Mazda 3 (2019 on)

1
reviewed by Anonymous on 23 October 2021
4
reviewed by Anonymous on 30 August 2021
5
reviewed by Anonymous on 22 August 2021
5
reviewed by Anonymous on 3 May 2021
5
reviewed by fodalfa on 8 June 2020
4

Skyactiv 2.0G SE-L Lux Manual Hatchback

reviewed by misar on 21 December 2019
4
Overall rating
4
How it drives
5
Fuel economy
3
Tax/Insurance/Warranty costs
3
Cost of maintenance and repairs
5
Experience at the dealership
3
How practical it is
4
How you rate the manufacturer
5
Overall reliability

Good improvements for 4th generation, could still do better

I bought this 4th generation car to replace a Gen 2 Mazda 3 Sport which I drove for 10 years so much of the review involves comparing the two. Overall the new car is better than the old one in several important respects but I preferred some aspects of the Gen 2 which Mazda have lost. On balance I have rated this one as 4* against 3* last time (https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/owner-reviews/mazda/3-2009/?review=130#selected).

Before buying the car my main concern was that the Skyactive 2.0 G M Hybrid at 122ps would have noticeably worse performance than the previous 2.0 MZR i-Stop at 150ps. I seriously debated whether I should follow the advice of numerous UK testers and go for the much more powerful Skyactive 2.0 X M Hybrid at 180ps. The 2.0 G seemed fine on a test drive so I bought that. My driving style rarely pushes the 0-60 acceleration hard let alone in gear acceleration at speeds above 70 mph. Acceleration with 122ps feels much the same as 150ps did for the past 10 years. On the other hand there are two important performance improvements.

The newer engine is far more flexible and pulls far better at low revs in any gear. Going about town I consistently use at least one gear higher and sometimes two than I did before. Even then the gear shift indicator regularly suggests I am in too low a gear for too long. After 10 years with Mazda I am used to changing gear frequently and as a result have not noticed any lack of torque. However, drivers used to small turbo engines may be less easily satisfied.

The other big performance change is a major improvement in mpg. Over the life of the Gen 2 car I managed an average of 32.5 mpg (measured manually by brimming the tank at each fill). In its first 1000 miles the Gen 4 car has managed 42.4 mpg overall. This is with the same driving style and variety of journies as before. The improvement is linked at least partly to the use of higher gears but also the i-Stop operates much more than before, cutting in even when the engine is cold and staying there for longer periods. There is also cylinder deactivation which seems to work constantly under almost all driving conditions. In fact it is totally imperceptible and I only realised it operated at all by watching the onscreen economy graphics.

After the first 1000 miles I am satisfied with the decision to buy the 2.0 G engine rather than the 2.0 X. Like most published tests I also found the handling to be fine despite having fatter tyres than my previous Sport and the loss of independent rear suspension. However, the ride over the UK's rutted and potholed roads definitely has room for improvement.

The Gen 4 car is much quieter with very little wind or road noise. A minor negative on noise is that accelerating hard from stationary reveals a slightly odd whirring noise from the engine. This is not loud or unpleasant, just different from my previous experience. Possibly it stems from the mild hybrid electric motor. The other big positive, noted in all the reviews, is the major upmarket move for the quality of the interior which is very good. On the other hand Mazda seem determined to counter this by making the car more claustrophobic than before. I guess they are stuck with larger pillars and smaller windows but why did they decide to make the entire interior black without options for most of the range? I have got used to it but I suspect that may be one of the first changes when the 2020 models arrive (North American cars have no such problem). The pillars and windows also make driver visibility worse than the Gen 2. Given the dual glass drivers door mirror you need to be very careful pulling out from slip roads and the small rear window means the excellent reversing camera is a plus when parking.

Ten years ago I remarked on the number of gadgets that Mazda put on their cars but quickly found many of them really useful. There are now even more, including an electric parking brake (EPB) which is a first for me. I have long been suspicious of these but Mazda's implementation is excellent. It can be operated manually if you wish with a small lever (switch) and works in conjunction with a separate Autohold brake function. I quickly got into the habit of using them in tandem (applying the EPB when stopped in traffic for extended periods turns off the rear brake lights). This definitely beats 50+ years of using a conventional handbrake. The other excellent new gadget is a headup display which is very useful for watching your speed or reading sat nav directions. However, it doesn't do everything claimed, especially failing to recognise road signs using AI. This means that its speed limit display depends on the sat nav mapping which is often totally wrong. The instrument panel and large display screen are excellent although so far I have not found a way to stop the sat nav map display changing to an unreadable night mode when the headlights come on (even in broad daylight, see below).

There are also many automated driver safety features which increase going up the model range. Thankfully mine does not have all of them because they do not all work perfectly. From time to time the car will scream and flash (in the HUD) a warning to brake when I can see why it is confused. At least so far mine has never applied the brakes but North American forums have many complaints that this is really dangerous. Some features can be turned off via the software settings but not all because they seem to have a "Mazda knows best" principle. For example, the headlights now have auto dipping as well as auto on. These can both be over-ridden to an extent but neither can be turned off completely. I can turn on the headlights when the car thinks they are unnecessary but there is no longer a manual off position to stop it turning them on in broad daylight, eg if I go under a gloomy bridge.

All those gadgets and safety features have a common downside which is the mind boggling complexity that is possible once a car becomes a computer on wheels. The ergonomics of the mechanical switches is fine but the number of software options available for every conceivable function is crazy. In fact most owners will probably never realise how many functions can be customised, let alone work out how to do it. This is made even worse by Mazda's manuals. No problem with quantity - there are three starting with the enormous main manual. This makes frequent references to the separate MZD Connect manual (the software manual) which in turn points you to the Sat Nav manual. The problem is that Mazda covers all models and a large number of markets (including LH and RH drive) in a single English edition. The gadgets and features fitted to a specific car depend on where it sits in the range and the country. Trying to work out which specific bit of each instruction applies to your car is often a nightmare.

A couple of minor points. HJ's review rates the keyless entry system as insecure. This is because the key fob wireless does not turn off automatically when not in use. In fact the manual gives a simple procedure to switch the fob on and off but it is written in a way which would not tell most users that not doing it is a security issue. The other issue is rear interior space. For me the rear seats are just for occasional use but I would not recommend the car for a family, especially if you need child seats. In my brief test the back felt cramped, tricky to avoid banging my head getting in and out, and really gloomy. It is significantly worse than my Gen 2 car even though that one had rear privacy glass.

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5
reviewed by jonnytttt on 24 November 2019

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About this car

Price£20,595–£28,195
Road TaxA–D
MPG-
Real MPG-

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