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
Stick with a model on 16-inch wheels and the 3 rides well. You’re aware of bumps in the road, but things never become crashy or uncomfortable (even on versions with 18-inch alloys). The handling is less impressive. There's plenty of body roll though corners, and the steering doesn't weight up consistently as you turn in, making it difficult to judge front-end grip.
This is where the Mazda 3 falls short of the class standard. The diesel engine is noisy, and both petrols make themselves heard when you rev 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 easily accessed using a seven-inch colour touch-screen that sits on top of the dashboard, or via a controller mounted between the front seats. It's just a pity that rear visibility is so poor.
Space & Practicality
There should be no issues in the front of the Mazda 3 thanks to plenty of head- and legroom. The dipping roofline and rising windowline can make rear-seat passengers feel a little hemmed in, though. 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. That said, many rivals have more space for luggage.
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.