In-depth reviews

Mazda 3 Fastback review

The Mazda 3 Fastback offers practicality, style and costs no more than the hatchback version

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

Price
£23,090 to £29,570
  • Stylish looks, economical engines, boot bigger than hatch
  • Small choice of engines, interior design, rivals more spacious

The Mazda 3 is a rival for the VW Golf, Vauxhall Astra and Hyundai i30. The hatchback is among the best cars in the class, and with a bigger boot, lower emissions and a stylish shape, the new Fastback has a lot going for it, too. 

Best small family cars in 2014

Although British buyers are yet to warm to C-segment saloons, preferring to buy hatchbacks instead, they’re big business in the US and China. But the arrival of cars like the Mercedes CLA and Audi A3 Saloon proves that carmakers are convinced there’s potential in the segment. Mazda has offered saloon versions of the Mazda 3 before, but its latest effort looks better than the hatchback it’s based on, is more efficient, yet costs exactly the same.

In terms of engines, the Fastback is available with either a 2.0-litre SKYACTIV-G petrol engine with 118bhp and a 2.2-litre SKYACTIV-D diesel engine that puts out 148bhp. 

Engines, performance and drive

With an identical wheelbase and suspension set-up to the sharp-handling hatch, the Fastback is great to drive. Like the five-door there’s a wide range of seat and wheel adjustment, so the driving position is perfect, and it’s clear from the start that the Mazda is light on its feet and sharp to drive.

The steering’s well weighted and direct, the six-speed manual box has a snappy action and the Mazda feels agile. With positive turn-in, excellent body control and lots of grip, the 3 is fun and inspires confidence, with sporty handling that can match one of its main rivals, the Audi A3 saloon. 

Even better, the Mazda’s sharp handling doesn’t come at the expense of comfort. The standard 18-inch wheels of the Sport Nav model patter a fraction over undulating tarmac, but the suspension irons out big bumps well. The 3 rides well on the motorway, too, while wind and road noise is well isolated from the cabin.

Sadly, the Mazda 3 doesn’t get the full range of Mazda’s Skyactiv engines. It misses out on the 1.5-litre petrol, which is a shame as this new entry-level unit is smooth and torquey, and doesn't cost too much. The 2.0-litre 118bhp petrol is a good choice – it's still smooth, and predicted to be the best-seller. 

However, the 3’s refinement trump card is the 2.2-litre SkyActiv diesel engine. At idle it’s almost silent, while on the move it’s smoother and quieter than the 2.0-litre TDI in rival, the Volkswagen Jetta.

MPG, CO2 and Running Costs

The new Mazda 3 is lighter than its predecessor, which should help reduce wear and tear. Mazda believes in rightsizing, not downsizing. So while its rivals offer smaller engines with turbochargers, Mazda offers larger, naturally aspirated engines that give good claimed emissions, but – according to Mazda – give better real-world efficiency.  

The saloon is more aerodynamic than the hatchback, meaning you can shave 1g/km off the CO2 figures on offer in the petrol hatch. The diesel saloon returns 72.4mpg and emits 104g/km, which betters the hatch’s 68.9mpg and 107g/km. These are figures for manual models, which are slicker than their auto counterparts. The diesel model slots into a 15 per cent BiK band, making it a good choice for company car drivers.

Interior, design and technology

The Mazda 3 Fastback takes design inspiration from the larger 6 saloon, and is arguably even better looking than the 3 hatchback. Its handsome proportions work best from the front, and in Sport Nav trim the Mazda benefits from bi-xenon headlamps, LED running lights, rear privacy glass and a subtle boot spoiler at the back.

Smart design touches continue inside, with a modern layout: upmarket air-con controls and eye-catching metal detailing highlight the attractive dashboard, and the leather multifunction steering wheel feels luxurious.

A large central speedo, flanked by digital readouts for the fuel consumption and rev counter, dominates the instrument display. All models get an attractive seven-inch tablet-style touchscreen, which can also be controlled by a dial on the centre console. The quality of materials around the cabin is good, while fit and finish is equally impressive.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

Apart from giving up the flexibility of a wide opening hatch tailgate, the Fastback scores well when it comes to practicality. The 419-litre boot is 55 litres up on the five-door’s and the rear seats fold flat to give you a 176cm load length. Plus, from floor to bootlid there’s 51cm of luggage height.

Rear legroom is decent, but you also get slightly more rear headroom in the saloon, as the roof lining doesn’t slope down as much as in the hatch. On a cold day, opening the boot of the saloon won’t fill the cabin with chilly air, too.

Reliability and Safety

Mazda has a very strong reputation for building durable and well engineered cars. It was voted eighth best manufacturer in our Driver Power 2014 satisfaction survey, and achieved fifth for reliability. Even more reassuring, the Fastback shares proven engines and components with the CX-5 crossover and 6 family car. 

Euro NCAP gave the five-door a five-star crash test rating, and the Fastback gets the same impressive active safety kit, such as standard stability control and city safe low-speed collision avoidance. Our car also came with the £700 Active Safety pack that includes rear vehicle monitoring, which gives you more awareness of vehicles behind and to the side of you.

Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    2.0 Skyactiv-X MHEV SE-L 4dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £23,090

Most Economical

  • Name
    2.0 Skyactiv-X MHEV SE-L 4dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £23,090

Fastest

  • Name
    2.0 Skyactiv-X MHEV SE-L 4dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £23,090

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