Out of all affordable small cars on the used car market, Mazda 3 is probably the most sporty one. This fun-to-drive peppy compact is available as a sedan or hatchback. Very few cars in this class can match Mazda 3’s handling.
Mazda 3 has front-wheel drive and sport-tuned independent suspension at all four corners.
The 3 is available with a five-speed manual and four- or five-speed automatic transmission. Rear brakes are discs only.
Inside, the 3 is exciting and comfortable. Front seats are supportive. Fit and finish is good. The steering tilts and telescopes. The glove box is big enough to hold a laptop computer. The available Bose audio system sounds great. Mazda 3 is reliable, however there are some minor issues to watch out for. Maintenance costs are moderate.
2009 Mazda 3 interior
2009 Mazda 3 sedan interior.
2009 Mazda 3 sedan
2009 Mazda 3 sedan.
2006 Mazda 3 trunk
2006 Mazda 3 hatchback.
2006 Mazda 3 engine
Mazda 3 engine. Click for larger view
Engine: Mazda 3 comes with the 2.0-liter LF or 2.3-liter L3 4-cylinder engine. Both are solid reliable DOHC engines. Both have a timing chain instead of a timing belt. With good maintenance you won’t have too many problems with the engine.
Fuel economy The EPA rates the 2006 Mazda 3 with a 2.0-liter engine and automatic transmission at 23/31 mpg (10.2/7.6 L/100 km) city/highway. With this fuel consumption, the 2.0L Mazda 3 is expected to go up to 405 miles or 651 kilometers on one 14.5-gallon (55 liter) tank. The 2.3-liter Mazda 3 automatic gets 22/28 mpg (10.7/8.4 L/100 km).
Handling and ride: Thanks to its sporty suspension, Mazda 3 feels lively on twisty roads and solid on the highway. The ride is firm but compliant. The steering is precise and responsive; the turning radius is small. Even the base 2.0L engine has plenty of power. On the downside, some road and tire noise is noticeable.
Mechanical: Mazda 3 has an independent suspension and disc brakes on all four wheels. Anti-lock brakes are available. Dynamic stability control (DSC), traction control, side and side curtain airbags are available on late models.
Safety: In the NHTSA frontal crash tests, the 2004 Mazda 3 received four stars for the driver (no passenger score available). The 2005-2008 Mazda 3 scored four stars for both the driver and the front passenger. In the side-impact crash tests, the 2004-2008 models without side airbags received three stars for both the front and the rear seat. The models with side airbags were not tested.
Pros: Fun to drive, reliable, sporty styling, rich practical interior, peppy engine, tight turning radius, available Bose audio system, huge glove box.
Cons: Road noise, models without side airbags scored poorly in side impact crash tests, no trunk release on the remote, some interior materials are not of top quality (e.g. carpet).