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The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.0

The Mazda 3 is one of the most appealing compact hatchbacks we can think of. Great to look at and good to drive, it’s also very well equipped and offered with innovative petrol engines that help to keep running costs low. Add in a cabin with real wow factor and it should definitely be on your shortlist.

Reasons to buy

  • Stunning exterior design
  • Very classy interior
  • Efficient petrol engines

Running costs for a Mazda Mazda3 3/5

The Mazda 3 is certainly not a cheap option if you’re looking for a compact hatchback, but it’s not especially costly when you consider how much equipment comes as standard and how much premium badge rivals such as the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class cost. Like-for-like, the 3 will set you back much the same as an equivalent Volkswagen Golf. Residual values are likely to be pretty solid, so keep an eye out for competitive finance and leasing deals.

The petrol-only engine line-up means that the 3 can’t match the very low emissions of some rivals. Mazda’s latest petrol engines are very efficient, however, thanks to some advanced technology. Each one has a mild hybrid system that stores the energy created by braking and then uses it to reduce the load on the electrical system and petrol engine, which helps reduce fuel consumption. The range-topping ‘Skyactiv-X’ engine also has a new type of ignition system that helps it to match the fuel economy and CO2 emissions of many diesel alternatives, according to official figures.

Reliability of a Mazda Mazda3 3/5

Mazda has a decent reputation for reliability, if not as stellar as that of Japanese rivals Honda and Toyota. Much of the 3 is all-new (especially the engines), so we don’t have any reliability data yet. As a brand, Mazda is ranked an impressive fifth out of 40 manufacturers in the Warranty Direct Reliability Index, but posted a below-average score in the latest JD Power’s UK Vehicle Dependability Study.

Warranty cover isn’t as lengthy as rival Hyundai, Kia, Toyota or Renualt models, at three years or 60,000 miles.

Safety for a Mazda Mazda3 5/5

As standard, every Mazda 3 comes with a very high level of advanced safety features, which helped it towards a maximum five-star rating when tested by Euro NCAP in 2019.

On top of the usual airbags (including one for the driver’s knees) and electronic driver aids, every version has an automatic emergency braking system, a blind-spot monitoring function and rear cross-traffic alert. There’s also traffic sign recognition, a radar-based cruise control system and a driver alertness function that warns you if it senses you’re getting sleepy at the wheel.

Higher-spec models come with a front cross-traffic alert system and Cruising & Traffic Support, which automatically keeps the car a safe distance from the vehicle in front, and centred in its lane, in slower traffic. While most rivals are available with these kind of advanced safety features, but they are cost options for some of them.

How comfortable is the Mazda Mazda3 4/5

The Mazda 3’s classy cabin is one of its major plus points. The design is simple, sporty and sophisticated while the quality of the materials and finish is a match for that of premium badge rivals. It’s very impressive.

It’s also comfortable, with supportive seats and a wide range of adjustment for the seat and steering wheel. The infotainment system is user-friendly, too. The 8.8-inch screen on top of the dash is, unusually, not a touch-screen but is instead linked to rotary controller behind the gear lever. It’s refreshingly intuitive and easy to use.

Cabin space is fine up front, with plenty of legroom and headroom. If there’s a price to pay for the 3’s sporty styling it’s in the rear seats, where things are a bit cramped compared with most rivals. The low roofline means getting in and out isn’t as easy as with some rivals, either, while the small rear windows can make it feel a bit claustrophobic.

The boot is a good size and shape, but the load entrance itself is rather small and many rivals offer a larger capacity outright. If you want a 3 with a larger boot, you could always go for the Mazda 3 saloon. Or you could opt for what is essentially the same car with a more practical, SUV-shaped body: the Mazda CX-30.

Stick with the 3 hatchback and you’re getting one of the best cars in its class to drive. It’s very impressive, striking an excellent balance between sharpness and comfort, with a smooth ride and responsive handling. It’s quiet, too, which helps to make this a fine car for long journeys. While the small rear windows limit rear visibility somewhat, reversing sensors are standard for the cheapest models and higher trim levels also have a reversing camera.

Features of the Mazda Mazda3 5/5

There’s no budget-spec model in the Mazda 3 range – even the entry-level version comes very well equipped, with features such as LED headlights, air-conditioning, automatic wipers, keyless entry, rear parking sensors, electric folding door mirrors, a head-up display and adaptive cruise control. There's also an infotainment system with sat-nav and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.

Move up just one trim level and you gain features such as front parking sensors, dual-zone climate control and a reversing camera, for a reasonably small increase in price. The higher trim levels add extra sporty, luxury and safety kit, to the point where the top-spec car is lavishly equipped for a car of this class.

Power for a Mazda Mazda3 3/5

Mazda likes to do things its own way, and the 3 is a fine example. Unlike many rivals, it’s not available in full hybrid, electric or diesel form – your only power choice is between two 2.0-litre petrol engines. Both of these have mild hybrid technology, which uses an electric starter-generator to boost efficiency and provide a small amount of electric power assistance to the petrol engine (but not enough to power the car outright).

The lower-powered (122-horsepower) version is called Skyactiv-G. It’s up to the job, but needs to be revved hard to get the most out of it. The other option is the 180-horsepower Skyactiv-X, which uses a very advanced (and unusual) ignition system that is designed to give fuel economy more akin to a diesel engine. It’s certainly gutsier than the Skyactiv-G and provides decent performance outright, but it’s not as flexible as the turbocharged petrol (or diesel) engines used by many rivals.