Review: Mazda 3 (2009 – 2013)
Stylish looks. Excellent steering and handling. Good quality interior. Impressive 2.2-litre chain cam diesel engine. Facelifted for 2012 and even better.
Slightly less spacious inside than old Mazda 3. 1.6 petrol gives ordinary performance. Lot of injector problems occurring with Ford 1.6 turbodiesel. ATE/Teves Mk 60 ABS/ESP module problems.
Mazda 3 (2009 – 2013): At A Glance
Development of the Mazda 3 and the Ford Focus always went hand in glove. They share engines, suspension and steering, though not mutually inclusively. Sometimes Ford has been ahead with one component. Sometimes Mazda. What can't be denied is that both cars have been steadily improved. And now, for the new Mazda 3, it's Mazda's turn to be first with the upgraded suspension.
Upfront, the mounting span is increased by 20mm, a stronger crossmember tower has been introduced, the cross arm made thicker and the crossmember bushing optimised for better lateral rigidity. Round the back the multilink ‘control blade' suspension has acquired a stronger centre member.
The result is a car that not only rides better, but also steers and handles better than it did before. Better, even, than my Focus III ECOnetic, which I reckon previously set the standard. And vastly better than the Golf Mk IV, particularly in the steering department.
Mazda talked a lot about styling, and while you may have your own opinion about the smiley new front, I think most eyes will be pleased with the profile of the hatch, the rear end of which remains unmistakably Mazda 3. The slightly more rigid, more aerodynamic saloon isn't quite as rumptious, but it's fine in profile.
What does a Mazda 3 (2009 – 2013) cost?
Mazda 3 (2009 – 2013): What's It Like Inside?
Inside, the cars get a nice new upmarket dash with the option of low priced SD card line-of-sight satnav that means the driver never has to refocus to use it. All controls are clear and intuitive to use. Seats are comfortable and multi-adjustable, retaining, in the lower priced models, Mazda's knurled knob for the driver's backrest and quick release lever for the passenger. The steering wheel adjusts in and out as well as up and down over a wide range.
Rear seat backrests of both hatchbacks and saloons fold 60/40 to increase luggage capacity. But while I was adding interior dimensions to this test, using my 2006 of the old Mazda 3 as pro forma, I noticed that head and legroom inside the new car is slightly less.
Child seats that fit a Mazda 3 (2009 – 2013)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Mazda 3 (2009 – 2013) like to drive?
Out on the road, the base model 105PS petrol with 5-speed manual is a delight to drive. It's comfortable, rides well, grips firmly, feeds back what's going on to the driver and generally puts a smile on your face within the limitations of a 105PS petrol engine. The 109PS diesel, now usefully 119g/km, has a lot more torque, so is both gutsier and more economical. It's the same belt cam Ford/PSA engine as my Focus that is now getting under the bonnets of all sorts of cars, including even the big Volvo S80.
The sportiest car on our launch was the 185PS 2.2 diesel, the same new diesel engine as in the Mazda 6, but now with a different diesel particulate filter. It's worth pointing out that all Mazda engines in the Mazda 3 are chain cam. Only the Ford/PSA 1.6 diesel is belt.
My fellow driver reckoned the Mazda 3 2.2 185 diesel wasn't as lively as his 163PS BMW 120d. But the reason for that may have been that the Mazda only had 600 kilometres on it, so was still running tight. Once it loosened up, it should easily be capable of the published 7.9 seconds to 60, 135mph, yet still 149g/km CO2 and possibly around 50mpg.
Mazda sold half a million of the old Mazda 3 in Europe, 63,000 in the UK alone, so it's a volume seller that doesn't sell so much as to become commonplace.
It's a much more stylish alternative to a Focus, with all the virtues of a Focus, and, providing Sterling and the Euro do not fall any further against the Yen, it's better value than a Golf or an Audi 3 and, to my mind at least, carries more status than a Leon.
It tells people you care about the way your car looks, you haven't been caught up in the Golf/A3 status syndrome, and that you appreciate a car that drives properly.
You won't be disappointed.
Initial impressions are that the 1.6 Activmatic is a bit frenetic, revving as much as 5,000rpm through the gears without obviously employing kickdown. But actually it drove almost identically to the old shape Mazda 3 1.6 automatic I ran for more than 1,000 miles in Thailand in April. Once you get used to it, it’s very sweet, especially in traffic. And as soon as it settles into top and about 25mph per 1,000rpm it’s relaxed.
The 1.6 115 diesel (the only Mazda 3 with a belt cam engine), shares its engine and 6-speed transmission with the Mazda 5 1.6 diesel, with slightly higher gear ratios that give 32.5mph/1,000rpm in 6th. This helps it to qualify for Tax Band C of £30 a year. Ride quality, steering feel and handling are almost as good as my Mazda 5. Mazda reckons the new 1.6 diesel will save £26.88 in fuel costs over 12,000 miles at £1.40 a litre.
The 2.2 litre 150PS chain cam diesel is geared even higher: 37.5mph per 1,000rpm in 6th, and we managed a very creditable 5.8litres per 100 kilometres on the test route (48.7mpg). But the gearchange isn’t as sweet as the 1.6's and the power characteristics and gearing don’t let you ‘block change’ to the extent you can in the 1.6. That longer gearing saves £53.76 in fuel costs over 12,000 miles.
|1.6||44–45 mpg||12.2 s||144–147 g/km|
|1.6 Automatic||37–38 mpg||13.1 s||171–176 g/km|
|1.6 D||66 mpg||11.0 s||115 g/km|
|2.0||42 mpg||10.4 s||157 g/km|
|2.0 Automatic||37 mpg||10.6 s||175 g/km|
|2.2 D||54 mpg||9.2 s||139 g/km|
|2.2 D 185||52 mpg||8.2 s||142 g/km|
|2.3||29–30 mpg||6.1 s||219–231 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Mazda 3 (2009 – 2013)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
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