Mazda 3 Saloon full 9 point review
There are just two engines in the 3 Fastback range – a 118bhp 2.0-litre petrol and a 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel. The diesel is effortlessly brisk; it pulls strongly from low revs, so you’ll rarely have to work it hard when accelerating. That’s not something you can say about the petrol, which never feels particularly punchy. It delivers its power smoothly, however, and performance is perfectly acceptable most of the time.
Ride & Handling
The 3 has a fairly sporty suspension set-up, but ride comfort is still pretty good. Yes, you can feel exactly what state the road surface is in, but the suspension deals with bumps quickly and effectively, so things are never uncomfortable. Body control is pretty tidy and the steering is direct, although it doesn’t offer much feedback, which dents your confidence on twisty roads.
High-speed refinement is disappointing. There’s plenty of road noise – especially on coarse surfaces – which, combined with the amount of wind noise, can make motorway journeys wearing. The diesel engine is smooth and generally quiet enough, although it does get noisier when you rev it hard.
Buying & Owning
The 3 Fastback costs exactly the same as the equivalent 3 hatchback, so its prices are comparatively cheap. Low CO2 emissions help keep company car tax bills down, while the economical engines mean your fuel bills should be low, too. Its leasing costs also undercut those of its rivals, especially the premium-badged ones. Resale values are decent.
Quality & Reliability
There are plenty of high-quality materials on the dashboard and most of the switches feel suitably robust, although there is the odd flimsy-feeling plastic that lets the side down slightly. This generation of Mazda 3 didn’t feature in the most recent JD Power ownership satisfaction survey, but the previous model got good marks for reliability.
Safety & Security
Every version has six airbags and stability control as standard, along with a system that automatically applies the brakes at low speeds to help minimise the severity of an impact or avoid one altogether. The five-door Mazda 3 was awarded the maximum five stars in its Euro NCAP crash test, so we’d expect this saloon version to score similarly well. Security experts gave the car five out of five for its resistance to being stolen, and four out of five for its resistance to being broken into.
Behind The Wheel
Finding a comfortable driving position should be pretty easy, thanks to plenty of adjustment to the seat and steering wheel. The buttons on the dashboard are also easy to use and it doesn’t take long to get the hang of the infotainment system. Unlike in the hatchback version, rear visibility isn’t badly compromised by thick pillars and a small rear window. It’s still hard to judge where the back of the car is, though, so you’ll want rear parking sensors (standard on SE-L versions and above).
Space & Practicality
There’s lots of space up front, and six-footers will be pretty comfortable in the rear seats. The rising windowline and sloping roof can make the back of the cabin feel dark, though. There’s more boot space than in the hatchback (419 litres versus 364), but while the boot floor is pretty long, many rivals offer more room. The boot opening is a decent size for a saloon, but loading bulky items will still be tricky. Split-folding rear seats that lie flush with the floor when folded are standard.
There’s little reason to go beyond entry-level SE trim, which comes with air-con, cruise control, 16-inch alloy wheels, audio controls on the steering wheel and electrically folding door mirrors. SE-L is worth the extra if you like your luxuries; it has dual-zone climate control, heated front seats and xenon headlights. The Nav versions get, you guessed it, sat-nav. Sport Nav models are a little pricey, but also get 18-inch wheels, front parking sensors and an upgraded stereo.