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What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

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

Against The ride is firm-ish in town, and there's some motorway wind roar. The diesel engine is weak

Verdict It's more characterful than past small Mazdas, but this saloon isn't as practical as its hatchback brother

Go for… 1.6 TS

Avoid… 2.0 Sport

Mazda 3 Saloon
  • 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, but this saloon lacks the practicality of the hatch
  • 4. The cabin is roomy, although shoulder space is tight for three adults in the back
  • 5. The 1.6 petrol gives the best compromise between performance and running costs
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Mazda 3 Saloon 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.

The Mazda responds sweetly to the steering and brakes. The ride, although firm at low speeds, 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 with its big, clear dials and buttons. Things are made 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 a fair size and a good shape, but obviously this saloon isn't ultimately as practical as the hatchback version, although the rear seats split 60/40 and drop to create a flat floor.

Everything fits and feels well screwed together, as 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

Compared to the hatchback, the salon's range is rather more limited, with no 1.4 engine or S trim. But, we still come to the same ultimate conclusion: the 1.6 petrol delivers the best trade-off between power and ownership costs.

By comparison, the 2.0 is quick but noisy, and brings with it electro-hydraulic power steering, which feels more nervous than the hydraulic-only set-up on the 1.6. The diesel is economical, but feels sluggish.

On this saloon, the trims run from TS to TS2 and Sport. But, TS is so well kitted out – with four airbags, anti-lock brakes, full electrics and a CD player – that we’d scarcely 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 it 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.

If fuel economy is top of your list of priorities, you have to choose the diesel, which promises up to 56mpg overall. However, the 1.6 petrol can manage up to 39mpg, which is still pretty respectable, while the 2.0 returns 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 did suffer 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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