July part 2
* Mazda 3 tested * Year-long review * Tested by Barnaby Jones...
Not without its problems
As accomplished as the Mazda was, though, it wasnt without its problems. The biggest was the excessive amount of road noise, especially on rough surfaces. The engine was a little noisy, too, and short of punch at very low revs, which sometimes made joining busy roads a chore.
Warranty and repair work
More of a challenge at times was keeping the Mazda out of the repair shop. First it was rammed from behind by a minibus the rear bumper and tailgate were severely dented, but at least I could vouch for the anti-whiplash head restraints. Then, two weeks later,a suicidal badger decided to end it all on the 3s front bumper. Both repairs were carried out under insurance by H&L Motors in Twickenham (020 8977 5865), who kept me well informed of progress and returned the 3 spotless.
Soon after, it was time for the first service, at 12,500 miles. MKG 3000 Mazda in Twickenham was closest to my work and, at 180, was within 9 of the lowest quote I received. It wasnt just a service that the Mazda needed, though. The electric door mirrors had stopped adjusting a few days before, the engine made an odd squealing noise at about 1000rpm, the rear numberplate had fallen off, the drivers seat was squeaking, there was an annoying rattle from the tailgate and one of the parcel shelf clips had broken.
All credit to MKG, they did everything I asked them to do (and they didnt charge me for two new numberplates that could be screwed to the bumpers). They phoned when they said they would and returned the car perfectly clean inside and out. The bill was 251.14, which was pretty good considering the road tests required to spot the various noises, and the swapping of the tyres from front to rear.
Replacing the engines drive belt tensioner bolts and the water pump appeared to cure the engine squeal, but it returned a few days later. Another inspection by MKG revealed two mounting bolts from the exhaust were missing thankfully, after they were fitted, the noise disappeared.
I never heard from other Mazda 3 owners about unreliability issues, so maybe mine was a one-off.
Otherwise it was all good news. The engine didnt use any oil between services and was capable of impressive economy. My overall average of 47mpg was well below the claimed figure of 62.8, butthe car spent a lot of time on my traffic-choked commute and I rarely drove it with maximum economy in mind. With a gentle right foot, though, 55mpg was easily achievable.
So, after a year with the Mazda 3, would I recommend it? Certainly. Its enjoyable to drive, comfortable, decently spacious, incredibly well equipped for the money and keeps your running costs impressively low. You just need to be aware its not the most refined car in its class. I was genuinely sad to see the 3 go it suited me perfectly.