Review: Mazda 3 (2009 – 2013)

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Rating:

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.

Mazda 3 2009 Road Test and Video

Mazda 3 MPS 2010 Road Test and Video

Mazda 3 2012 Facelift Road Test

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What does a Mazda 3 (2009 – 2013) cost?

List Price from £21,800
Buy new from £18,686
Contract hire from £194.40 per month

Mazda 3 (2009 – 2013): What's It Like Inside?

Dimensions
Length 4435–4510 mm
Width 1755–1770 mm
Height 1460–1470 mm
Wheelbase 2640 mm

Full specifications

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.

Which car seat will suit you?

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.

2012 Facelift

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.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
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.

Average performance

82%

Real MPG

22–61 mpg

MPGs submitted

515

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.

What have we been asked about the Mazda 3 (2009 – 2013)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

Engine seizure on a car I bought four months ago - can I get a refund?

I bought a Mazda3 2.2 diesel 2010-plate through a finance company from a forecourt in September with a three-month limited parts and labour warranty. Last week the engine seized and the car will no longer run. I know the car is out of warranty now but do I have a leg to stand on repair or replacement with the dealer?
Depends what you did. If you failed to service it properly, let it run low on oil, or something like that then it will be down to you. But otherwise, if a car fails with a fault that could have been present or developing on date of sale then the supplier is liable for up to 6 months from the date of sale, so there's a chance. See: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/faq/consumer-rights/ If the dealer cuts up rough, try using Section 75 of the 1974 Consumer Credit Act.
Answered by Honest John
More Questions

What Cars Are Similar To The Mazda 3 (2009 – 2013)?

Key attributes of the this model are: Economical and Small family.

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What do owners think?

Our view gives your our opinion, based on driving hundreds of cars every year, but you can't beat the views of someone who lives with a car day-in, day out.

  • 5 star 17%
  • 4 star 33%
  • 3 star 50%
  • 2 star
  • 1 star

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