Mazda3 hatchback review
"The Mazda3 is good to drive, with a stylish, premium cabin. But it’s not the most practical"
- Good to drive
- Low running costs
- Cramped rear seats
- Rear visibility
- Rivals have bigger boots
Verdict - Is the Mazda3 a good car?
The Mazda3 isn’t a car you’re likely to see at the top of the UK’s best-sellers list, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Great looking, engaging to drive and with a surprisingly posh interior, the Mazda3 straddles the middle ground between mainstream rivals like the Ford Focus and premium models like the BMW 1 Series, but arguably feels closer to the latter. Its main negatives are mediocre practicality and poor rear visibility.
Mazda3 models, specs and alternatives
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.
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 now kicks off with the Prime-Line model. This features plenty of luxuries including rear parking sensors, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 10.25-inch touchscreen, 16-inch alloy wheels, auto high-beam assistance, cruise control, rear parking sensors and a reverse parking camera.
The entry-level model has plenty of equipment to satisfy many buyers, then, while upgrading to Centre-Line adds keyless entry, front and rear parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, heated front seats, dual-zone air conditioning and wireless smartphone charging – it doesn’t cost much more than Prime-Line, and would be the one we’d go for. Above that, Homura provides a sportier look with 18-inch alloys, heated power-folding door mirrors, classy piano black window surrounds and privacy glass. Exclusive-Line adds adaptive LED headlights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a Bose sound system. Top-of-the-line Takumi is very well equipped, adding leather seats, a wing-mirror tilt-down function when parking, front wiper de-icer and 360-degree camera.