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Mazda 3 Review

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heycar review

      Launch year
      2019
      Body type
      Family hatch
      Fuel type
      Petrol, Diesel
Andy Brady

Written by

Andy Brady

00/10
heycar rating
“Super stylish Volkswagen Golf alternative”

Best bits

  • Stylish hatchback which is guaranteed to turn heads
  • Drives just as well as it looks
  • Classy cabin which is loaded with kit

Not so great

  • Not the most spacious choice
  • Petrol engines lack grunt compared to turbocharged rivals
  • The diesel was great but sold in limited numbers before it was axed

Read by

Mazda 3 (2019) frontleft exterior

Overall verdict

Mazda 3 (2019) front interior

On the inside

Mazda 3 (2019) front

Driving

Mazda 3 (2019) backright exterior

How much does it cost to run

Mazda 3 (2019) left exterior

Prices, versions and specification

Overall verdict

"It’s a shame that car buyers are so quick to part with their cash for a Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus when the Mazda 3 is, frankly, such a brilliant alternative. It’s great to drive, cheap to run and has an interior that could genuinely tempt you out of an Audi A3 or Mercedes-Benz A-Class - provided you’re not fussed about a premium badge on your bonnet."

Mazda 3 (2019) frontleft exterior

Sure, the Mazda brand might not have the cachet of a German manufacturer, but it does make a statement that you’re prepared to think outside of the box. It also makes the Mazda MX-5 sports car and that’s cool, right?


And boy does the Mazda 3 look the part. While most manufacturers like to play it safe with the design of their family cars, Mazda really has given it all. The result is a car that genuinely looks stylish enough to make you think twice about a trendy crossover. We think so, anyway.


The interior doesn’t disappoint, either. Even the most affordable models feel stylish and upmarket, with lots of nice-to-touch materials and classy features. You’ll want a GT Sport model if you’d like leather seats, but all Mazda 3s come with an 8.8-inch navigation system on the dash. Unusually, this is operated via a rotary dial rather than a touchscreen display. This might sound a little old school, but it actually works very well - particularly on the move.


Talking of ‘old school’, most models come with a CD player. We can’t say that about many modern cars. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, too, as is Bluetooth - so you really won’t be short of ways to listen to your favourite playlists. It stops short of having a tape player, though.


The engine line-up is rather limited. Basically, you can choose from two 2.0-litre petrols. And, erm, that’s about it.


Mazda did briefly offer a diesel but it argues the fancy Skyactiv-X petrol, which uses diesel-like technology, is so efficient that a diesel isn’t necessary. It’s certainly an impressive engine: efficient and refined, with enough power for getting a wiggle on when you feel the need. The entry-level Skyactiv-G is even more refined but lacks punch compared to turbocharged alternatives like Ford’s EcoBoost.


Engines aside, the Mazda 3 is great to drive, with direct steering and a compliant ride (albeit not quite as comfortable as the Volkswagen Golf). Rear visibility is its main downfall, but all models come with rear parking sensors as a minimum (you’ll get a camera, too, on high-spec models).


Indeed, the Mazda 3 does represent style over substance in a few key areas. As well as poor rear visibility, it does feel quite claustrophobic for rear-seat passengers. Adults sitting in the rear will be nagging front-seat passengers to shuffle their seats forward, while the boot’s nothing to shout about either (does anyone shout about a boot?).


If you don’t need to carry anyone in the back and aren’t fussed about a big boot, the Mazda 3’s a great choice. The interior feels classy, it’s great to drive and, on the used market, it represents decent value for money thanks to a generous amount of standard equipment.


The Mazda 3 is an easy car to recommend. Buying used counters its high new price tag, and it’s well-equipped across the range so you don’t need to go hunting for one with specific options. It looks great, has a superb interior and is excellent to drive.


If you're looking for the older version, you need our Mazda 3 (2014-2019) review.


Is the Mazda 3 right for you?

So, we’ve established the Mazda 3 probably isn’t a wise choice if you’re looking for a practical hatchback to carry all of the family (and the associated paraphernalia), but a used Mazda 3 is still an excellent choice for many buyers.


Like many Japanese manufacturers, Mazda has a reputation for reliability and owners are generally very happy with their cars. It’s had a blip in recent years with its diesel engines, but the majority of Mazda 3s are powered by unstrained petrol engines which ought to be very reliable (and efficient).


While the Mazda badge won’t appeal to the image-conscious, the Mazda 3 is still a very stylish choice with a superb cabin. It’s up there with the ubiquitous Volkswagen Golf in many ways and, while new prices are strong, it represents very good value for money second-hand.


What’s the best Mazda 3 model/engine to choose

Most buyers will want the extra power of the Skyactiv-X petrol engine, particularly as Mazda claims it can return diesel-like economy (and the diesel was axed within a year). The cheaper Skyactiv-G is fine if you’re on a budget and don’t need the extra power, but it does feel lacking compared to turbocharged contemporaries.


All models are well-equipped - the entry-level SE-L really doesn’t feel like a basic car. You won’t find any blanking plates and steel wheels here. The SE-L Lux adds some desirable features like a reversing camera and heated seats but won’t cost the earth on the used market. Trim levels with the word ‘sport’ in their name are - surprisingly - sportier, but the flashier 18-inch alloy wheels come at the expense of ride quality.

What other cars are similar to the Mazda 3?

The Volkswagen Golf is seen as the car to beat in this category - and the Mazda 3 is just as is good, if not better, in many areas. You should also consider a Ford Focus, which is great to drive and offers good value for money, while the Skoda Scala is a budget-friendly alternative. 


Consider the underrated Peugeot 308, too, and affordable contenders like the Kia Ceed and Vauxhall Astra. At a push, you could even consider the Mazda 3 as an alternative to premium hatchbacks like the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series.

Learn more

Mazda 3 (2019) front interior

On the inside

Mazda 3 (2019) front

Driving

Mazda 3 (2019) backright exterior

How much does it cost to run

Mazda 3 (2019) left exterior

Prices, versions and specification