Mazda 3 Review 2024

Mazda 3 At A Glance

Honest John Overall Rating
The Mazda 3 proves you don't have to go straight to the German brands for a desirable family hatchback. Its svelte design still stands out today, while you also get an enjoyable driving experience, a high quality cabin and easy-to-use tech. It's not the most practical offering out there, but it's still one of our favourite mainstream models.

+Looks great in hatchback and saloon form. Premium interior with excellent standard specification. Fun to drive with excellent manual and automatic gearboxes.

-Rear seats a bit claustrophobic. Poor rear visibility. Entry-level 2.0-litre petrol feels slow compared to turbocharged rivals. Diesel axed in 2019.

New prices start from £20,595, brokers can source from £19,747
On average it achieves 0% of the official MPG figure

The Mazda 3 has always been an underrated alternative to the likes of the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus. That's especially true of the 2019 model with its eye-catching looks, premium interior and generous amount of standard equipment. Our Mazda 3 review will find out if it's the full package. 

Is there a better looking hatchback (or affordable saloon) out there than the latest Mazda 3? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but we're utterly convinced it's easily as desirable as premium brand rivals such as the BMW 1 Series, Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class

The 3's interior is just as easy on the eye as its exterior, with lots of well-finished materials and a simplistic layout. Refreshingly, the (relatively small and thin) infotainment screen sits on top of the dash and is controlled via a rotary controller positioned between the front seats. There's no touchscreen as Mazda says it's too distracting - something many of our readers agree with.

With seats positioned low down, there's loads of room for even the tallest of adults in the front of the Mazda 3. There's a reasonable amount of room in the back, too, but the 3's sloping roofline hinders headroom, while the small rear windows also make things feel slightly claustrophobic. The rear bench is wide enough for three adults, though, while the Mazda 3 Saloon offers slightly more head and shoulder space back there.

Continuing the driver-focussed theme, the Mazda 3 is as good to drive as the Ford Focus - and that's saying something. Its communicative steering provides lots of confidence, whether you're tackling city traffic or negotiating winding roads - while the snickety MX-5-like manual gearchange is a delight to use.

Buyers looking for the smoothest possible ride are better opting for the 16-inch alloy wheels which are fitted as standard to the SE and SE-L models, as the 3's slightly unsettled ride around town is emphasised by the 18-inch wheels fitted in Sport guise. The bigger wheels don't make things too uncomfortable, though, and they certainly help the car's design. 

The Mazda 3 was initially offered with a 2.0-litre petrol engine that produces a lowly 122PS, or a 1.8-litre turbodiesel with 116PS. The diesel was dropped just a few months after the car was launched, replaced by a clever 180PS (upgraded in late 2021 to 186PS in the e-Skyactiv X) mild-hybrid Skyactiv-X petrol engine which is said to provide diesel-like economy. None of them are actually all that fast, so if you want a hot hatchback look elsewhere, but they're perky enough for most people's needs. 

To overlook the latest Mazda 3 in your search for a sensible smaller family car would be a huge oversight. Its interior is up there with the best - with lots of soft-touch materials and buttons in favour of a huge touchscreen display. It's also fairly practical and represents very good value for money.

Looking for an older model? You'll need our Mazda 3 (2014-2019) review

Ask Honest John

What is the best used front wheel drive automatic?

"I'm looking to buy a used front-wheel drive petrol automatic for between £15k and £20k. Please advise which small/medium sized cars I should be considering. I have always driven manuals and so know little about which automatics are the most reliable."
A Honda Civic could be a good choice. Your budget will get you a 2017-2021 model with a reliable CVT automatic gearbox. We'd also recommend a Mazda 3 - it's a very underrated hatch available with a reliable torque-converter automatic gearbox.
Answered by Andrew Brady

What should we replace our Volkswagen Golf with?

"What is the most efficient, comfortable and fairly stylish car you would recommend to replace our ageing but otherwise excellent 2015 Golf 2.0 TDI BlueMotion. We like the size, the fuel economy, it’s not too sluggish, but cannot find anything that matches this good all-rounder. Looking at up to £25,000 including the trade in of our Golf. "
How about a Toyota Corolla? It looks fairly stylish in GR Sport trim and it'll be very cheap to run, thanks to Toyota's exceptional reliability record and efficient hybrid powertrains. A Mazda 3 is another stylish hatch although it's only available with mild-hybrid power so won't be as frugal as the Corolla. Otherwise, you could consider family SUVs like the Volkswagen Tiguan.
Answered by Andrew Brady

I need to swap my Mazda 2 for something with a bigger boot, what would you suggest?

"I recently purchased a Mazda 2 auto hybrid. The car is okay but the boot is too small for my needs. Can you recommend a similar spec but with bigger luggage area for about £20,000? Would probably have to be a recent used example."
Assuming you are happy with your Mazda 2 other than the size of its boot, we would suggest moving up a size to the Mazda 3. It is even better to drive than the Mazda 2 and offers more passenger and boot space. There are plenty of examples that are three years old or younger within your budget too.
Answered by David Ross

Should I buy a car with keyless entry?

"I'm interested in buying an automatic Honda Civic and my budget is circa £23,000. However, I'm not keen on keyless cars and cars with 1.0-litre engines as I believe they are too easy to steal and these small engines won't prove to be long lasting. Am I being a bit of a dinosaur? What other cars should I I consider that a similar to Honda Civics? "
In their early days, small-capacity turbocharged petrol engines certainly didn't seem to have the same lifespan of bigger engines. We're hearing of fewer issues reported now, though, as a lot of the original gremlins have been ironed out. Ford's popular 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine was one of the most troublesome - we're not aware of many issues with Honda's 1.0-litre engine (and, being a Honda, we'd expect it to be pretty reliable). You're right to be concerned about keyless car theft, but there are steps you can take to prevent it. You could move your keys away from doors and windows or consider investing in a signal-blocking pouch or box to prevent thieves being able to find a signal. Ultimately, though, if someone wants to steal your car (keyless or otherwise) they'll find a way - I'd much rather someone did it via keyless theft than ransacked my home looking for the keys! As an alternative to the Civic, we'd recommend the excellent hybrid Toyota Corolla. It'll be very cheap to run and ought to be very reliable. You could also take a look at the stylish Mazda 3.
Answered by Andrew Brady
More Questions

What does a Mazda 3 cost?

Buy new from £19,747(list price from £23,945)