Mazda 3 review
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.
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While the Mazda 3 has always been a competent family hatchback, it has struggled to stand against the likes of the ubiquitous but nevertheless impressive Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf.
However, this all-new 3 has a sharp new look and Mazda’s latest engines and technology, which is designed to tempt you away from premium hatchbacks like the BMW 1 Series, Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class.
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 at 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 – you also get a fantastic infotainment system. Every Mazda 3 comes with an 8-inch colour screen which is controlled via a rotary controller and menu shortcut buttons between the front seats or your voice. Also standard are built-in sat-nav, Bluetooth, DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and an 8-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.
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 needn’t stray beyond SE-L Lux trim when buying a Mazda 3. It gets all your needs plus a few cheeky wants, all for a very sensible price. Lovely.
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 although the 3’s boot is slightly larger than Focus’s on paper, in reality, is large entrance lip and narrow opening make it less easy to live with.
For now, there are two engine choices – a 122hp 2.0-litre petrol or 116hp 1.8-litre diesel. If you do lots of miles, the diesel’s better fuel economy at a steady cruise will be useful, but the cheaper petrol’s clever mild hybrid and cylinder deactivation technology mean 40mpg is easily achievable and hence make it the better choice for most people.
In town the Mazda 3’s precise steering, consistent pedals 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 windowline 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 not, have a look at our deals for the best Mazda 3 prices.
The Mazda 3 is great in the front, but adults will struggle for space in the back and there are far more practical boots for families.
If you’re constantly transporting people in the back as well as lots of luggage then there are better options than the 3.
No matter if you have the manual seat adjustment of lower trims or electric on the higher ones, you’ll find it easy to get comfy, plus 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.
In the back, it’s a different story. Adults will struggle for legroom, headroom isn’t great and the 3’s small rear windows make it feel claustrophobic too.
As such, there’s also a poor amount of space for three adults. The middle seat is firm and cramped for foot space, there isn’t much legroom for anybody and the car’s narrow body means the outer passengers are pushed uncomfortably against the sides.
And fitting a child seat in the back of the Mazda 3 is a bit of a pain, because the rear doors aren’t particularly big and its low roofline means you have to crouch down. However, once you’ve got it in there, the Isofix mounts are large and easily accessible, although you might lose the pop-off covers and the driver will need to move their seat forward to accommodate a seat behind. There’s also very little room for somebody to sit between two child seats in the middle.
The Mazda 3’s front door bins are a decent size, so will take a large bottle plus smaller ones behind. You also benefit from a cubby beneath climate controls, plus two cup holders behind that with a spring-loaded cover. Between the front seats is a large cubby beneath the sliding central armrest.
In the back, the 3’s rear door bins are smaller than the front ones, but will still take a medium sized bottle without fuss. The middle seatback also flips down to form a central armrest which is a good size and has two cup holders set into it.
The Mazda 3 comes with a 351-litre boot. Although that’s slightly larger than Focus’s on paper and only just shy of a Golf’s, in reality, its large entrance lip and narrow opening make it less easy to live with.
With the Mazda 3’s rear seats folded there’s space for two large boxes and a further 15 small ones. You can also fit a bike inside without having to take a wheel off, but getting all this inside the boot’s narrow opening is more difficult to do than it is in a Focus or Golf.
With the rear seats in place, there’s space for two large and two small suitcases under the load cover. A baby buggy will fit, too, and so will a set of golf clubs. In fact, you’ll just fit the buggy, clubs and further soft bag in at the same time.
The Mazda 3 has smooth engines, quiet engines and is fun to drive, but it feels firm around town if you go for one of the sportier looking models with bigger wheels.
Truth be told, the 3’s engines aren’t the strongest, but they’re beautifully quiet and smooth and will return decent fuel economy figures if driven sensibly.
For now, there are two engine choices – a 122hp 2.0-litre petrol or 116hp 1.8-litre diesel. Both are amongst the quietest and smoothest engines of their kind, but neither is particularly swift so need to be worked hard when overtaking or joining a motorway.
If you do lots of miles, the diesel’s better fuel economy at a steady cruise will be useful, but the cheaper petrol’s clever mild hybrid and cylinder deactivation technology mean 40mpg is easily achievable, and hence, make it the better choice for most people.
Mazda’s 2.0-litre petrol engine is extremely smooth – you can barely tell it’s on and it’s very quiet when revved hard, which is lucky because it needs to be revved to get it to go anywhere in a hurry. The diesel is slightly more urgent from low revs, but not dramatically so.
In town, the Mazda 3’s precise steering, consistent pedals 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 of the 3 forwards, to the side and over the shoulder visibility is compromised by the 3’s slim window line and small rear screen.
Still, rear parking sensors are standard on every car and you only need to jump one run to SE-L Lux to get front sensors and reversing camera too.
If you’re travelling further afar, the 3’s seats are brilliantly supportive on a long journey and the fact that the 3 is nicely planted at speed helps relax you further. It’s also a really quiet car at motorway speeds, with little road or wind noise to spoil things and you’ll never tell when the petrol drops to two cylinders to save fuel – aside from a diagram on the dash.
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.
The Mazda 3’s interior looks and feels brilliant, but it could be accused of being a little dark in there. Still, the standard infotainment system is bright and responsive.
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