In-depth reviews

Mazda3 hatchback review

"The Mazda3 is good to drive, with a stylish, premium cabin. But it’s not the most practical"

Carbuyer Rating

4.0 out of 5

Owners Rating

4.7 out of 5

Read owner reviews

Pros

  • Stylish
  • Good to drive
  • Low running costs

Cons

  • Cramped rear seats
  • Rear visibility
  • Rivals have bigger boots

The Mazda3 is a family hatchback car that’s been on sale for a long time in the UK, but has previously been overshadowed by big names such as the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra. The current Mazda3 is perhaps also overlooked in favour of premium hatchbacks like the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class but it really doesn’t deserve to be, as it’s easily a match for those in terms of quality and premium feel.

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It’s not just about the cabin materials, but everything else that makes a car feel premium – including the way it looks, the engineering, technology and build quality. The Mazda excels in all of these areas and it’s definitely worthy of consideration alongside the traditional German upmarket choices.

The Mazda3 is one of the sharpest-looking models of its type, but its dramatic shape does bring a few drawbacks – most notably a lack of space in the back and a slightly compromised boot. Despite this, the Mazda is still one of the best hatchbacks around for keen drivers, plus it has a superb interior and lots of kit. It should be relatively affordable to run, too.

The engine range is quite unusual. The most notable model is the 183bhp e-SkyActiv X version, which has a clever combustion system that helps it to run like a diesel engine at low revs to save fuel, but with the smoothness of a petrol when you accelerate hard. This model returns up to 54.3mpg with the excellent six-speed manual gearbox, thanks also in part to a mild-hybrid system that has a tiny electric motor to boost efficiency.

There’s also a mild hybrid setup on the other engine, which is called the e-SkyActiv G. Both engines are 2.0-litre petrols but the G model is a much more traditional engine. It has just 120bhp and no turbocharger, so it’s less punchy than many rivals. There’s no longer a diesel version of the Mazda3, but you can have automatic versions of both petrol engines.

Both engines and gearbox options are available across the range, which kicks off with the SE-L model. This features plenty of luxuries including rear parking sensors, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a seven-inch touchscreen, 16-inch alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers and auto high-beam assistance.

The entry-level model has plenty of equipment to satisfy many buyers, then, while upgrading to SE-L Lux adds front parking sensors, a reversing camera, heated front seats and dual-zone air conditioning. We can see this being a popular spec, as it costs less than £1,500 extra. Above that, Sport Lux provides a sportier look with 18-inch alloys, adaptive LED headlights and privacy glass, while GT Sport adds a power-adjustable driver's seat, leather seats, a heated steering wheel and a Bose sound system. Top-of-the-line GT Sport Tech is therefore very well equipped, and even comes with a 360-degree camera.

Mazda has a good reputation amongst customers, coming fourth in our 2021 Driver Power survey, and the Mazda3 achieved the full five stars in Euro NCAP safety testing, including an impressive 98% score in the adult occupant category.

With striking styling inside and out, superb handling and plenty of equipment, the only fly in the ointment is the limited performance of the entry-level petrol and now discontinued diesel engines. The e-SkyActiv X engine makes the Mazda3 one of our favourite family hatchbacks but it's also quite expensive. Unless you can afford it, the e-SkyActiv G petrol in SE-L trim with a manual gearbox is our pick of the range for driver appeal, value and running costs.

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