Price £16,995 - £23,745
- Cheap to run
- Stylish design
- Brilliant to drive
- Entry-level engine is slow
- Quite expensive
- Boot is smaller than some rivals’
At a glance
"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 with rivals that include the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and Hyundai i30. Mazda has developed a reputation for building fun-to-drive cars and the Mazda3 is one of the best in its class.
The car can be fitted with a range of petrol and diesel engines including a 1.5-litre petrol, a choice of two 2.0-litre petrols, plus one 2.2-litre diesel. All models offer decent economy and even the 1.5-litre petrol feels fast enough for a car like this.
Buyers can choose from SE, SE Nav, SE-L, SE-L Nax, Sport and Sport Nav trim levels . All cars get most of the equipment you’ll need. Even the basic model comes with a seven-inch TFT screen, front and rear electric windows, a Bluetooth phone connection, and air-conditioning.
MPG, running costs & CO2
All engines offer decent economy and efficiency
The Mazda3 is cheap to run. The cheapest model to buy is fitted with a 1.5-litre petrol engine that can get economy of 55.4mpg and emissions of 119g/km, for £30 a year road tax. The less powerful 2.0-litre petrol engine matches the smaller petrol engine for economy and road tax costs, while the high-power 163bhp version returns 48.7mpg and emissions of 135g/km. Road tax will set you back £130 per year.
Most economical of all is the 2.2-litre diesel, which can achieve 72.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 107g/km. The latter means that road tax is just £20 a year. The diesel's balance of power and economy makes it our pick of the range.
Mazda offers fixed-price servicing that means it is easy to cover the cost of your car's regular maintenance. Mazdas also have impressive second-hand values that should better rivals from Ford, Vauxhall, Peugeot and Hyundai. Insurance is group 13 in the basic 1.5-litre petrol, running to group 24 in the top-of-the-range 2.2-litre diesel Sport.
Interior & comfort
A capable motorway cruiser even if it’s not the most comfortable car in class
The interior of the Mazda3 is smart looking and well built, although the VW Golf is still the class leader when it comes to perceived quality. All Mazda3s have a steering wheel that adjusts for reach and rake, plus a driver's seat that adjusts for height, so getting comfortable behind the wheel is easy.
The Mazda is fun to drive, with little body lean in the corners, but the suspension is still comfortable enough to absorb most of the bumps in the road. The interior is also well insulated from wind and road noise, which makes the car more relaxing on long journeys.
Practicality & boot space
Boot space is reasonable and legroom is very generous
The Mazda3 is 100mm longer than a Ford Focus, which translates into more legroom in the back of the car and tall adults should be able to get comfortable easily. There is also plenty of space in the front seats.
The 350-litre boot is 30 litres short of the Volkswagen Golf's, but beats the Ford Focus’ 316 litres of capacity. The Mazda's hatchback boot lid leaves a wide opening for loading heavy items and the back seats also fold flat. The boot has a load lip that makes it harder to slide heavy items in. With the rear seats folded down maximum capacity in the Mazda is 1,360 litres. Buyers can also opt for the Mazda3 Fastback saloon, which has a 420-litre boot.
There are plenty of useful cubbyholes in the Mazda3 including cupholders, a lidded central storage area, and a decent sized glovebox.
Reliability & safety
Mazda has a flawless reputation for reliability and safety
You can expect your Mazda3 to be reliable and the car came 24th out of 150 cars in our 2014 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey. The car was praised for its reliability and build quality, while owners also liked the way the car drives. It got marked down in areas such as in-car tech and running costs. The new car shares many of its parts with the Mazda6, which means they are tried and rested and should be reliable. Mazda came 8th out of 33 firms in our 2014 Driver Power manufacturers’ rankings.
With a five-star rating from Euro NCAP, the Mazda 3 is safe. It gets airbags, plus traction and stability control, which help to prevent skidding. Buyers can also choose to add extra equipment such as autonomous emergency braking and automatic headlights. The back seats also features two ISOFIX child-seat mounts.
Engines, drive & performance
More fun to drive than a Volkswagen Golf, but the basic petrol engine is quite slow
If you are looking for a family hatchback that is fun to drive than you’re best choosing either the Mazda3 or the Ford Focus. Go for the Mazda and you’ll get a car that has loads of grip in the corners, sharp and accurate steering, and a manual gearbox that is easy to operate and fun to use. The automatic gearbox is only available with the diesel or the 118bhp petrol.
We would opt for the 2.2-litre diesel engine. It can get the Mazda from 0-60mph in just 8.1 seconds, but is also very cheap to run. The 2.0-litre petrol engines are good, too. The 118bhp version gets from 0-60mph in 8.9 seconds, while the more powerful 163bhp engine does it in 8.2 seconds. If you want to save money and aren’t bothered about performance, the 1.5-litre petrol is the cheapest model to buy. It gets from 0-60mph in 10.8seconds, but can feel underpowered at motorway speeds.
Price, value for money & options
Similar price to Volkswagen Golf, but good equipment levels
Mazda has priced the Mazda3 to be slightly cheaper than the Volkswagen Golf, but more expensive than models such as the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, and Kia Cee’d. Mind you, it's a talented car that we would say it is worth the extra money.
Whichever model you go for, the Mazda3 is well equipped. Basic SE models come with 16-inch alloy wheels, manual air-con, all-round electric windows, cruise control, and Mazda's infotainment system with app functionality. Go for the SE Nav – our pick of the range – and you add a sat-nav system to that list.
SE-L models can be fitted with sat-nav as well, and come with powerful bi-xenon headlights, bright LED daytime running lights, dual-zone climate control, and rear parking sensors. Top-of-the-range Sport Nav models get 18-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, a jet-fighter style head up display and a premium Bose surround sound stereo.
According to car valuing experts, the Mazda should hold its value better than marques such as Ford, Hyundai and Citroen. The company is also currently offering some models with interest-free credit.
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."