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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For The 3 has a sparkling drive; and it's versatile, well priced and cheaper than a VW Golf

Against It has a firm-ish ride in town, and there's motorway wind roar. It's also frugal, but the diesel is weak

Verdict More character than past small Mazdas, but every bit as practical

Go for… 1.6 TS

Avoid… 2.0 Sport

Mazda 3 Hatchback
  • 1. A small number of early diesel models suffered turbo failure
  • 2. The interior is bland but pleasant, with big, clear dials and buttons
  • 3. The boot is a fair size and a good shape. The rear seats split 60/40 and drop to create a flat floor
  • 4. The cabin is roomy, although shoulder space is tight for three adults in the back
  • 5. The 1.6 petrol delivers the best trade-off between performance and costs
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Mazda 3 Hatchback full review with expert trade views

Underneath, the Mazda 3 shares its running gear with the Ford Focus, which is among the best small hatches to drive and strongly built, too.

So, as you'd expect, the Mazda responds sweetly to the steering and brakes. The ride, although firm at low speed, is rarely jarring. Once on the open road, this smooths out, and you can appreciate the car’s superb body control.

Inside, it’s bland but pleasant, resembling the bigger Mazda 6 family car with its big, clear dials and buttons. Things are very comfortable for the driver because the seat and wheel adjust every which way, and the cabin is roomy, although shoulder space is tight for three adults in the back. The boot is fair-sized for a small hatchback and it’s a good shape, with rear seats that split 60/40 and drop to create a flat floor.

Everything fits and feels well screwed together, which is no more than you’d expect from a manufacturer that sits consistently near the top in reliability surveys.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Gaining popularity with the used buyer. Slower depreciation than the competition

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

Pick from four engines – three petrols, plus a diesel – and four trims. There’s no one model to avoid, but the 1.6 petrol delivers the best trade-off between power and ownership costs.

The smallest motor is a 1.4 that’s willing but needs to be worked hard, while the 2.0 is quick but noisy, and brings with it an electro-hydraulic power steering system, which feels more nervous than the purely hydraulic version on the 1.6. The diesel is economical, but sluggish.

You can also choose between this five-door hatch and a saloon, but we far prefer the hatch - and, besides, the saloon only sells in tiny numbers, so there are precious few on the used market.

Trims run from the entry S, through TS, TS2 and Sport. The S lacks the air-con and alloy wheels fitted to the rest, so we’d go for the TS to get these. This model is so well kitted out – with four airbags, anti-lock brakes, full electrics and a CD player – that we wouldn't bother with those higher in the range.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Prices are firm for all models, most sought after are 1.6 TS 5 door

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The 3 won’t be as cheap to own as some, but should be good value. Expect it to cost more to service than a Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra, although you can cut costs by taking it to a good independent garage rather than a franchised outlet. The car is straightforward to work on, but don’t expect any garage to be familiar with it: find a non-franchised workshop that specialises in Mazdas.

Some spare parts are expensive, but because of the make’s excellent reputation for reliability, you shouldn't need to shell out too often. Insurance is cheap: most models qualify for group 5 cover, although the 2.0 is in group 8 and the 1.4 S drops you to group 3.

If you want the ultimate in econmy, the diesel - which promises up to 56mpg - is the only choice. But, the 1.4 and 1.6 petrols achieve up to 39mpg, which is pretty decent, and the 2.0 posts 34mpg.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Gaining popularity with the used buyer. Slower depreciation than the competition

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

It's a little early in the 3's life to start predicting possible faults, but Mazdas are renowned for their reliability, so the list of problems and failures to look out for when digging out a second-hand bargain is gratifyingly short. A small number of early diesel cars suffered turbo failure, but there’s little else to report on.

The car that the 3 replaced, the 323, was terrifically reliable in its own right, and there's little to suggest the 3 will be any different. What’s more, Mazdas score well in all the major customer surveys, and the make sits well within the top 10 rated by the What Car? Reliability Index.

Provided that correct servicing has been kept up throughout its life, and genuine Mazda parts are used when they are needed, this is one piece of machinery that promises to run and run.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Prices are firm for all models, most sought after are 1.6 TS 5 door

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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