Used Mazda 3 (Mk4, 2019-date) review
A full used buyer’s guide on the Mazda 3 covering the fourth-generation model that has been on sale since 2019
If you’re in the market for a family hatchback, and ultimate practicality isn’t a high priority, the Mazda 3 should be on your shortlist. It’s easy to live with, fun to drive and it draws admiring glances. When we pitted a Mazda 3 against a Hyundai i30, the Mazda was victorious. The result was the same when we put a Mazda 3 up against a MINI Clubman, with the 3 winning thanks to its lower running costs and impressively designed dashboard. The Mazda won’t hold much appeal if you regularly transport tall people in the back seats, but if this isn’t important to you, start looking for the best 3 that you can find.
Mazda is an unusual company; while it produces cars that look distinctive, are fun to drive, reliable and very well made, it’s not the most visible brand.
The firm deserves a higher profile, not least of all because it’s in that semi-premium twilight zone; it’s neither mainstream nor truly premium, much like Volkswagen. But while branding is important to some, for most it’s the ownership experience that really matters, and that’s something that the Mazda 3 seems to have well covered.
We ran a Mazda 3 2.0 Skyactiv-X GT Sport for 10,000 miles and loved it, revelling in its user-friendly infotainment system, sharp handling and gearchange, plus those glorious looks. More muscle from the non-turbo petrol engine would have been the icing on the cake, but you can’t have it all.
The fourth-generation Mazda 3 arrived in UK showrooms in May 2019. Initially there was only a five-door hatchback available, with a choice of 120bhp 2.0-litre Skyactiv-G petrol or 114bhp 1.8 Skyactiv-D diesel engines.
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Buyers could pick from SE-L, SE-L Lux, Sport Lux and GT Sport trim levels, while the Skyactiv-G engine was offered with a range-topping GT Sport Tech grade. A saloon quickly joined the Mazda 3 range, available only with an all-new 177bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, dubbed Skyactiv-X.
As with any other petrol engine, the Skyactiv-X is fitted with spark plugs, but it has a very high compression ratio like a diesel engine, which helps to boost power and economy, factors that are helped by the adoption of mild-hybrid technology.
Which one should I buy?
While we wouldn’t steer you away from the diesels, they’re so rare that you’ll almost certainly buy a petrol-engined Mazda 3. The Skyactiv-X engine is usefully more perky than the Skyactiv-G, but also more costly to purchase; it’s the pick of the bunch, though.
Equipment levels are generous, with the entry-level SE-L having 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, power-folding door mirrors, automatic headlights and wipers, rear parking sensors, navigation and an 8.8-inch infotainment display. The SE-L Lux adds front parking sensors, a reversing camera, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats and keyless go.
Sport Lux comes with 18-inch alloys, adaptive LED headlights and privacy glass, while the GT Sport has leather trim, a BOSE hi-fi and a heated steering wheel. GT Sport Tech adds a suite of driver-assistance systems, including all-around view.
Alternatives to the Mazda 3
One of the best small family hatchbacks is the Ford Focus, with its ready availability, excellent practicality and good value, plus it’s also good fun to drive. The Volkswagen Golf impresses for its high-quality cabin, wide range of powertrain options and cutting-edge safety technology.
The SEAT Leon plus the Skoda Scala and Octavia are related to the Golf and share many of its attributes, although the Octavia is a big car in comparison. If space is a key issue, the Honda Civic might suit, with its roomy cabin and spacious boot, while the Vauxhall Astra, Kia Ceed, Peugeot 308, Hyundai i30 and Toyota Corolla are a better match for the Mazda 3 in terms of size.
What to look for
The updated Skyactiv-X 2.0 engine arrived in April 2021, rated at 183bhp and 240lb ft. Economy improved by 2mpg or so.
Mild-hybrid tech will save £10 a year on VED, with the 0.17kWh battery contributing to improved fuel efficiency.
Skyactiv-G cylinder-deactivation tech means the engine can run on two cylinders. A software update fixed vibration issues on some cars.
The 2.0 Skyactiv-X 180 GT Sport Tech briefly had the option of all-wheel drive. This version is very rare and used prices start at £21,000.
Driver Power suggests there’s little to worry about, with Mazda coming fourth for reliability in our 2022 brands survey.
The Mazda 3’s cabin is one of the best in the business, and is a highlight. The dashboard is very intelligently designed, so it’s user-friendly and visually appealing. The seats are comfy (even those in the back), and there are plenty of high-quality materials, with impressive build quality throughout. But all-round visibility is poor and so is room in the hatchback’s rear seats.
Boot space isn’t very big, either, at just 351 litres, or 1,026 with the back seats folded, which also affects the car’s overall usability. The saloon’s load bay is pegged at 444 litres, but the back seats do fold for added practicality.
The diesel is very rare because it was available only for the first few weeks of production. We found just six on sale, all manuals on a 69-plate.
GT Sport and Sport Lux are the most popular trims, accounting for more than half of the cars available. GT Sport Tech is also common, but SE-L and SE-L Lux derivatives are unusual. Just one in 10 of the Mazda 3s for sale is a saloon, while one in five 3s is an automatic.
Visit to our sister site Buyacar to get a great deal on a used Mazda 3, or to check prices on a specific model head over to our valuation tool.
All Mazda 3s need to be serviced every 12 months or 12,500 miles. For petrol cars, check-ups one, five and seven cost £207 (£225 for diesel), while services two, four, eight and 10 are pegged at £321 (£351 for diesel).
You’ll pay £250 for services three and nine (£337 for diesel), but the sixth inspection costs the most because of the extra parts needed. This will set you back £364 for petrol editions and £451 for diesel models.
Prices include replacement brake fluid every other service, while the coolant needs to be refreshed after 10 years or 125,000 miles, then every five years or 62,500 miles. All engines are fitted with a timing chain, so there’s no cambelt to replace. The standard warranty is three years or 60,000 miles, but this can be extended at extra cost.
The fourth-generation Mazda 3 has been recalled five times. There was a flurry of activity early on, with four actions launched within five months of the 3’s arrival.
Two were issued in July 2019; the first for 2,252 cars built up to May 2019 because of faulty engine software, the other because 568 cars built up to March 2019 had faulty airbag and seatbelt warning lights. In September 2019, 125 3s made up to March 2019 were recalled because the rear-view mirror could fall apart.
The fourth recall came in October 2019, because of engine software glitches. This affected 453 cars made between June and October 2019. The most recent action came in January 2020 and involved 3,047 Mazda 3s built up to September 2019. Once again the problem was faulty engine software that required an update.
Driver Power owner satisfaction
The fourth-generation Mazda 3 hasn’t appeared in a Driver Power new-car survey since 2020, when it came 38th out of 75 entries. High spots were the steering, acceleration, handling, infotainment, fuel economy and ventilation, all of which achieved top-20 scores. Most other areas were mid-table, but it was a lack of cabin space and versatility, along with poor all-round visibility, that owners disliked the most.
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