Mazda 3 (2013-2019) review
The Mazda 3 offers sharp handling and lots of kit, making it a serious contender in the hatchback class
The Mazda 3 is a bit of an unsung hero in the compact hatchback market. While newer models like the Ford Focus and Kia Ceed take the plaudits, the Mazda 3 is still an enjoyable car to drive with sharp looks, plenty of kit and low running costs. Despite an all-new model due later in 2019, the current car is still a great all-rounder in the competitive family hatchback sector.
Improvements made to the Mazda 3 at the end of 2016 were small but worthwhile, and keen drivers will revel in the car’s engaging handling. The updates gave the car a step up in refinement, so it's one of the quieter cars in the class. However, the car's firm ride is the price you pay for its involving handling, although that will be a small matter for enthusiastic drivers.
Under the bonnet, the range of frugal and responsive petrol and diesel engines deliver great running costs, and we'd happily recommend the 3 to anybody who is looking for a change from the hatchback norm.
The Mazda 3 hatchback is a sleek looking five-door that sits between the Mazda 2 supermini and Mazda 6 family car in the Japanese maker’s UK line-up. The Mazda 3 for sale currently is the third generation, which first launched in 2013 and was facelifted in 2016.
Car group tests
That recent upgrade brought fresher looks, an upgraded and improved interior, and some mechanical tweaks, all of which were intended to cement the car’s position as one of the class leaders.
It’s a tough class, and there’s a huge range of rivals in the Mazda 3 price range. As well as the obvious trio of Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and VW Golf, there’s stiff competition from other Japanese rivals including the Honda Civic and Toyota Auris, and more cost-effective Korean contenders such as the Kia Ceed and Hyundai i30. You might also be looking at Renault Megane, SEAT Leon and Peugeot 308, or if you want to spend a bit more there’s the premium sector which includes the BMW 1 Series, Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class.
The line-up consists of just three models, kicking off with the Mazda 3 SE - L Nav and the stylish Sport Black, before topping out with the Mazda 3 Sport Nav flagship. All of them are well kitted out, and the Sport Nav is laden with toys and luxuries including heated electric leather seats, a high end audio system and a head-up display.
There are four engines variants to choose from too, including a pair of 2.0-litre petrols with 119bhp or 163bhp. If you are more inspired by diesel, there’s a 1.5-litre four with 104bhp, and a 2.2-litre with 148bhp. You can chop and change engines and trims to some extent, but the 163bhp petrol is only available as a Sport Nav.
While some car makers promote low-emissions eco specials, there's no such option with the Mazda 3, although the 1.5D does dip below 100g/km. There’s a straightforward choice of two gearboxes: a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic, although you can't get the auto with the 1.5-litre diesel.
Unfortunately, there's no high-performance version to take advantage of the car's inherent sharp handling. The Mazda 3 MPS hot hatchback is no more, and there no plans for a high-performance version of the current car.
Mazda has offered a four-door saloon version of the Mazda 3 in the past, and it's no different for the current model. Buyers who demand more carrying capacity from their 3 should definitely take a look at the Mazda 3 Fastback. It’s essentially the same as the hatchback, but its elongated rear end means you get a larger 419-litre boot. It's a rival for models such as the Hyundai i30 Fastback and Audi A3 Saloon. There's no price premium for the Fastback, while it also has slightly lower emissions than the hatchback.
The Mazda 3 also benefits from Mazda's ‘SkyActiv’ weight saving technology. This focuses on fitting the right engine for the car's size, instead of turbocharging a smaller unit. The 3 went on a diet to save weight and help economy and emissions, too, and the fringe benefit is that the 3, like all of Mazda's cars, delivers nimble handling. In fact, the 3 is one of the best handling hatchbacks on sale.
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingThe Mazda 3 offers sharp handling and lots of kit, making it a serious contender in the hatchback class
- 2Engines, performance and driveThere’s a lot to like about the 2.2-litre diesel, but the 1.5-litre diesel is a bit slow
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsThe Mazda 3 isn’t the most economical car in its class, but given the performance, it does well
- 4Interior, design and technologyThe Mazda 3 looks great, has a classy cabin and it’s well kitted out for the money
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceThe Mazda 3 hatchback lags behind rivals on space, but the Fastback saloon offers a bigger boot
- 6Reliability and SafetyMazda has a good reputation for building reliable cars and the 3 scored well in our Driver Power survey