Mazda 3 Hatchback full 9 point review
The Mazda’s 118bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine isn’t turbocharged, so you need to work it relatively hard to make swift progress. However, the power delivery is progressive, and the engine doesn’t labour unless the revs drop below about 1300rpm. The 148bhp diesel is seriously impressive, pulling hard from low revs and remaining strong as the revs rise.
Ride & Handling
The lightweight Mazda handles well; it changes direction eagerly and stays remarkably flat through tight twists and turns. The only slight disappointment is the steering, because although it’s light and accurate around town, it doesn’t always weight up quickly enough at faster speeds. No matter what speed you’re doing, you’re aware of bumps in the road. However, even on 18-inch alloys (entry-level models get 16s), things never become crashy or uncomfortable.
Diesel engines don’t get much smoother than the Mazda 3’s; it transmits very little vibration through to the cabin. It’s a similar story with the 118bhp 2.0-litre petrol, although both engines do make themselves heard – especially when you work them hard. There’s also plenty of road noise at motorways speeds and you can hear the wind whistling around the door seals.
Buying & Owning
The 3 is aggressively priced, undercutting rivals such as the VW Golf by a considerable amount. All the engines (both petrols and diesels) are very efficient given how powerful they are, although it’s a pity there isn’t a super-low CO2 diesel model to really tempt company car drivers.
Quality & Reliability
Perceived quality hasn’t always been Mazda’s strongest suit, but the 3 impresses on this score, with dense, soft-touch plastics on most of the dashboard. In fact, only the centre console lets the side down, being a little lightweight and flimsy. This version of the Mazda 3 wasn’t included in the latest JD Power ownership satisfaction survey, but the previous model was rated above average for mechanical reliability.
Safety & Security
All versions come with six airbags, stability control and a tyre pressure-monitoring system. The 3 also achieved a maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests, so it should keep you and your family safe in an accident. An alarm and deadlocks are fitted to help deter thieves.
Behind The Wheel
Drivers of all shapes and sizes should have no problem getting comfortable, thanks to the wide range of adjustment to the seat and steering wheel. The dashboard is also fairly logical, with clearly labelled buttons and dials for the air-con system. The various infotainment functions are accessed using a seven-inch colour touch-screen that sits on top of the dashboard, or via a controller mounted between the front seats.
Space & Practicality
Front passengers should have no issues in the Mazda 3 because there’s plenty of head- and legroom. It’s a similar story in the back, with enough space for a couple of six-footers, although the dipping roofline and rising windowline can make you feel a little hemmed in. Boot space is roughly on a par with a Seat Leon’s, and the rear seats fold almost flat and lie flush with the boot floor, making it easy for you to transport longer loads. Many rivals have more space for luggage, though.
Even entry-level SE models get 16-inch alloys, air-conditioning, Bluetooth, two USB sockets and steering wheel-mounted stereo controls, so that’s what we recommend. Stepping up to SE-L gets you dual-zone climate control, automatic xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers and rear parking sensors, while range-topping Sport Nav models also add sat-nav, front parking sensors and keyless entry.