Mazda 3 Review & Prices
The Mazda 3 has a high-quality interior, a great infotainment system and is fun to drive, but if you value rear space and a practical boot most, there are better hatchbacks
Find out more about the Mazda 3
It certainly has the looks to do the job – from the front its sharp lines and dark grille mean business while at the back its spoiler and prominent LED lights are similarly aggressive. That said, it’s perhaps a shame that from the side it looks a little under-wheeled and dumpy towards the rear.
Still, climb inside and the Mazda 3’s interior helps you quickly forget about that. The cabin is loaded with soft-touch materials, chrome trims and solid switches, which together embarrass a Focus’ innards and easily rival a Golf for pure plushness, if not quite an Audi A3’s.
Not only that – an update in 2023 means you get a 10.25-inch colour screen (up from the old 8.8-inch model), which is controlled via a rotary controller and menu shortcut buttons between the front seats, or by your voice.
Also standard are built-in sat-nav, Bluetooth, DAB radio, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and an eight-speaker sound system. All-told, it’s a really easy system to navigate and using the rotary dial and shortcut buttons is a doddle while driving, but the graphics and lack of touchscreen make it feel dated compared with alternatives more high-tech systems.
No matter if you have manual or electric seat adjustment you’ll find it easy to get comfy, and the steering wheel adjustment is generous too. A couple of adults will have no issues stretching out in the front and there are useful cubbies in front of the gear lever and beneath the central armrest.
You need to stray far beyond the Centre-Line trim, which comes with all your basic needs and some cheeky wants as well
In the back, it’s a different story. Adults will struggle for leg room sat behind those in the front and while headroom isn’t great, adults will find it claustrophobic too. And the 3’s boot is quite small, with a high entrance lip and narrow opening making it less easy to live with.
Your engine choice is exclusively petrol, with a 2.0-litre 122hp SkyActiv-G petrol, or the complex, quirky, but kind of interesting SkyActiv-X 2.0-litre with 186hp and the promise of petrol-like refinement with diesel-like economy. To be honest, while the SkyActiv-X’s tech is interesting, you’re probably better off with the standard 122hp engine, which will pretty easily break the 40mpg barrier in day-to-day driving.
In town the Mazda 3’s precise steering, consistent pedal feel and snappy manual gearshift all help take the stress out of urban driving. However, it isn’t particularly comfy over bumps and while it’s easy to see out forwards, to the side and over the shoulder visibility is compromised by the 3’s slim window-line and small rear screen.
Push the Mazda 3 harder on a country road and while it doesn’t excite quite like a Ford Focus there’s no denying its nicely weighted steering, good grip and sturdy body control all make going around corners quickly good fun. And when you want to take things easy on the motorway, the 3 has one of the quietest cabins in terms of wind and road noise of any family hatch.
Which all adds up to one impressive package. A high-quality cabin, great infotainment system and engaging drive combine with a long standard equipment list and keen prices to make this the most rounded Mazda 3 ever. It’s just a shame that its rear space and boot aren’t better thought-out and, as such, if you regularly carry people in the back and lots of luggage there are better family hatchback options.
If this smart hatchback sounds like your cup of tea, check out the latest Mazda 3 deals on carwow, or browse our extensive stock of used Mazda 3 models. You can also take a look at other used Mazdas from our network of trusted dealers. And carwow can help you sell your car, too.
The Mazda 3 has a RRP range of £23,945 to £33,190. However, with carwow you can save on average £1,678. Prices start at £22,445 if paying cash. Monthly payments start at £256. The price of a used Mazda 3 on carwow starts at £13,500.
Our most popular versions of the Mazda 3 are:
|Model version||carwow price from|
|2.0 e-Skyactiv G MHEV Prime-Line 5dr||£22,445||Compare offers|
The Mazda 3 used to be a fairly pricey option among the family hatchback market, but these days the entry-level Mazda 3 is actually cheaper than any Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf. That said, once you get to the top-spec Mazda it's pricier than a fully loaded Focus, but you'll still pay more for the Golf at the top end.
Tempting you to the Ford might be the fact that all models get a larger 13.2-inch infotainment screen, which has a slick and modern design, though the Mazda generally feels a bit fancier inside. If you're cross-shopping with more premium brands, the Mazda is a bit less expensive than the Audi A3 and much less than the Mercedes A-Class.
Slick controls and more fun than the average hatchback, although the petrol engines aren’t the strongest-performing and it’s not the smoothest ride around town
The best thing about the Mazda 3’s driving experience is the way all of its controls feel. The gearshift especially feels really sporty, and is actually fun to use — manuals are still cool, kids! The brakes aren’t grabby, but they are strong and the weight of the steering and the effort needed to press down on the pedals are reassuringly consistent.
However, the 3’s suspension is quite firm, so it can jostle you a little over poorly surfaced streets and speed bumps. Certainly a Golf or a Focus are smoother around town. The 3’s turning circle is also quite big, so you might get caught out if you’re trying to go all the way around a mini-roundabout.
The worst thing is the rear visibility — the rear screen is tiny, and the way the window line of the five-door hatchback version sweeps sharply upwards means that your over-the-shoulder view is pretty blocked. It’s a bit easier on the saloon version, which has a flatter windowsill, but it’s still not great even then.
That also makes parking tricky, but on the upside the passenger side door mirror automatically dips in reverse so that you can keep an eye on your alloy wheels when reverse parking. You’ll definitely appreciate upgrading to the 360-degree camera system though.
On the motorway
The Mazda 3 is pretty refined, so it makes for a good long distance cruiser. That suspension, which is a little too firm around town, gets better as you go quicker so comfort on motorways isn’t an issue.
The seats are great, too — Mazda says that it’s worked hard figuring out the optimum hip position for comfort and support on long drives, and by jove it’s worked.
The only real issue is that both of the petrol engine choices are short on torque, so mid-range acceleration is pretty average and they get a bit noisy if you drop a couple of gears to bring the revs up.
The standard-fit radar-guided cruise control is handy for long journeys, but the lane-centring steering kind of ping-pongs annoyingly between white lines, so it’s best turned off to be honest.
On a twisty road
By family hatchback standards, the Mazda 3 feels really playful in the corners. That firm suspension comes into its own, keeping the body nice and steady when cornering and the slick steering is in its element here.
The 3 comes with Mazda’s ‘G-Vectoring Control’ system which makes minute adjustments to the engine’s power and to the brakes as you drive, theoretically maximising the car’s manoeuvrability without taking away any stability. It’s clever stuff.
The 3’s not quite as good, overall, as a Ford Focus but it’s surprisingly good fun for what’s supposed to be a sensible family car. It feels nimble and agile, not in a lairy, hot-hatchback sense, but just in a way that means it provides the driver with a bit more fun than the average.
Front seat space and comfort are great, but practicality is generally poor, with cramped rear seats and a small boot
The storage area under the front seat armrest has a useful divider which you can move around to create little segregated areas for storage, although annoyingly you have to slide the lid back slightly before opening it (mind your rear passenger’s knees if you’re sliding it back quickly…).
In front of the gear lever, there’s a small rubber-lined storage tray, and under a flip-up cover a pair of cupholders — which is great because putting a tall bottle in them means you won’t bump your gear-changing elbow on it.
The door bins in the front are a good size, with plenty of space for a one-litre bottle of water and more besides, but the glovebox is only OK. There’s also a neat little flip-down cubby to the right of the steering wheel, just next to your knee. Handy for keeping loose change or other small items in.
While the driving position is generally excellent, and there’s plenty of adjustment in the steering wheel, we would like it if you could get the driver’s seat just a bit lower.
Space in the back seats
Space in the back of the Mazda 3 isn't great — if you’ve got really long legs, you might even find it a touch cramped. Certainly, a Skoda Octavia offers considerably more rear room. There’s also a lack of space for your feet under the front seats, and that sloping rear roofline means that headroom is compromised (the four-door saloon does a little better in that regard). It’s also very dark back there, thanks to that tiny rear windscreen and the small side windows (which do at least drop all the way down).
Need to carry three people in the back? Good luck to you — there’s a chunky transmission hump that robs space for feet, and the middle rear seat is really uncomfortable. The 3’s swoopy shape also means that your outer rear seat passengers tend to lean inwards, lest they bump their heads on the chunky rear grab-handles. A Ford Focus does all of this so much better.
Child seats are also tricky — the rear doors are small, so wrestling a big seat in is hard work, and while there are ISOFIX points in the outer two rear seats (and the front passenger seat), you’ll probably end up having to push the front seats forward a bit to make space for a big rear-facing child seat in the back. Also, there’s no useable space in the middle seat if you need to carry two child car seats in the back.
There are some compensations — you do at least get a rear-seat armrest with cupholders, the door bins are a good size, and the rear cabin feels better-made than that of, say, a VW Golf. Actually, if you like the 3’s style and want more rear seat space, it’s worth considering the Mazda CX-30 crossover, which you can think of as a bigger, roomier 3 but of course, that is a more expensive model.
The Mazda 3’s boot is really quite small, topping out at 351 litres if you haven’t specced it with the high-end Bose stereo option (which robs four litres for the sub-woofer). That’s considerably smaller than the 380 litres you’d get in a Golf, not to mind the 600 litres of a Skoda Octavia.
There are prominent ridges at the side of the boot, which is where the rear luggage cover goes (and there’s nowhere in the car to store that cover when you’re not using it), which can make loading bigger items pretty awkward, and that’s not helped by quite a considerable load lip.
What’s worse is that there is no under-floor storage, no spare wheel, and not even a tie-down point nor a luggage hook — just a weird fabric strap whose only purpose seems to be to hold a big water bottle upright.
Fold down the back seats — reasonably easy to do just by leaning into the boot — and you open up 1,026 litres of space, although the seats don’t quite fold completely flat. Oh, and while we’re at it, it’s very easy to lock your keys in the car as there’s a button inside the boot lid to lock all of the doors as you close the boot — but there’s no sensor to disable the system if the keys are still in the front. Whoops.
Sadly, there’s no estate version of the Mazda 3 to offer a bit more practicality, but the four-door saloon does have a bigger boot (450 litres) while the CX-30 crossover can hold up to 430 litres of baggage.
Interior design and build quality are both excellent, but the infotainment system feels pretty dated at this point
We really like the style of the 3’s cabin, as it manages to look quite sporty and cool without being difficult to use (are you listening, Volkswagen?). The high centre console divides the front of the cabin up into two distinct areas, although the downside of that is that it can feel a bit dark inside. It helps that there are some nice little flashes of chrome scattered around the dashboard.
In terms of quality, everything is seriously well-built, and you get nice leatherette and soft-touch plastics on pretty much all the major surfaces. The whole cabin feels really robust, the part-digital instruments look classy, and the simple heating and air conditioning controls are much easier to use on the move than those of some rivals.
The infotainment system uses a 10.25-inch screen. It sits at the very top of the dash, which is a good position for your eye-line, but it’s not a touchscreen. Instead it’s controlled by a little click-wheel down on the centre console, and while that’s arguably less of a distraction when you’re driving, it can feel a bit less intuitive than some rival systems.
Equally, the graphics of the screen never look as slick as others, even if, thanks to the standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you’re actually unlikely to use the native Mazda setup all that much.
One optional extra that’s worth having if you like your music, even though it robs a little bit of precious boot space, is the Bose stereo which has excellent sound quality.
Now that Mazda has dropped the 3’s 1.8-litre diesel engine option, you’re left with two petrols, both 2.0-litre capacity. The basic SkyActiv-G 2.0-litre comes with 122hp, which is about the same as Ford offers from its basic 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost engine, but the Mazda’s four-cylinder engine sounds a bit more refined. That said, it has much less low-down grunt, so you tend to have to rev it more to access the power which can hurt your fuel economy. Even so, you should get 40mpg or better from a basic 122hp engine, and its 124g/km CO2 figure is competitive, giving you a £190 road tax bill in year one.
The SkyActiv-X engine is a little more complicated. It uses a thing called Spark Controlled Compression Ignition. Don’t worry, we won’t bore you with science — it basically means that, under the right circumstances, this engine can burn petrol in the style of a diesel engine. What that means is that you get more power than the basic engine (186hp) but with slightly lower emissions (118g/km, competitive with rival diesel models, although there’s no road tax benefit) and better fuel consumption. In fact, you should be able to average close to 50mpg in a SkyActiv-X Mazda 3. The downsides? It suffers from the same lack of torque as the basic engine, so you have to use your gears and rev it more, and at times there’s an odd diesel-y noise from it.
Both engines get Mazda’s M-Hybrid mild-hybrid assistance, which means that they can use their stop-start systems more efficiently around town, and which can be used to run the car’s electrical systems, taking strain off the engine (and improving fuel economy) on longer runs. There’s no Toyota-style electric-only running, though.
With a 98 per cent rating for adult occupant protection from the crash-test experts at Euro NCAP, the Mazda 3 must surely be one of the safest family cars you can buy. It’s a slightly better score than the Ford Focus (96 per cent) or the VW Golf (95 per cent) managed, although the Golf did better, at 89 per cent, for child occupant protection than the Mazda (87 per cent, same as the Focus).
As standard, the Mazda 3 comes with autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping steering (an irritating system, as mentioned), blind-spot warning, radar that detects if you’re about to turn across a junction into the path of another car, and a clever driver attention monitor, that uses an infra-red camera to spot if your eyes are closed.
Mazda has a reputation for building pretty bulletproof cars, and although the 3’s SkyActiv-X engine tech is rather unproven, we’d not expect to see any horrendous problems. The current 3 has been the subject of a recall for a software change to the engine, for emissions performance, but that’s about the only quality black mark against it for now. Mazda offers a standard three-year, 60,000-mile warranty for the 3, which can be extended at an extra cost. There’s also a three-year paint and surface corrosion warranty, and a 12-year anti-perforation warranty.
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*Please contact the dealer for a personalised quote, including terms and conditions. Quote is subject to dealer requirements, including status and availability. Illustrations are based on personal contract hire, 9 month upfront fee, 48 month term and 8000 miles annually, VAT included.