Mazda3 saloon (2009-2010)

"With excellent build quality and lots of equipment, the fun-to-drive Mazda3 is a great alternative to the Ford Focus and VW Golf."

Carbuyer Rating

2.0 out of 5

Owners Rating

4.5 out of 5

Read owner reviews

Pros

  • Stylish exterior
  • Proven reliability
  • Great value for money

Cons

  • Interior styling a little cluttered
  • Rear legroom is lacking
  • Poor economy from the petrol versions

It’s a testament to the quality available in the family hatchback class that a car as talented and appealing as the Mazda3 is so often overlooked. Sharply styled and keenly priced, the Mazda’s positive qualities far outweigh any negatives. Entry-level S versions feel basic, while the more expensive TS and Sport models, with their alloy wheels, climate control and upgraded stereos, feel well equipped. The cabin can feel a little dark and cramped, especially in the rear; some of the dashboard plastics feel slightly cheap, and there are several fiddly buttons. Of all the engines, the 1.6-litre diesel boasts excellent economy, although the smooth 2.2-litre diesel is significantly faster.

MPG, running costs & CO2

The 1.6-litre diesel offers the best economy and tax band by far.

The 2.2-litre 181bhp diesel returns a manageable 50.4mpg, while the less powerful 1.6-litre delivers an impressive 62.8mpg and Road Tax-friendly 119g/km of CO2. It has start-stop, too, which cuts the engine when it’s idling. Petrol versions offer economy in the low forties, so aren’t ideal, and you’ll be lucky to hit 30mpg in the hot MPS.

Engines, drive & performance

Strong handling and performance combines with excellent driving position.

The accuracy of the steering gives the Mazda3 a sharp, sporty feel, regardless of engine choice. There’s a general feeling of well-engineered solidity throughout the car, from the preciseness of the gearchange to the firmness of the brake pedal. Getting a good driving position is easy, and visibility is good. Grip levels are high, making the 3 a fun car to take corners in. The 2.3-litre turbocharged 3 MPS is hugely fast, but there’s so much power that the car struggles to stay in a straight line during hard acceleration. Its stiffer suspension can make minor bumps feel like big rocks in the road, too.

Interior & comfort

Comfortable if a little cramped though road noise is a little intrusive.

There’s little to complain about comfort wise. All passengers will find the 3 feels relaxed and comfortable at any speed, although adults in the back are likely to feel hemmed in due to a slight lack of head and legroom. Sport-spec cars ride over potholes a little more harshly, while the MPS is so hard that it becomes tiring. The 3 suffers from some obvious wind and tyre noise, especially on the motorway, but the diesel engines are quiet. Steering wheel-mounted controls for the stereo are supposed to make life easier, but there are so many of them that it’s actually more confusing.

Practicality & boot space

Reliability & safety

Strong, reliable and safe. The Mazda 3 covers all the bases.

@font-face { font-family: "Times New Roman"; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; }table.MsoNormalTable { font-size: 10pt; font-family: Courier; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; } The previous Mazda3 had an excellent reputation for reliability, and this model should fare no differently. It’s built of sturdy stuff, and the cabin plastics feel very hard wearing. It’s safe, too, with front, side and curtain airbags, anti-whiplash head restraints and traction control as standard. It’s a five-star Euro NCAP rated car, with excellent scores for adult and child protection.

Price, value for money & options

All models are generously equipped, especially range-topping MPS.

Although entry-level S versions feel basic, more expensive TS and Sport models, with their alloy wheels, climate control and upgraded stereos, feel well equipped and are still reasonably priced. The MPS offers exceptional value for a hot hatch – it has so much standard equipment, it doesn’t actually have an options list. The 3 also retains its value well.

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