it's so quiet.
The 2.0-litre petrol is good, too, and comes with either 118bhp or 163bhp. Unlike the engines in most rival hatchback cars, it's not fitted with a turbocharger. That means you have to rev it a little harder to get the most out of it, which can take a little getting used to, but it offers a decent mix of performance and economy.
The 1.5-litre petrol feels a but sluggish and is best avoided – especially if you spend a lot of time on the motorway. Overall, though, the Mazda 3 is great fun to drive and a solid rival to the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf.
Price, value for money & options
Similar price to Volkswagen Golf, but good equipment levels
Mazda has priced the 3 marginally lower than the Volkswagen Golf. That makes it quite a bit cheaper than premium rivals like the BMW 1 Series, but considerably more expensive than the likes of the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and Kia Cee’d. Given the car's qualities – the stylish design, upmarket interior and superb driving ability – we’d say the price offers good value for money.
Mazda has backed up the car's credentials with a generous equipment list on all models. There are five specification levels to choose from: SE, SE Nav, SE-L, SE-L Nav and Sport Nav. SE models get 16-inch alloy wheels, manual air-con, all-round electric windows, cruise control, and Mazda Multimedia System with app functionality. SE Nav adds a sat-nav system. SE-L includes bi-Xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, dual-zone climate control and rear parking sensors. While Sport Nav gets 18-inch alloys, front and rear parking sensors, head-up display, Bose surround sound audio system and sat-nav.
What the others say
"The 3 has been considered in the past as a bit of an outsider but this latest model has the looks, the technology, the quality and the driving experience to really take on the big guns."
Last updated: 7 Mar 2014