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Mazda 3 (2014-2019) Review

heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

Mazda 3
Mazda 3
Mazda 3
Mazda 3
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Mazda 3
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heycar rating
"Fun and dependable family hatchback"
  • Launched: 2014
  • Family hatch
  • Petrol, Diesel

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Quick overview

Pros

  • Engaging to drive
  • Very reliable
  • Still looks good outside and in

Cons

  • Rear headroom could be better
  • Not everyone likes the revvy petrol engines
  • A little costlier to insure than rivals

Read by

Mazda 3 static

Overall verdict

Mazda 3 interior

On the inside

Mazda 3 driving

Driving

Mazda 3 side profile

Cost to run

Mazda 3 rear driving

Prices and Specs

Overall verdict

"The Mazda 3 is a very good car indeed. It’s fun to drive yet affordable to run, and stylish to look at but reasonably practical. With reliability on its side, it looks a safe place to put your money – and one that’s pleasingly different to the norm."

Mazda 3 static

The Mazda 3 has long been a slightly standout alternative in the family hatchback class. It is a good-looking car, with a distinctive interior, plus sporty handling that makes it fun to drive. It may not be the most obvious choice, but those who do sign on the dotted line invariably rate it highly (and perhaps even buy another one).



This generation of 3 was launched in 2014 and, despite being replaced in 2019, still looks contemporary. Mazda’s model cycles are a bit shorter than most brands, which means the cadence of new arrivals can be surprisingly rapid. You don’t have time to be bored by the shape of a car before it is replaced.


By 2014, Mazda was advancing well with its strategy of being more of a premium brand than the mainstream norm. The firm didn’t want to chase massive sales, but instead sell fewer models for a higher price. This generation Mazda 3 demonstrates the engineering integrity to justify this.


It’s an upmarket-looking car, with well-judged lines, and we like how the smart, sporty front complements the muscular rear end. The firm has taken the design of this car and refined it further for the latest Mazda 3, but the 2014 model still looks smart – particularly when finished in Mazda’s gorgeous Soul Red colour.


Inside, the references to the world-famous MX-5 sports car are obvious. The steering wheel could be taken straight from the rear-drive roadster, as could the gear lever, while the instruments actually are (we think)  MX-5-spec.


It feels good to sit in for the driver, with a nicely cocooned feel and well-placed controls. There are some nice colourways, including a stone leather option that contrasts nicely with the black dashboard and silver trim (although many came with all-black interiors, making it a lot gloomier in there).


It feels particularly dark and claustrophobic in the back, due to the small windows – made murkier still on models with darkened rear glass. This is largely an impression, though, as space in the rear isn’t bad. It’s the boot that’s on the small side, something that’s long been a foible of the Mazda 3. Blame the sophisticated multi-link rear suspension, although you’ll soon forgive it once you get behind the wheel.


If you’re a keen driver, you’ll love the sporty feel of the Mazda 3. It’s not the most compliant of cars (you’ll want a Volkswagen Golf if you’re chasing absolute comfort), but it certainly shows the spirit of the MX-5 sports car – the family lineage is clear. The need to drive the petrol engines in a lively, revvy way in order to release their power does, in fairness, become a bit tiring, no matter how excellent the engines are. This is one reason many buyers chose a diesel model instead.


Another advantage of buying a Mazda is the firm’s brilliant build quality and integrity. These are meticulously-assembled cars that are almost guaranteed to run like clockwork for many years to come. Prices reflect this, with the range starting from £7,000 even for early models, but it’s easy to see why once you check them out. Let us be your guide to the range.


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

Is the Mazda 3 right for you?

If you like driving something that feels a bit more interesting than the family hatchback norm, the Mazda 3 may well be for you. It’s a car with a bit of spirit, a sense that some of the vibes found in the Mazda MX-5 have infiltrated the design. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.


It also has a sensible side, with fuel-efficient diesel engines joining the petrol motors, plus a well-equipped range of models to choose from. Mazda reliability is second to none, and those prime second-hand prices show it’s a safe place to put your money – helped by the company’s ever-growing semi-premium reputation.

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

Part of us wants to recommend a 2.0-litre petrol-engined Mazda 3. It’s the same engine family as used in the MX-5, and it has a similarly ultra-enthusiastic nature. It will rev at the redline all day long and make a cracking growl with it. The trouble is, if you don’t drive it like this, the engine feels flat, in contrast to the turbo petrols that now dominate this sector.


So perhaps you should consider the diesel. The 1.5-litre is a bit light on power, but the 2.2 is very impressive. It’s the same engine used in the CX-5 SUV, so has no trouble coping with the lighter Mazda 3. It’s actually the fastest of all models against the clock, you know…


Mazda doesn’t draw too many visual differences between trims, so it’s less imperative that you pick a particular one (the size of the alloy wheels is the biggest giveaway). However, for the aforementioned reasons, our favourite is Sport grade.

What other cars are similar to the Mazda 3?

The family hatchback sector is broad and expansive. Volume brands that want to be taken seriously have to offer a car in this class: one that’s defined by the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra, but which contains a diverse mix of cars including the Peugeot 308, Toyota Auris, Nissan Pulsar, Renault Megane, SEAT Leon, Kia Ceed and Hyundai i30.


The upmarket approach of the Mazda 3 means you might also draw parallels with premium hatchbacks such as the BMW 1 Series, Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class. The 3 is just as good to drive, but costs thousands less than these posh alternatives.

Learn more

Mazda 3 interior

On the inside

Mazda 3 driving

Driving

Mazda 3 side profile

Cost to run

Mazda 3 rear driving

Prices and Specs

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